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Former Manila sex worker finds God after HIV

Philippines' rising HIV rates cause alarm

Church offers salvation to HIV positive former male prostitute.
Church offers salvation to HIV positive former male prostitute.
  • By Claire Delfin, Manila
  • Philippines
  • July 27, 2012
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While the incidence of HIV/AIDS has been arrested and is even falling in some regions, the Philippines is one of only seven countries in the world where it is on the rise.

This assertion comes from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is especially concerned about its prevalence among male homosexuals.

UNDP spokesman Philip Castro estimates that 87 percent ?of new infections are attributed to unprotected man-to-man sex. He also points out that condom use in the Philippines is among the lowest in Asia.

Owee (full name withheld) is one of the victims of the syndrome. When the 34-year-old learned of his infection, he felt as if the world had fallen in around him.

He went through episodes of depression; on numerous occasions, suicide crossed his mind. “I thought there was nothing in store for me but death,” he says.

Owee worked as a ‘call boy,’ a local term for a male prostitute who services gay clients.

“I came to Manila to fulfill my dream of finishing my education,” he says. “I was committed to getting someone from my family through school as well.

“But I had to work to finance it all. It reached a point when I couldn’t make ends meet. There were just too many expenses, and my job with a fast-food chain was not enough.

“I went to the mall and met some call boys. They told me how much they earn. So I thought, why not try it?”

For a while, money came easily, but then HIV struck. “It was so hard to accept," he says. "I kept asking, why me? I only wanted to help my family,”

But it was also this episode in his life that brought him back to the Lord.

“I realized that God has a reason,” says Owee, who is now actively involved in the Catholic Church campaign against the spread of HIV-AIDS. He gives talks on his experience as an HIV patient.

Thanks to Church and government support, he receives the anti-retroviral drugs he needs to keep the virus from spreading in his body.

But with one HIV case registered every three hours, an alarming increase from one case every three days just 10 years ago, supplies may not be able to keep pace with growing demand.

Doctors For Life, a group of Catholic physicians, points out that a sure way to avoid the disease is for couples to stay in a monogamous relationship.

“Condoms are not proven to be 100 percent effective in preventing the spread of HIV,” says spokesperson Dr. Eleanor de Borja-Palabyab.

"It’s not the natural law to be jumping from one partner to another. In ovulation, the fertilization of an egg, the natural law is one egg to one sperm.”
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