Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The condom alibi

SOME people at the health department maybe aptly portrayed, wrongly or rightly, to be on a rampage in condom promotions—which include public distribution of the rubber in bus terminals on Valentine’s Day, spinning media hype, gathering support from celebrities and operating public relations, among others. And this, not to mention the costly mobilizations of women militant groups.

And there’s the alarming statistics to boot. The Department is now brandishing a pandemic of 4,400 cases of HIV/AIDS infections in 2009 and 126 more in January this year. But why only now after years of silence? And where’s the pandemic? In the early 1990s it was more realistic, or say believable, when Sarah Jane gave a face to warm bodies. In 2007, Dr. James Chin, former head of a World Health Organization Global program on Aids unit from 1987-1992, noted in an interview that “the AIDS ‘pandemic’ is not as widespread as it is often portrayed, and not even in large parts of Africa, where rates of infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) vary widely.”

Be that as it may, but worth noting is the comparative study between the Philippines and Thailand. In 1987 the Philippines had more HIV/AIDS cases (135) than Thailand (112). In a span of ten years during which Thailand promoted a national policy of 100% condom use, the later shoot up to 1,106,000 cases while the Philippines had a cumulative incidence of 2,965.

Indeed, the condomization of Thailand was a trap. Dr. C. Michel Roland, Editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. reported a couple of years back the inherent defects of rubber latex condoms that range between 5 and 70 microns. The HIV virus is about 0.1 microns in size—which is 60 times smaller than a syphilis bacterium and 450 times smaller than a single human sperm.

But of course, scientists and the technocrats of the health department know this. In fact the health secretary has admitted of late that condom use is not at all foolproof. But why the insistence? One can only surmise that the condom program has a covert political and economic agenda in the face of an accusation against the UN for blowing up the AIDS pandemic in order to create a market for the AIDS prevention program that benefits the pharmaceutical companies in billions of dollars. The Philippines having one of the lowest rates of AIDS infection in the world is a very fertile ground for provoking a market stimulus.

There is no denying that billions of dollars for HIV/AIDS prevention as a result of the hype has created a new industry—an industry that is now bent on enlarging its market through spreading the HIV/AIDS panic. The same maybe said of the UN’s hype of the bird and swine flu to pandemic proportion which according to scientific circles where viruses that were man-made which therefore were not as lethal as the UN made it to be. At the end of the story, millions of dollars set aside by First World countries wastefully spent for vaccines resulted in huge gains for pharmaceutical companies and their lackeys in governments.

If one needs really to be serious about stemming the spread of the virus, the experience of other countries is worth emulating. The Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Edward C. Green writes in his book entitled Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries, “The large medical solutions funded by major donors have had little impact in Africa, the hardest hit by AIDS. Instead, relatively simple, low-cost behavioral change program—stressing increased monogamy and delayed sexual activity for young people—have made the greatest headway in fighting or preventing the disease’s spread.”

All told, the condom really is an alibi.

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