MANILA – The Philippines’ education department has rejected a proposal to distribute condoms in public high schools, hurting efforts to curb HIV/AIDS in the country, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

The Department of Health had proposed the condom distribution to promote safe sex practices among young Filipinos, amid reports that more of them are getting infected with HIV.

But Education Secretary Leonor Briones said children below 18 years need parental consent to receive condoms and any other contraceptives products, HRW said.

“The proposal … was an overdue response to the country’s worsening human immunodeficiency virus epidemic, and its rejection will hurt efforts to slash new HIV infections,” the New York-based group said in a statement.

“The Philippines needs to address this HIV crisis, but arguments that ignore science will only increase the likelihood of HIV transmissions among young Filipinos,” it said.

“Young people will continue to be at needless risk of HIV infection” unless the health department overrides the barriers to condom access and the education department implements a long-delayed comprehensive sexuality education programme, it added.

According to the Department of Health, 9,264 new cases of HIV infection were recorded in 2016, up from 7,831 in 2015.

Twenty-two of the new cases last year were below 15 years old, it added.

From 2011 to 2016, Filipinos aged between 15 years and 24 years have accounted for 28 per cent of those infected with HIV, up from 25 per cent in 2006 to 2010, the department said.

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