DOH Secretary: Condom distribution in schools to come with sex education, counseling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Condom distribution in schools will be accompanied by sex education, the Health Department said Wednesday.

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the Department of Health, in tandem with the Department of Education, will teach the "ABC" framework: "Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condom use."

"Our main advocacy for young people and the youth is actually abstinence and delaying sexual debut. And if they cannot do that... be faithful, so have only one partner," Ubial told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"C is (for) condom use, which is the last resort in terms of protecting yourself from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections," she added.

The condoms are expected to be distributed in school clinics or health centers.

Ubial added that teachers will be trained on how to impart lessons on sex education.

"In that way, the students are alerted that these are the ways of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection," said Ubial. "And therefore they would individually approach the teacher, and that's the time they will be counseled," she added.

When asked if teachers' involvement may discourage students from availing condoms, Ubial said the distribution program will also have peer counseling and a discussion on sex education with parents.

Students receiving the condoms will also be offered counseling, she said.

If a student undergoing counseling is evaluated by the counselor to be engaging in "risky" sexual behavior, then a voluntary HIV/AIDS test will be offered to them, Ubial added.

Other details of the plan are still being ironed out between the health and education departments.

One in 10 Filipino girls aged 15 to 19 are either pregnant or already mothers, according to figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2014.

Meanwhile, over 8,000 HIV/AIDS cases of people under 25 years old were recorded between January 2011 and June 2016, according to DOH statistics.

President Rodrigo Duterte listed accessibility to healthcare as a focus in his State of the Nation Address last July. Ubial says their three-point agenda covers health insurance coverage, service delivery, and protection from infectious diseases.

DOH pushes for lift on TRO on contraceptives

Ubial also reiterated that the DOH filed for the Supreme Court to reconsider its temporary restraining order on the distribution of contraceptive implants.

The Supreme Court first issued the TRO in June 2015 after alleged abortifacient tendencies of one of the drugs. DOH, however, maintains that the contraceptives are safe.

According to Ubial, the DOH procured 400,000 contraceptive implants before the order was released. The implants are expected to expire in 2018.

"We are still in the process of lobbying for the Supreme Court to lift that," she said.

"We're hoping that the president will issue some sort of appeal to the Supreme Court to lift the TRO."

DOH also expects Duterte to sign an Executive Order implementing a nationwide smoking ban.

The order covers a prohibition on chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other devices used to deliver nicotine in public transportation and indoor establishments.