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The scourge of HIV, the internet, and sex tourism

All too often in the Philippines its children who become their victims

The scourge of HIV, the internet, and sex tourism

Many victims of abuse in the Philippines come from urban poor communities where basic government services are lacking. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Father Shay Cullen, Manila
Philippines

September 4, 2017

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It was a day of courage and resilience for Isabel, a 14-year-old child, who could not endure the pain and hurt and fear of sexual abuse by her grandfather any longer.

Despite threats against her and her sister, she told a classmate what was happening in the house of their grandfather. The classmate bravely told her mother and that mother knew what she had to do. She had attended a Preda Foundation child abuse preventive and reporting seminar and she sent a text message about the abuse to the Preda hotline.

Immediately, the Preda team was mobilized and went to the rescue of the children. The grandfather was arrested on July 17 and detained. He was arraigned on Aug. 16 at the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City for the alleged rape of his two granddaughters aged 11 and 14 years old.

It was later discovered, when the children were taken into the care and protection of the Preda home for abused children, that the seven year old youngest girl was also found to have been sexually abused. The horrific multiple rape of the children witnessed by his son led his son to rape them also.

When a female doctor conducted a child-friendly medical examination of the children, they were tested for HIV.

This is new and necessary now because the spread of HIV is so contagious and rampant that the Philippines is now having an epidemic. It has the fastest-growing HIV-AIDS epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region with a 140 percent jump in new infections recorded, according to the Department of Health and the U.N.

In 2010, there were 4,300 reported cases in the Philippines but by December 2016 there were as many as 10,500 reported cases.

The untold number of unreported cases will never be known but the number of infections can be estimated by multiplying the known cases by ten.

While the most vulnerable are young men in relationships with other men, the 15 to 24 year old age range is the highest group with new infections.

Many of these are still considered children under 18 years old. The virus is present among sex workers and those men frequenting the sex bars. But the danger to children is now evident as the Philippines is fast losing its once long-held tradition of steadfast moral values. The belief in what is right and just is eroding as so many support the war-on-drugs where thousands have been reportedly killed, it seems.

The Philippine bishops are uncomfortable with the position of former conservative Pope Benedict allowing the use of condoms in circumstances where they could save the lives of HIV sufferers.

Pope Francis supported the distribution of condoms to people prone to HIV infection especially when he supported the distribution of condoms by the Knights of Malta as a HIV prevention measure and as a family planning solution. 

The progressive Philippine bishops and priests are doing their utmost to be heard and keep alive the moral values cherished by the Filipino people.

The majority of conservative bishops recently elected the Archbishop of Davao, Romulo Valles, a close friend of President Rodrigo Duterte to head the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. But there might be a watering down of the message when it comes to speaking on human rights and on behalf of the victims of the extrajudicial killings, the exploited women and children in the sex trade. Disgustingly, the government allows it to grow and proliferate and issues permits to the sex bars.

The church and government should do more to help drug dependents suffering from HIV-AIDS as a result of drug taking and needle sharing. The addicts have psychological and health problems, they are not criminals. The rich and mighty drug lords are the criminals and they have, by and large, remained untouched and safe.

The spread of child abuse in cybersex dens is a daily common occurrence. Children are at risk, according to the Department of Health. They see that child rape and sexual abuse has grown hugely in recent years and children are prone to becoming infected with HIV.

This and child pornography allowed to be freely accessible through Philippine internet server providers invite sex tourists from abroad to come and abuse the children on demand. This in turn convinces local men that it's alright if the government allows foreigners to do it with impunity. So the rate of incest and child rape by live-in partners and pedophiles has increased and the testing of raped children for HIV infection will go on.

If there are any people with moral values and a conscience to help save the child victims, they must act and report abuse and help children.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

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