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Philippines goes after men in closet in AIDS fight
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The Philippine health authorities are shifting their focus in the HIV/AIDS fight from openly gay to straight men as unprotected sex among men was blamed for a spike in the HIV infection in the country.

The Department of Health has launched a three-month survey to determine the scale and behavior trends of men who have sex with men before working out mitigation strategies, local newspapers reported Wednesday.

"It's not about gays," the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Eric Taytag, chief of the National Epidemiology Center, as saying. "The problem is they are a hidden population, they are not open."

Gays, lesbians and trans-genders are much tolerated in the Philippines, compared with other conservative Asian countries. But the condom usage remains way below the average due to the influence of the powerful Catholic Church and limited supplies in the market.

The health authorities recorded 432 HIV/AIDS cases in the first seven months of the year. The infection particularly surged in July -- 70 cases -- with bisexual contact as the most pre-dominant type of sexual transmission.

"We'll test our hypothesis that men having sex with men is becoming a sexual norm," Taytay said.

HIV jumps from human to human mainly through sex intercourse, drugs injection, and pre-natal transmission (mother infecting baby during pregnancy). Nearly 90 percent of the Filipinos living with HIV/AIDS got infected through sex intercourse.

(Xinhua News Agency August 26, 2009)

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