PASIG City, Sept. 9, 2013—Despite constant media and government pressure to go all out on ‘safe sex’, an American chastity speaker believes the Philippines continues to have one of the lowest rates of Human immunodeficiency virus – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS) in the world because of a prevailing, high sense of morality.
“Scientists in America are puzzled by [the Philippines’ low HIV rates]. They say, ‘Well, Filipinos hardly use condoms, but they hardly have any HIV. [I think it’s] largely because generally speaking, the level of morality here is higher than in a lot of developing countries,” said Jason Evert, who spent the last weekend here in the Philippines giving talks on chastity and human relationships with his wife, Crystalina.
In measurable terms, according to Evert, the Filipino youth have a “delayed sexual debut” and fewer sexual partners, which can be attributed in large part to the predominantly Catholic upbringing of the population.
The faith factor
This undeniable influence of religion and faith, according to Evert, can be seen, not only in the Philippines, but also in Africa, which is a no man’s island of rampant HIV-AIDS infection.
“The countries in Africa that have the highest population of Catholics have the lowest rate of HIV; the countries with the lowest populations of Catholics have the highest rate of HIV. The Church’s teachings on abstinence work and when governments try to push safe sex, it’s a disaster,” he added.
According to the Asia-Pacific Population Journal 2008, on average, young Filipinos first start having sex at 18, 18 years for males and 18.3 years for females.
By contrast, the median age for Thai youth’s first sexual intercourse is 16 years; for Vietnamese and East Timorese youth, the median age was 15 years. In Laos, on average, teens have their first experience of sex between the ages of 12 – 15 years.
A 2010 Human Sciences Research Council paper by Karl Peltzer recognized that having sex at an earlier age made a person more likely to acquire an HIV infection, have a higher tendency to engage in other potentially dangerous sexual habits and more prone to adopt other risky behavior later on in life.
The correlation between HIV-AIDS rates and the median age for first sex is something hard to ignore.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) online ranking of HIV-AIDS prevalence rate, the Philippines has one of the lowest figures in the world, currently ranked number 155 out of 166 countries with .10% of the population infected, an updated figure from the Philippines’ official 2012 HIV-AIDS progress report to the United Nations (UN) pegs a lower rate, .036% ; Thailand on the other hand is the 38th most infected country in the world with 1.30% of its population infected with the deadly virus.
This is also undeniably compounded by how both countries dealt with the first reported cases of HIV-AIDS back in the 1980s. With its first reported HIV-AIDS case in 1984, Thailand jumped on the ‘safe sex’ bandwagon, with sex education and accessible condoms even in bathroom stalls; the Philippines — because of a vehement reaction from the Catholic Church against contraceptive measures — promoted abstinence and fidelity to one’s partner instead.
Today, HIV-AIDS has infected 1.1 million Thais, while the Philippines’ U.N. progress report projects a figure of between 29,370 to 53,993 people living with HIV-AIDS in the country by 2015.
Coming from a country which is ranked the 62nd most HIV-AIDS infected place in the world with .60% of living with the virus, Evert cannot help but express admiration for the Philippines.
“The Philippines is really, in my opinion, a global leader in terms of the benefits of a virtuous culture,” he said during a recent press conference at the University of Asia and the Pacific. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]