| Is sex taboo is Southeast Asia? Do conservative societies in this region talk about sexuality at all? How do less restrictive countries, on one hand, discuss sexuality? Do they know about safe sex?
The AIDS Society of the Philippines, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, will launch a seven-book series that answers these questions on July 13, 2004 at the magic 2 Ballroom of the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. The launch occurs during the XV International AIDS Conference from July 11-16, 2004 at the Impact Exhibition and Convention Center, also in Bangkok.
Monographs of six countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – and a regional analysis of how print media report on sexuality and safe sex comprise the book. The monographs reviewed and analyzed the content, trend and quality of media coverage on sexuality and safe sex.
Research teams from the six countries will be there to share their experiences and findings o the research. The Philippines researchers are Reynaldo H. Imperial, Ph.D., a professor of the Department of Social Sciences of the University of the Philippines in manila, and freelance journalists Diana G. Mendoza.
While it was conceded that each country had its own unique culture and social norms that affected the results of the study, there was also an expectation that some common elements among the countries surfaced in the course of the research.
The six country reports reflected this in their discussion of the broad subjects of sexuality and safe sex that include such concerns as sexual relationships, sexual intercourse, prostitution, condom use and HIV/AIDS, among others.
Of the topics attendant to sexuality, the coverage of HIV/AIDS was discussed extensively in the country reports. HIV/AIDS has sex as its most common mode of transmission.
Southeast Asia, which is known to have conservative societies, is host to three of the world’s top HIV/AIDS hot spots. The numbers of HIV infections in the area are rapidly catching up with that of South Africa, the region hit hardest by HIV/AIDS.
The region however, still has a chance to keep the numbers from growing too fast – and perhaps even reserve the trend. In the last few years, Thailand and Cambodia have already managed to slow down the spread of the disease.
Since the early 1980’s, when it first came into global consciousness, HIV/AIDS has claimed millions of lives. In 2003 alone, around three million people died of AIDS, some 500,000 of them children under the age of 15.
At the same time, however, HIV, which causes AIDS, has been making greater headway in other areas in the region, even as people living with HIV/AIDS continue to endure the stigmatization that remains part of having the virus.
A frank discussion of sex and sexuality, and advocacy for sexual responsibility is an essential part of the defense against HIV/AIDS. The sooner people can talk without malice or judgment about something that is much a part of human reality; the better they can fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.
But although AIDS remains fatal, it is preventable. Among the most crucial keys to HIV/AIDS prevention, for instance, is ensuring access to accurate information about the illness.
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Lloyd A. Luna graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in 2004. In 2001, he established the Network of Campus Journalists of the Philippines (NCJP). Fuelled by a passion for journalism, he was recognized by the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2002 and now writes for the three biggest national daily newspapers in the country (The Manila BULLETIN, The Philippine Daily INQUIRER and the Manila TIMES). At 21, he was awarded the Presidential Leadership Medal, the highest award given by the President of the Republic of the Philippines. He also works now as the Presidential Technical Assistant in the Office of the President in Malaca
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