That we are confusing our message is becoming too apparent – and annoying so, too.
I’m talking about C-O-N-D-O-M-S, of course.
Say that, repeatedly: CONDOMS, CONDOMS, CONDOMS.
Say it like you’re not afraid, or ashamed of it.
This is because: How can we promote the use of condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV, and yet criminalize having it at the same time?
Here’s where we stand in the Philippines right now, as far as condom use among men who have sex with other men (MSM) is concerned.
On the one hand, condoms are being promoted because – rightly so – they can help curb the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. In fact, the Republic Act No. 8504 (or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998) mentioned under Sec. 19 ( Information on Prophylactics), Rule 2, the need to provide “instructions on the proper use of a condom; simple illustration that shows clearly the steps in the correct use of a condom; advice against the use of non-water-based lubricants like baby oil or petrolatum jelly; and advice that each condom is used only once.”
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law emphasizes this, further specifying (under Sec. 10) that:
A labeling material shall be attached to or provided with every prophylactic offered for sale or given as donation and shall meet the following specifications:
a. Printed information is in English and any locally used Filipino dialect;
b. Size of the labeling material is at least 60 square centimeters;
c. Text is in font size six (6) or bigger; and
d. One labeling material is provided for each pack of prophylactic
Each labeling material shall include the following information:
a. Date of expiry and date of manufacture;
b. Statement that “sexual abstinence and mutual fidelity are effective strategies for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and STDs”;
c. The statement “When used properly, the use of a condom is a highly effective method of preventing most sexually transmitted diseases”
And yet, on the other hand, MERELY HAVING A CONDOM can actually send someone to jail.
An acquaintance told me of his firsthand bad experience with having condom.
This was, of course, already earlier reported by GMANews.tv (and which we at Outrage Magazine criticized), when it gave coverage to the raid of the now defunct Queeriosity Palace in Pasay City sometime in September 2010. One PO2 Fernildo de Castro said – on behalf of those who did the raiding – that (only) 10 men (supposedly dancers) were arrested, and could face charges for violation of a city ordinance prohibiting male prostitution. Their proofs? Pornographic digital versatile discs (DVDs), a box filled with lubricants, and… CONDOMS.
“We were asked who among us (the men who were there who were out or closeted gay or bi men, or simply men who have sex with other men) used condoms; and that if we did, then we’re caught red-handed (in our involvement) in prostitution,” this acquaintance said to me.
And so we are muddling our messages.
And this has got to stop.
Because while we supposedly promote yet attack those who use condoms, problems that condom use can help deal with (such as unwanted pregnancy, and – YES – the spread of STIs including HIV) are only worsening.
Even the former Pope recognized this, when – in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, which is based on a series of interview the Pope gave the German Catholic journalist, Peter Seewald – said that the Catholic Church was not necessarily opposed in principle to the use of condoms, i.e.
“She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.“
Because while the message is confusing, people avoid using it, when it COULD save their lives.
And this is unforgivable.