When the nail sticks out

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HIV-AIDs cases increase alarmingly because we like to fool ourselves

Something caught my attention the other day when reading through posts and articles..

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 393 new cases of infection with HIV, the virus that causes the incurable and often fatal acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS, were reported in April, according to the Department of Health.

The department’s National Epidemiology Center said in a report that 28 of the new HIV cases were already full-blown AIDS and that seven of them died in April.

The new HIV cases brought to 1,825 the total number reported from January to April this year, and to 18,341 for the 30-year period from 1984 to 2014.

The Philippine HIV— human immunodeficiency virus—and AIDS Registry showed that the bulk of the new HIV cases were reported in Metro Manila (40 percent), Central Visayas (17 percent), Southern Tagalog (13 percent), Central Luzon (8 percent), and the Davao region (3 percent).

Esplanada, Jerry. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Nation. Metro Manila accounts for nearly half of new HIV-AIDS cases. May 31, 2014. Web. June 1, 2014. <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/607136/metro-manila-accounts-for-nearly-half-of-new-hiv-aids-cases >

This piece of news is disturbing. Why ? Because the global rate of HIV/AIDs cases is decreasing, yet the Philippines, with 8 other countries, has managed to defy this trend – and at an alarming speed at that.

Also from January to April this year, there were a total of 44 deaths reported among people with HIV, all of them males.

My fellow Pinoy brothers and sisters, it’s time to face the terrible truth that  UNPROTECTED SEX CAN KILL YOU.

Of the 393 new cases, 361 were contracted through unprotected sex while 52 were contracted through needle-sharing among injecting drug users.

My calculator shows me that this is 91.8% of all cases. 91.8% or almost 92%! Two years ago, Eric Tayag had already spit out the numbers for us…

At the same forum, Tayag said 92 percent of HIV infections in the country were caused by unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners. The rest were due to drug injections using used needles, transfusion of HIV-infected blood and hereditary reasons.

Calonzo, Andreo. GMA Network. PHL among 9 countries with increasing HIV cases — UN study.  November 21, 2012. Web. May 30, 2014. < http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/283190/news/nation/phl-among-9-countries-with-increasing-hiv-cases-un-study>

In fact, two years ago, DOH had already identified HIV/Aids “priority areas” -which included Metro Manila.

Tayag, for his part, said the DOH has already identified “priority areas” were most HIV infections have been recorded. These are Metro Manila. Cebu City, Mandaue City, Danao City and Davao City.

Calonzo, Andreo. GMA Network. PHL among 9 countries with increasing HIV cases — UN study.  November 21, 2012. Web. May 30, 2014. < http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/283190/news/nation/phl-among-9-countries-with-increasing-hiv-cases-un-study>

You’d think something would have been done! But nothing has been done to curb the spread of HIV. At least nothing efficient, if we let the numbers speak for themselves. Moving forward to 2014, DOH hasn’t pulled its head from its ass.

As part of its intensified campaign against HIV-AIDS, the health department’s National Capital Region office said it was “flooding” massage parlors, nightclubs and KTV bars, among other establishments, with free condoms and information flyers that promote safe sex.

Esplanada, Jerry. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Nation. Metro Manila accounts for nearly half of new HIV-AIDS cases. May 31, 2014. Web. June 1, 2014. <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/607136/metro-manila-accounts-for-nearly-half-of-new-hiv-aids-cases >

