During lunch today, i found myself eating with 3 kindred women. We all used to work for women NGOs before our current stints with this educational institution.

I don't know how we got from point a to point b but somehow during that short spell we got around to talking about contraceptives and how condoms aren't really pleasurable though of course one can't deny the fact that in this day and age, it serves a very definite function (actually 2 functions): preventing unwanted pregnancy and preventing the transfer of sexually transmitted diseases. Ika nga kanina : No orgasm is worth dying for.

Risque conversation especially when you consider where we were at that time - at the school cafeteria of a very Catholic school. hmmm.

We also got around to talking about HIV and HIV testing. One of my lunchmates recounted her experience with regards to taking the test locally. (She was constantly nagged by her friend to get one to make sure that she's safe since she has a bf residing at a Southeast Asian country known for its high incidence of HIV-positive patients.)

In other countries, HIV-testing, she says, is a matter of fact - no stigma attached to it. You can just go in a testing clinic and have the tests done. apparently, it's different with us. Here you have to show reason why you need the test. In her first try, she admitted that she was single. Instead of being accommodated and being patted for her vigilance, she got a sermon telling her why it's bad to have sexual relations considering she's single and not married. Next, she went to a different hospital where she was pointed to the communicable disease section. There she was asked to give her name and was told that her statistics will be sent to some agency for their database purposes. Huh? What about her privacy then? In the end, she went to a different clinic, gave a fictitious name complete with a fictional background (she is married; her husband is an OFW - a seaman) and she got her tests right away. They came out negative.

This is really weird. We still hang a big stigma sign around the neck of HIV and AIDS in this country. It's really weird that with nearly a quarter of the country's population not Catholic, we are all subjected to laws and regulations that are decidedly Catholic in orientation. Which got us to thinking: while the stats for HIV and AIDS are low compared to that of say Thailand, there's a great possibility that the numbers are underreported. There maybe a greater number of Filipinos out there who have it - knowingly or not - but who are afraid to come out for fear of bringing shame to themselves and their families. How can we come up with a proper strategy to battle this if the first line of defense is shrouded with stigma and shame?


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