UN bodies call for more condom use in the Philippine sex industry

News release

Manila, 5 October 2006—Greater political commitment is needed to boost the Philippines’ 100% condom use programme in the fight against HIV/AIDS, two United Nations organizations said today.

A joint meeting of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that ended today reiterated the importance of “no condom, no sex” in the sex industry in order to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

However, according to the findings of behavioural and serological surveys conducted in 2005 by the Philippines Department of Health in 10 Metro Manila and provincial cities, sex workers reported using condoms with only 57% of the their clients, far below the Department of Health’s 80% target.

Only Cebu City, with 81%, met the target for consistent condom use by sex workers. Other cities included in the studies failed to meet the target. They were:

  • Davao, 78%
  • Pasay, 70%
  • Angeles, 67%
  • Iloilo, 65%
  • Zamboanga, 49%
  • Quezon, 43%
  • General Santos, 40%
  • Cagayan de Oro, 38%
  • Baguio, 32%

In the city of Cebu, despite high consistent condom use by female sex workers with their clients, the study showed a high prevalence of unprotected sex among men who have sex with men. A high prevalence of unprotected sex also was found among intravenous drug users, a group for which the sharing of needles and syringes remains a serious problem. In addition, people who reported having unprotected sex and those who said they shared equipment for injecting drugs acknowledged that they were at risk of acquiring HIV.

The study covering 10 cities also revealed the following:

  • Only half of sex workers, including men who have sex with men, were aware of the three measures to prevent HIV (having sex with only one uninfected, mutually faithful partner; consistent condom use; not sharing needles and syringes if injecting drugs).
  • Female sex workers reported that a majority of their clients were businessmen, traders and private sector employees.

“Despite the continued low prevalence of HIV in the Philippines, sexually transmitted infections, which are a co-factor for HIV transmission, remain high,” warned Dr Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative in the Philippines and chair of the UN team group on HIV/AIDS. “Sexually transmitted infections provide a route for HIV transmission through unprotected sex and needle-sharing. Although intravenous drug users make up only 3% of infected individuals between the ages of 15 and 49, this number could increase within a short period of time since the transmission of infection is highly efficient through this group.”

The survey also noted that risk perception for HIV transmission is mainly focused on drug injection and multiple sex partners—and not unprotected sex. It also showed that none of the cities surveyed offer a full package of HIV prevention outreach services, such as condom distribution and counseling.

"Target interventions to reduce transmission of HIV in the higher-risk populations should be strengthened so that the rate of transmission from high-risk group to low-risk group populations would be controlled,” Dr Olivé said.

For more information, please contact: Dr Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative in the Philippines, at 338 7479 or e-mail: olivejm@phl.wpro.who.int Dr Bernard Fabre-Teste, Regional Adviser on Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV/AIDS, at 528 9714, or email: fabretesteb@wpro.who.int.