At work today, we had our Advent Retreat in the morning. In the afternoon, we went to different non-profit organizations to take part, albeit for only a day, in the services that they offer to the community. I’m part of the group that went to the Center for Refugees+Immigrants of Tennessee. But that’s another story for another post.
But today is also the World AIDS day and I couldn’t help but think about the HIV & AIDS situation in the Philippines, even though, I am thousands of kilometers away. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. In July 2015, there were 22 cases being discovered daily! And that number represents only those that are reported!
Here’s the rub. A big percentage of these new incidents of HIV infection are among young people.
Based on a news report from Rappler: “Those in the 15-24 years age group in the population also showed an 800% increase in HIV prevalence.” Think about that for a minute and let it sink.
During our Asian Young Leaders Summit on Nov 11-15, 2015, we listened to a member of Babae Plus talk about HIV/AIDS prevention. After her session, we sat down and talked about how HIV is affecting young people. And here are some of the salient points of our conversation:
HIV-Positive Young People: Matitigas ang Ulo!
- All sorts of people can be infected with HIV. Our resource person (who is HIV positive, herself) told me that they are helping people from different backgrounds: heterosexual men, women, LGBT, children and youth, priest, pastor, whatever. Although she told me that they are just waiting for a nun to come out and admit to being HIV positive. The bottom line is: anybody can get HIV.
- A lot of young people are now HIV positive. A lot of them are really good-looking. But most of them have engaged in MSM (men having sex with men).
- A lot of HIV-positive young people are “matigas ang ulo” (stubborn or hard headed) and don’t want to commit to continuously taking their Anti-Retroviral medicine.
- Some of these HIV-positive young people don’t want to give up the party lifestyle, they still want to have sex. Being HIV positive definitely makes that complicated, especially if you take into account that a lot of young people (HIV positive or not) don’t exhibit good self-control and discipline.
- “Mamamatay na rin lang naman ako, enjoyin ko na ang mga natitirang araw ko…” (I’m gonna die anyway, I might as well enjoy the remaining days of my life.) – That’s the motto of some HIV-positive young people. The problem with this mentality, though, is that they could infect other young people that they may be in sexual contact with.
The Church and Young People
As the church, we have all sorts of programs and events for young people in the area of Love, Courtship, and Marriage (LCM). In fact, we have too much that a friend once told me: “Love life lang ba ang pinakamalaking issue ng mga kabataan ngayon?”
Is it time to rethink our approach to our Love, Courtship, and Marriage programs? Should we include HIV & AIDS as an important module or session in our programs and events?
As a Christian man in a committed, monogamous, marriage, I believe that the best way to prevent getting HIV is abstinence and faithfulness to one’s spouse or partner. But I also recognize that there are other people who have a different lifestyle than I do. As Christians, as members of the universal church, we need to stop the stigma (and by the way, the church is not the only source of stigma) and offer God’s love to everyone. While we’re at it, let’s educate people about the HIV and AIDS, and the different ways that it can be avoided.
What do you think? How can we educate young people about HIV & AIDS?
Here’s a helpful Infographic about the state of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. Thanks to Rappler.com