There is something wrong here :  it’s assuming that massage parlors, night clubs and KTV bars are the culprit. This is the usual detached-from-reality denial that sees a great divide of “Good” Catholic Pinoys and Bad -AIDS/HIV-spreading Pinoys. It’s quite similar to the type casting (some of )my high school teachers engaged themselves in , predicting who’d get pregnant as soon as HS ended and who’d go on to have a “successful” career.Well, they mostly guessed wrong- the good, conservative “di makabasag pinggan” type had a bun in the oven before their 20s, and we, the bad girls, managed to stick to the ideal/traditional route- degree, marriage, kids(or no kids). Who’d have known, right? Life is box of chocolates, as Forest Gump said. But officials of DOH are obviously far removed from reality. Stuck in the black and white dichotomy, like (some of) my HS teachers, they see the nation populated only by  the Good Pinoys and the Bad Pinoys, with the latter as the transmitter of this deadly disease. Surely, aiming all the ammunition to their nest is the best way to cure this country of this ‘epidemic’. Why is this doomed to fail? Because sex is not confined to the shady world of Bad Pinoys, as DOH would like to us to believe. Come on! It’s like saying that the good Pinoys are not getting some. FYI, DOH, it’s not only Gloria getting “plenty”. Of course, aside from the very obvious result of having sex- the population boom- I have no other data to back up this assertion. What I am saying is that the Philippines is not black and white – we are brown,pink, red, green, purple, yellow, maroon, blue and all the colors combined, a spectrum. The  “di makabasag pinggan” type got some before I did! But I am sure that there are real   “di makabasag pinggan” types, those who’d prefer to marry before having sex. What I am saying here is that we are unpredictable, we change our minds, you cannot “type cast” us. Instead of trying to zero-in on the “Bad Pinoys”, DOH should try to widen its coverage. It should target everyone – especially the young ones, because let’s face it, they have more hormones, energy and time to engage in sex. Besides, they are also curious. Surely, we cannot sit around and wait for curiosity to kill that cat (s)?!

In the 2012 interview, Tayag was “baffled”

when Filipinos living with HIV tell him that they acquired the virus because condoms “were not available,” when these contraceptives are sold in drug stores and even convenience stores.

“This is a puzzle to us, why they say condoms are not available. They say it is difficult to buy condoms in their communities,” he said.
Calonzo, Andreo. GMA Network. PHL among 9 countries with increasing HIV cases — UN study.  November 21, 2012. Web. May 30, 2014. < http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/283190/news/nation/phl-among-9-countries-with-increasing-hiv-cases-un-study>

What Tayag fails to understand is that it’s probably not acquiring condoms that  keeps people from buying condoms in  their communities. For one, I think, being a largely Catholic society, “sex” is still considered a taboo.. And buying condoms at 711 is just embarrassing. Besides, isn’t having a  condom with you all the time a sign that one is a  “Bad Pinoy”?

I read this following article from Dan Ariely’s book, “Predictably Irrational”. Dan and his team conducted an experiment with Berkeley students. Berkeley , Dan claims, is  a fairly “dichotomous” place with a largely “conformist population of top-level students” who are not prone  “to take risks”. In short, not much different from the Good Pinoys. The experiment involved 2 phases : the “cold” rational phase and the “hot” (aroused) phase. During the cold phase, participants were asked questions predicting how they would behave during certain situations while imagining they were “aroused”. There were 3 batches of questions. The first one concentrated on preferences: “Do you find women’s shoes erotic?”  or “Could it be fun to have sex with someone who was extremely fat?”. The second batch of questions asked about the likelihood of engaging in immoral behaviors like date rape:”Would you encourage a date to drink to increase the chance that your date would have sex with you?” The third batch of questions asked the participants the likelihood that they would engage in unsafe sex or related activities : “Would you always use a condom if you don’t know the sexual history of your partner?” After the first phase, they invited the same participants back for  the second phase of the experiment, the “hot” phase. It was almost the same – except that while answering questions, the participants were asked to get themselves aroused at a high level (but not ejaculating). The results? The participants answered the questions very differently when they were in the “cold” state and “hot” state.

Across the 19 questions about sexual preferences, when Roy and all the other participants were aroused they predicted that their desire to engage in a variety of somewhat odd sexual activities would be nearly twice as high as (72 % higher than) they had predicted when they were cold . For example, the idea of enjoying contact with animals was more than twice as appealing when they were in a state of arousal as when they were in cold state. In the five questions about their propensity to engage in immoral activities, when they were aroused, they predicted their propensity to be more than twice as high as (136 % higher than) they had predicted in the cold state.  Similarly, in the set of questions about using condoms, and despite the warnings that had been hammered into them  over the years about the importance of condoms, they were 25% more likely in the aroused state than in the cold state to predict that they would forego condoms. In all these cases, they failed to predict the influence of arousal of their sexual preferences, morality and approach to safe sex.

