October 31, 2012
According to Dr. Irene Grafil, coordinator for HIV/AIDS and other STDs within the Quezon City Health Department in the Philippines, the frequency of MSM (men who have sex with men) encounters has made the city a high-risk area for contracting HIV. Health Department records for the city show that from January to August of 2012, 266 cases were reported, and of this number, 162 involved gay men who claimed they had engaged in "very risky" MSM relations. For the same time period last year, 181 cases had been reported.
The Department of Health had earlier listed Quezon City as one of six cities in the Philippines with the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS cases. The other five are Manila, Pasay, Angeles, Cebu, and Davao. Grafil states that interviews conducted by her team indicate that homosexuals feel that the city is "MSM-friendly," and they experience less harassment there. Grafil's program staff members visit the cruising sites frequented by these individuals several times a month. Individuals originally meet in cyberspace through blogs and social networking sites, which are used to enter into "transactions." After making initial contact, they then usually meet at bars and go to other locations such as massage parlors, saunas, malls, and parks.
The majority of gay men interviewed are employed individuals aged 24 to 34 years old, who have the additional money needed to pay for the services of male sex workers (MSW), according to Grafil. The city's social hygiene clinic registry monitors 600-700 MSWs in the city, 42 percent of whom have said that they are either married or in relationships with females. Grafil noted that health officials are concentrating on those cases, since if the man becomes infected he may pass it along to his partner, and if she becomes pregnant, it may be transmitted to the infant. Grafil is recommending what she terms the "ABCDE" approach to avoiding HIV/AIDS: "A for abstinence; B for being mutually faithful and staying in a monogamous relationship; C for correct use of condoms; D for doing away with drugs (which would involve sharing needles); and E for early diagnosis and education."