The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) is concerned about the increase of teenage pregnancies in the Philippines, saying it may be considered a national social emergency.
According to a report on “24 Oras,” Philippine Statistics Authority data showed that 31 out of every 1,000 who gave birth in 2020 were aged 15 to 19.
In the report, a girl named Ana, 15, said at a young age she was already taking care of her two-month-old baby. She said she got pregnant by her drinking buddy.
The POPCOM said pregnancy among those aged 15 to 19 slowed down in 2020. However, pregnancy among 10 to 14-year-olds increased in 2021.
According to POPCOM, one of the reasons for teenage pregnancy may contribute to a lack of access to the right information.
Apart from the right information, it is also important to have access to reproductive health to avoid teenage pregnancies.
This was also raised by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, including the use of contraceptives such as condoms.
“It is a tool to prevent not only pregnancy, not only STD, but rather it is a tool that provides you safety,” Nenet Ortega, country manager of AHF Philippines, said.
Several lawmakers have pushed for House Bill 79 or the prevention of adolescent pregnancy bill to create a national policy to prevent teenage pregnancy and give protection to teenage parents.
“Adolescent pregnancy is no longer just a norm. This is a global concern which should be addressed by legislators and implementers,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.
Meanwhile, a health expert from the Department of Health said a stronger sex education among the population particularly the youth was needed to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
During a webinar in observance of World AIDS Day, HIV and AIDS program expert DOH-Disease Prevention and Control Bureau Program Expert Roland Sardan said there was a lack of proper education on the use of prevention methods such as condoms and lubricants.
For his part, Danvic Rosadiño, program and innovations director of LoveYourself Inc., said lack of proper sex education was one of the reasons for the rising cases of HIV, STI, and teenage pregnancies in the country.
He said it was important to discuss sex education without any malice, stressing people were “shy” in accessing the services in health facilities.
Dr. Loyd Norella, HIV program manager of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., advised the public that they must assess their own risk on what kind of behavior they are engaging in.
He said they could opt to use several options including condoms, lubricants, and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) that are available for free in some government and non-government facilities.
Norella said persons living with HIV can avail themselves of free medicines in treatment hubs, community centers, and even private clinics.
Sardan said free testing for HIV could be availed of in public hospitals and primary HIV care and treatment hubs, adding there were 184 treatment hubs and primary HIV care facilities nationwide.
“We are really seeing the 15-to-24 year old age bracket as very critical…because this soon will be the labor force, and if the affected clients at this age group will not seek treatment they will develop various opportunities of infection and it will affect their capability to contribute to the labor force and it will cascade to economic problems,” he said.
Sardan advised persons living with HIV that “there is life after HIV diagnosis.”
The HIV and AIDS program expert encouraged them to be adherent to the medications and treatment while enjoying the best quality of life.
“There are many success stories that they have become productive members of society. Even more productive than the other members of society. With proper medication like the antiretrovirals, you can have the best quality of life that you have while we wait for the HIV vaccines,” Sardan said.
In related developments, the Philippines reported logging 1,347 new HIV cases in September, the DOH said, as World AIDS Day was marked Thursday.
The latest figure is 37 percent higher compared to the 981 HIV cases reported during the same month last year, the DOH added.
Based on the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines, some 1,293 (96 percent) of the newly diagnosed cases were male while 54 (4 percent) were female, in which 7 of whom were reported to be pregnant at the time of diagnosis.
The age of the new HIV cases ranged from 2 to 71, the report showed.
Some 3 cases or less than 1 percent were younger than 15 years old; 418 (31 percent) were 15 to 24; 667 (50 percent) were 25 to 34; 229 (17 percent) were 35 to 49 and 30 or (2 percent) were 50 and above.
In September, sexual contact was still the leading mode of transmission of HIV, representing 1,323 cases or 98 percent. Five cases were due to sharing of infected needles while 2 others were children who acquired HIV through mother-to-child transmission.