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International News

Philippines: HIV/AIDS Campaigns Must Not Forget Gay People

October 25, 2002

Education campaigns on HIV/AIDS and health care programs among lesbians are badly needed in the Philippines, activists say. "Low risk doesn't mean no risk," said Maria Cristina Cristobal, executive director of Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LEAP). Cristobal says most lesbians are unaware that they, too, can acquire HIV/AIDS and STDs from women partners who are bisexual or who may have had previous sexual contact with an HIV- positive heterosexual male.

Although there have been documented cases of lesbians living with AIDS in the West, Filipino lesbians tend to think their infection was more an outcome of lifestyle rather than a biological risk and susceptibility to the disease, explained Cristobal, who spoke before the 6th Philippine National Convention on AIDS on October 18.

Cristobal cited a LEAP study conducted among 50 lesbian activists that showed that all of them equated safe sex only with a limited range of factors -- proper hygiene, monogamy, no use of sexual devices, experimentation and use of gloves. The fact that there has been no reported incidence of lesbians acquiring HIV/AIDS in the country has helped bolster the concept that "lesbian sex is safer sex," she said. Of the 50 lesbians polled by LEAP, for instance, only six had had a Pap smear examination.

Cristobal also cited a reluctance among lesbians to discuss their sexual health and practices because many suffer discrimination at the hands of doctors or other medical practitioners. Professor Archie Logo added that being lesbian becomes a problem especially in a predominantly conservative Roman Catholic population like the Philippines.

"Today the ratio of HIV infection among men and women in Southeast Asia is rapidly moving towards one to one, with 80 to 90 percent of infections transmitted through heterosexual contact," said Pennie Azarcon de la Cruz, a journalist who has written extensively on the pandemic and who spoke during the session on women and HIV/AIDS. According to UNAIDS, the Philippines still has a low incidence of HIV/AIDS, at less than 0.1 percent of people ages 15 to 49, or 9,400 people. A UN Development Program study showed young Filipino women ages 19 to 29 represented the group with the highest number of infections based on gender.

Back to other CDC news for October 25, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
10.21.02; Marites Sison

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on the Philippines and HIV/AIDS