Social Media Blamed For Youth’s Risky Sexual Behavior
“We have observed that among the young individuals who are practicing unsafe sex, they already have social media applications, where they can meet and chat,” Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Filipino youths are getting exposed to risky sexual behavior and becoming vulnerable to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to access to social media, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
At press briefing last Tuesday, March 14, DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that access to social media has been identified as one of the factors driving young Filipino to engage in unsafe sex.
“We have observed that among the young individuals who are practicing unsafe sex, they already have social media applications, where they can meet and chat,” Vergeire said.
“These apps are what they use so that they can meet each other and engage in illicit behaviors,” she added.
Unsafe sex is “the most common cause of HIV” globally, according to the DOH official.
The health department previously reported that 79 individuals aged 10 to 19 years old were among those diagnosed with HIV last January.
Aside from access to social media, Vergeire said “peer pressure” also drives young Filipinos to risky sexual behavior.
She further lamented that many younger Filipinos still lack awareness of HIV.
“We need to make them aware of the diseases that can be acquired when we engage in unsafe behavior,” she said.
DOH data showed that except for one, all of the 79 adolescents diagnosed with HIV acquired the infection through sexual contact.
Of the 78 adolescents, 65 acquired the virus through male-to-male sex, eight through sex with both males and females and five through male-to-female sex.
Vergeire urged the public, particularly parents, to help educate the youth regarding safe sex and HIV.
“Everyone is encouraged to spread awareness on HIV, so that they will know how to protect themselves,” she said.
The DOH and the Department of Education (DepEd) should step up efforts on raising the youth’s awareness on HIV, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Wednesday, March 15.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, made the call following the release of the HIV/acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and ART Registry of the Philippines for January 2023, which revealed that 86 cases were recorded among children and adolescents or those aged 19 and below.
Seventy-nine of these cases were among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years old, while seven were less than 10 years old.
“It is alarming and distressing to know that the ones who should receive the most care because of their young age are the ones suffering,” Gatchalian said in Filipino.
“The DOH and other agencies of the government and local government units must work together to disseminate information about this disease and how to avoid it,” he added.
The total number of new HIV cases for the month of January was 1,454. Of the 1,365 reported cases acquired through sexual contact, 998 or 70 percent were males who reported having sex with another male, 193 or 13 percent were males having sex with females and 240 or 17 percent were males having sex with both males and females.
To highlight the urgency of increasing awareness on HIV, Gatchalian cited the findings of the University of the Philippines Population Institute’s 2021 Young Adult and Fertility Sexuality Survey, which revealed that youth awareness of HIV/AIDS dropped to 78 percent in 2021.
This is the lowest recorded since 1994, when the percentage of youth who were aware of HIV/AIDS was 95 percent. – With Paolo Romero