Rodrigo Duterte is at it again with extremely inappropriate and damaging public comments. This time the Philippines President publicly denounced using condoms, because “they don’t feel good.” This comment comes at a time where HIV rates in the country are skyrocketing. The number of new cases reported between 2007 and 2017 has increased from 400 to 11,000.
Of course, Duterte couldn’t stop there. He went on to put a wrapped candy bar in his mouth. “Here, try eating it without unwrapping it,” he said. “Eat it. That’s what a condom is like.”
The Philippines has struggled to join the rest of the world in lowering HIV numbers. The UN reports that since 2007, there has been a 3,147 percent increase in new cases. These numbers are staggering.
Condoms have proven to be effective in reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections. According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), HIV has been spreading mostly through men who have sex with men (MSM). They go on to say that condom marketing to these at-risk groups is virtually nonexistent.
“The country’s growing HIV epidemic has been fueled by a legal and policy environment hostile to evidence-based policies and interventions proven to help prevent HIV transmission,” said a HRW report. “Such restrictions are found in national, provincial, and local government policies, and are compounded by the longstanding resistance of the Roman Catholic Church to sexual health education and condom use.”
In his public speech, Duterte also urged women to go on the birth control pill or “get an injection good for six months, so there will be no limit in your libido.” This rhetoric puts even greater pressure and expectations on women to handle family planning and birth control on their own. It also conveys the message that male pleasure takes greater importance than sexual health.
Filipino officials like Senator Risa Hontiveros have come out against the President, denouncing his comments.
“President Duterte should stop making thoughtless, reckless, and irresponsible statements at the expense of public health,” Hontiveros stated. “President Duterte seems to be overly concerned with pleasure. There is nothing pleasurable or funny about the rise in our cases of HIV and teen pregnancy.”
UNAIDS, an organization that seeks to lower the rates of HIV and AIDS, has cited condoms as a key part in preventing the transition of the sexually transmitted infection. According to the organization, “an estimated 45 million HIV infections have been averted through condom use globally since 1990.”
The organization has worked in the Philippines to actively educate those at risk of HIV about proper ways to use condoms and how they can help with prevention. UNAIDS said that in 2015, only 35 percent of men who have sex with men, and transgender women who have sex with men, had correct knowledge on HIV transmission and prevention.
Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos H. Conde spoke out against the president as well, saying in a blog post, “Instead of criticizing condoms as a pleasure inhibitor, Duterte should take meaningful action to protect the health of Filipinos by backing urgently needed policy changes to expand the accessibility and use of condoms in the Philippines.”
Duterte’s comments are damaging and disrespectful to both the women in his country and to those actively trying to reduce the number of HIV cases in the area. Disrespecting women has become commonplace for the Filipino president, as he has made countless inappropriate comments regarding women and their sexual lives. This recent implication against condoms makes it clear that Duterte does not have his people’s health in mind.
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