[Admin Note: This post is a copy from Commentary, ]
In a reproductive health workshop for Filipino adolescents, the facilitator asked the young participants what they thought about, or how they would define, sex. The participants, in their teens and early 20s, almost covered the board with their responses. To cite a few, one said sex is “a tool for enjoyment.” Another said sex is “intercourse,” “the act” (I thought the participant could have added a smiley on the card.) Another simply wrote “pleasure.” And then another said sex is “a wonderful moment.”
It seems there is so much magic in sex that most people are ready to say something nice about it. I myself think that “the act” can be so good that those who are “trapped” in the middle of it may not mind its possible consequences, including risks to their health. The sexual act can transmit various viruses, the most fearsome of which being the HIV that leads to AIDS. Recent reports say that at least 32 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS. In the Philippines, the reported casualties have already reached 728 since 1984. Worse, instead of going away, the HIV/AIDS problem is showing signs of growing. The Department of Health reported last week that the number of HIV cases doubled this year compared to last year, from a monthly average of 25 to 49. The Department of Health (DoH) also said the recent HIV-positive cases constituted mostly of homosexuals. In the past several years, the overseas Filipino workers?notably seamen?constituted the majority of HIV cases.
The HIV/AIDS menace is everybody’s concern. Containing it along with other nagging and equally deadly diseases like malaria is one of the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 to be accomplished by 2015. Multilateral and bilateral agencies like the United Nations, the Global Fund, the HIV/AIDS Alliance, World Bank, USAID, among others, as well as international social development organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have pooled resources (financial, technical, information, etc.) to address the problem. In the Philippines, the DoH and NGOs like the Philippine Support Program (PHANSuP), have linked themselves to the allied global networks to enhance their prospects of preventing the spread of the disease as well as of providing proper treatment to those who have been afflicted.
The essence of the global response to the HIV/AIDS problem has been to inform the people about the disease. The key is for sexually active people not to get themselves trapped into “risky” sexual acts. The reproductive health workshop I mentioned is one of the many ways by which information on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and other related issues can reach and be understood by people all the way down–in the Philippine context–to the “purok” [area] and “barangay” [village or neighborhood district] level. Here, PHANSuP, along with its network of nongovernmental organizations, national and local government agencies, community-based organizations, among others, has led the way in spreading the light on AIDS.
Being ill-informed can lead one to so much trouble, even for those who think that sex is a “tool for enjoyment.” It pays one to know and, on the basis of that information, to behave. As health advocates say: “Be good. If you can?t be good, be careful.”
I also guess that heterosexual couples who are lost in that wonderful moment would hardly think about other things even if they are open to possible conception. They would have no need to bother themselves with the “kill-joy” thoughts about the woman’s “burdens” of pregnancy, not to mention the hellish pain she gets to experience during delivery. And then there are the risks. Child-bearing is one of the causes of maternal deaths. Many infant deaths are also associated with problematic delivery.
But maybe–just maybe–God made sex so good so that the cycle of pleasure and pain and–up a higher level–of life and death, will continue. If sex was not that good, humans may defy Him, and invent something other than sex.
Thus after a harrowing pregnancy and a painful delivery, the mother gets overwhelmed with joy at the sight and the first touch of her baby. From then on, the baby becomes a priceless treasure. And, to the delight of the world, babies like her own have their own ways of endearing themselves to everyone.
Life continues and the mother will always be there to raise and protect her child. She is ready to face even death if only to ensure the safety of her child. She won’t even allow anyone to call her children ugly, no matter what they may think. She will be there until her time ends. At her advanced age, she may also see her own children go through pain, and even face possible death, if only to have a chance that the next generation may live.
The father may or may not be as heroic as the mother. But his shining moment comes before the conception of the child. The story of Helen of Troy tells us that kings, along with legions of their subjects, killed one another before they earned the right to go to bed with the queen. In movies, we see men fighting one another while the lady waits for the last man standing. Elsewhere in the animal world, the male species earns breeding rights only after subduing all male contenders. Today, there are countless ways to play the breeding rights game (power, looks, words, wallet, even deceit instead of combat).
Man is hero before life. Woman is heroine at the first sign of life and many times thereafter, trying to sustain life. The point at which their roles converge is sex. The drama that spins the cycle of life and death begins with sex. It begins and ends with a wonderful moment.