Healthcare. A basic human right. More specifically, a human right outlined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) under Article 12 (UN Human Rights). However, while the Philippines has signed and ratified the ICESCR, they are choosing to do away with their responsibilities to protect these rights by ending a school program that educates students on sexual health. Ending this program is absolutely wrong, as it violates the human rights of the Philippines’ citizens.
H.I.V. infection rates in the Philippines are skyrocketing, with the rate of new infections increasing 50% from 2010 to 2015 (New York Times). Why the rest of the world is taking measures to prevent H.I.V. and are reaping the benefits of a declining infection rate, the Philippines is turning a blind eye to the fact that they, along with Afghanistan, have the highest H.I.V. infection rate in the world. H.I.V. (New York Times).
The government simply cannot turn a blind eye to the strong beginnings of a national health crisis.
Only 17% of Filipinos ages 15 to 24 understand what H.I.V. is and ways they can reduce their risk (New York Times). This is absolutely horrible to begin with, and demonstrates an extreme lack of caring about education on the part of the government. While their health department drafted up a great plan to educate students about sexually transmitted diseases, offer condoms, and provide free testing (New York Times). Since it is the government’s responsibility to provide basic healthcare as a human right, shouldn’t they be excited about funding this new program to put the Philippines back on track with the rest of the world with respects to H.I.V.? Apparently not. The government hugely misstepped, and has recently announced their decision to get rid of the plan. Those opposed to the plan argued that it promoted promiscuity, and that the Department of Health should instead focus on “uplifting the values of Filipino youth,” (New York Times).
To correct their mistake, the government needs to strongly reconsider the lives that will be lost due to their simple refusal to educate and provide resources to young people to lower the chances of becoming infected. Young people will are not going to exactly stop having sex, so it is even more essential that they are provided with tools to protect themselves. As Steven Kraus, director of the U.N. H.I.V/AIDS agency in Asia and the Pacific, stated, “All good and successful national AIDS programs use condoms…a lot of those reductions [of countries that have posted reductions of 30 to 35 percent] have been the result of comprehensive condom programming,” (New York Times).
At the end of the day, health care is a human right. The Philippines, by signing the ICESCR, agreed to uphold the human rights of all Filipinos, and by ignoring the exploding rates of H.I.V. in their country, the government is going against their word and endangering the lives of thousands of their citizens. All it will take to reverse the H.I.V. epidemic in the Philippines is for citizens to have access to a piece of rubber. It is that simple.