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Philippines, One Of The Lowest Aids Rate In Asia

The Philippines, a nation of 84 million inhabitants, has one of the lowest AIDS rates in Asia. Some say if is because almost all men are circumcised or other strange reasons, not that that may not be true. But I think it is because Filipinos are more conservatively sexually than most in this region and the West too. Studies have show, some cited here, how strict social criticism of pregnancy outside of marriage is not respected and what respect of peers means here. Virginity and monogamous relationship are preached by most, practiced by many despite concerns about sex tourism. Few are involved in that from what I see, the masses isolated from it. If not for so many over seas workers, there may be an even lower rate of HIV, AIDS infection.

Almost 20 years after the nation's first reported HIV infection, the number of HIV/AIDS cases is just 9,400 -- only 0.1 percent of people age 15 to 49, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations program that monitors the spread of the disease. In contrast, Burma, with about half the Philippines' population, has at least 400,000 people infected with the virus.

While UNAIDS' estimates are well regarded around the world, nobody knows exactly how many Filipinos actually have HIV/AIDS. The government puts the number as low as 1,810, while a former health minister said the true figure could be as high as 100,000.

But most AIDS experts agree on two things: The low number of reported infections is not the result of poor record-keeping and there is no clear reason for the nation's success in keeping the lethal virus at bay. Most experts don't care about my observations about conservative sexual practices, of course. I agree with the President's comment below.

At an AIDS conference last year in Manila, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cited "high morality" as a major factor in the low infection rate.

"Local studies over the past 10 years show that Filipinos tend to start having sex later than in the United States, Europe and neighboring (Asian) countries," said Dr. Michael L. Tan, a medical anthropologist and an AIDS expert. I guess Michael Tan, an anthropologist does too. Lets hope it gets even better and so what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones, certainly those who must go abroad where it is dangerous to earn money.

Don Herrington, Dec. 2007

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