No matter how we looked at the numbers, it was clear that the magnitude of underprediction by the participants was substantial. Across the board, they revealed in their aroused state that they themselves did not know what they were like once aroused. Prevention, protection, conservatism and morality disappeared completely from the radar screen. They were simply unable to predict the degree to which passion would change them.

Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational.

Dan goes to examine his findings and brings up Freud – the id, ego and  super ego. From about.com < http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/personalityelem.htm >

The id is the only component of personality that is present from birth. This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious and includes of the instinctive and primitive behaviors. According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality.

Applying the results of his experiments and the Freudian theory to the reality of AIDs epidemic back home, it seems that DOH is failing because of its simplistic view of Good Pinoys and Bad Pinoys. We are not single dimensional beings of either or, hot or cold, good or bad. Sure, in the cold state, we promise to abstain and save ourselves for marriage. We vow to abstain, to be Good Pinoys and live in accordance to the teaching of the church. And, seeing ourselves as “Good”, we tend to “underpredict” ourselves. This is probably one reason why people who got infected claimed they “failed to bring condoms”. They just didn’t see the need for carrying one. Surely, no situation can ever stir us from the path of righteousness!

The reality, however, is that  we cannot switch our “hot” state off permanently. Being human means we experience intense emotions from time and time, even “Good” Pinoys. And because hot state applies to all Pinoys, “good” or “bad” , it goes without saying that HIV is not confined to the massage parlors and KTV bars; it doesn’t discriminate. All it takes is one Pinoy to be in uncontrollable “hot state” to have unprotected sex with an infected person.. and Voila, HIV can spread exponentially! What we need is to be equipped so that we can deal with the “id” adequately when it surfaces.  How do we deal with our emotions on a “hot” state. Sadly, “say no” campaign or making people memorize the 10 commandments are not adequate solutions. GMRCs, the fear of going to hell or getting HIV -all these disappear when we are aroused.

What do we have to do, then? Dan writes :

First, widespread availability of condoms is essential. We should not decide in a cool state whether or not to bring condoms. They must be there just in case. Second, unless we understand how we might react in an emotional state, we will not be able to predict this transformation. For teenagers, this problem is most likely exacerbated, and thus, sex education should focus less on the physiology and biology of the productive system and more on strategies to deal with the emotions that accompany sexual arousal.  Third, we must admit that carrying condoms and even vaguely understanding the emotional firestorm of sexual arousal may not be enough.

We can get them prepared to deal with the consequences of saying yes in the heat of passion (by carrying a condom, for example).

One thing is sure : if we don’t teach our young people how to deal with sex when they are half out of their minds, we are not only fooling them; we’re fooling ourselves as well. Whatever lessons we teach them, we need to help them understand that they will react differently when they are calm and cool from when their hormones are raging at fever pitch.

Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational.

Dan nails it! We’ve been fooling ourselves for a long time. It doesn’t help that until now, DOH officials would rather blame “online social networking sites” for the increase in HIV/AIDs cases. It’s not like people didn’t have sex before the advent of online dating sites! People had sex then and will continue to have sex. And let’s face it, the more scientific the sex ed is, the less “helpful” in real life cases they tend to be. If we want to curb the rise of HIV/AIDs (or unwanted pregnancies) we must approach the problem from a more “human” perspective and accept that Pinoys are “tao” lang, prone to experience both cold and hot states. Some suggestions :

(1) Sex Ed must be about sex, not only science. Promote use of condoms.

(2) Being able to buy condoms anonymously is important. Think vending machines

(3) Free HIV check at health centers nationwide for everybody, no questions asked.

(4) Insurance coverage for STDs

(5) Health professionals should be professionals : no moralizing or lecturing about morality or the 10 commandments.

Bottom line is, if we want an effective solution to curb the spread of the disease, we have to treat HIV/AIDs epidemic as a health issue, not a moral one.

2 comments on “HIV-AIDs cases increase alarmingly because we like to fool ourselves

  1. I wonder why the author overlooked the glaring fact that gays made up the bulk of those who got infected.

    Mga bakla ang nagkakalat ng HIV.

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This entry was posted on June 3, 2014 by in Philippine society and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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