( This is a compilation of Luigi’s interviews in 2006. I wish the readers will get something from his life story. Warning: some words may be too graphic.)
THIS is the dreaded shriek which Marcus (real name withheld) hopes would never echo along the halls of his campus.
Every day, the senior college student lugs a dark secret to school, one that threatens to destroy him way before the disease that is slowly eating him alive — AIDS.
Marcus, according to Celestino Ramirez, training director and vice president of the Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Incorporated (PAFPI), is part of the hidden and growing number of people afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
The Philippine AIDS Registry tallied a total of 2,499 HIV/AIDS cases since 1984, 67 percent of whom are young people in the reproductive age between 20 and 39 years old.
“We still have new cases among our young people. Nakakalungkot, kasi hindi naman lahat ng schools ay nagbibigay ng education,” Ramirez said.
Students and out-of-school youths are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection primarily because they don’t like using condoms, Ramirez said.
Four hundred fifty- seven of the reported AIDS cases reported to the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health (NEC-DOH) were infected through homosexual contact. At least four of them were reported only last April.
Ramirez described Marcus as a young “man having an alternative lifestyle.”
Marcus is a homosexual who acquired the virus from a male partner almost the same age as him.
“’Yung total expression of their individuality or sexuality also gives way to their acquiring the infection,” Ramirez said, referring to young and adult individuals’ vulnerability to sexually-transmitted infections.
“Kasi sa pagtatago, nandiyan ang lihim na pakikipagtagpo, lihim na pakikipagsiping, at iba’t ibang kaparaanan na unsafe practices. Even sa information about HIV/AIDS, hindi nila makukuha, kasi kapag magtanong ka, madya-judge ka na naman ulit (for being a homosexual),” Ramirez said.
The vulnerable ones come mostly from the provinces and far-flung areas where sexuality and HIV/AIDS are never discussed in classrooms.
“Kaya ’pag sila ay nagkaroon ng pagkakataong mag-aral sa Maynila, para silang nakawala sa isang mundo,” Ramirez said.
The PAFPI officer said they manage to visit a few schools in some sites supported by their funding agency.
Some schools, however, would not allow the PAFPI entry.
Part of the responsibility of the Department of Education under Republic Act 8504, or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act, is to educate students on HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, teachers in general are not prepared to tackle such issues inside the classroom, Ramirez noted.
“Hindi mababanggit ang mga salitang ‘puki,’ ‘titi,’ moreso, ‘kan… ’ or sexual intercourse dahil sa tingin nila ang mga ito ay bastos o salitang kanto. Maski na ang salitang Ingles ay nagbibigay ng ibang pakiramdam sa mga nagtuturo o guro,” Ramirez explained.
As part of efforts to remedy the problem, the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health, which PAFPI is popularizing under the 6th Country Program of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), provides an opportunity for stakeholders to teach young people the proper way to take care of themselves and their bodies and become responsible individuals. MVT