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Saturday, 6 September 2008

Philippine Bishop, HIV and condoms

The Catholic News Agency has a story from the Philippines about a "Reproductive Health" bill. As ever, this is about preventing reproduction in unhealthy ways. The proponents apparently also want to establish a "two child policy". Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of the Archdiocese of San Fernando has some sensible things to say about it and does not think it will get very far. (Cf. Philippines archbishop optimistic ‘reproductive health’ bill will fail to pass)

It is notable that the Archbishop mentioned the huge profits that pharmaceutical companies stand to gain from the sale of contraceptives. They have been backing the bill of course. Across the South China Sea in Thailand, they have been selling and giving away millions of the things since the "100% Condom Use" programme was introduced by the Government in the early 1990s.

The results can be judged from the UNAIDS 2008 report which estimates by country of the number of people living with HIV. The figures:
Thailand: 650,000 people HIV+
Philippines: <1000

Maybe there are just lots more people in Thailand? No. Cf. the CIA World Factbook:
Thailand: population 65.5 million
Philippines: population 96 million

(On the population figure for Thailand, the CIA Factbook notes that its estimate explicitly takes into account "the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS".)

Each year I try to find time to read SSL International's 2008 Annual Report to shareholders (SSL owns the Durex brand.) The report usually has some interesting nuggets tucked away such as:
In March of this year we closed the Durex condom factory near Barcelona, Spain to transfer production to SSL’s facilities in the lower cost countries of Thailand and India.
See also Organon, a contraceptive producer, now owned by Schering-Plough. In 2004, they started the "Development of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Thai Adolescents" program.

For the sake of the people of the Philippines, I hope that Archbishop Aniceto and the other bishops are successful in telling the condom makers to shove off. With figures as stark as those above for two comparable countries, the allegation of vested interests is not so much speculation as a statement of the bloomin' obvious.
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