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Study: Drop in Aids awareness in region

THE proportion of youth aged 15-24 in Davao Region aware of HIV/AIDS has declined, a recent study revealed.

Data from the national 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (Yafs 4) conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation, Inc. (DRDF) showed a 1.2 percentage point decline, from 93.0 percent in 2002 to 90.8 percent in 2013.

Yafs 4 is the fourth in a series of national surveys of Filipino youth which gathers data on sexual and non-sexual risk behaviors and determinants at the national and regional levels. Previous surveys were conducted in 1982, 1994, and 2002.

The study sampled around 1,000 respondents aged 15-24 years in Region 11, with a total sample size of approximately 17,000.

“On the national level, 13 percent ang drop. We were actually wondering why this happened, considering it was stable from 1994 to 2002. Kaya sa initial dissemination namin, we didn’t release it because we wanted to study it further,” Dr. Maria Paz Marquez, UPPI Academic Program Coordinator, said at the Yafs 4 Dissemination Forum at El Bajada Hotel on Wednesday.

“Somebody from the Department of Health National Epidemiology Center told me he was also concerned, considering they already intensified their programs for HIV/Aids,” she added.

Marquez, in an interview with Sun.Star Davao, said they confirmed their findings with the survey by the National Statistics Office, which showed there was indeed a decline in awareness for 15-24 year olds.

There has also been a decrease in the level of awareness regarding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Marquez added.

The study also revealed that misconceptions on HIV/Aids are still common among the youth.

Only 69.4 percent agreed that risk of HIV transmission can be reduced by having sex with just one uninfected partner with no other sexual partners. In addition, 59.5 percent believed that by using a condom, the risk of transmission can be reduced.

However, one in three Region 11 youth still believe that a healthy-looking person cannot have HIV and that the virus can be transmitted through mosquito bites.

Meanwhile, only 49.8 percent agree that HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing food with someone infected with the virus.

“On the national level, only 16.5 percent of 15-24 year olds have comprehensive knowledge of HIV/Aids. We failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals target of 95 percent of youth with comprehensive knowledge of HIV/Aids,” Marquez said.

The survey also showed a rise in prevalence of premarital sex among youth.

“Two in five Region 11 youth in 2013 engaged in sex before marriage, a sharp rise from the level in 1994 which was at 23.5 percent,” Marquez said, adding that there is a narrowing gap in levels of premarital sex between males and females.

Marquez also said of the first premarital sex encounters, 80.2 percent are unprotected. Among those who used contraception, condom and withdrawal were the most common methods.

The study also revealed a “low but above-national average level of commercial sex, most of which are unprotected,” she said.

She added that youth engaging in unprotected sex or with low levels of protection increased their risk of acquiring HIV/Aids and other STIs.

Marquez attributed poverty and socioeconomic status, incidence of out-of-school youth, and parental supervision as among the factors that have led to the survey results.

There are around 18 million youth aged 15-24 years old in the Philippines. Around 900,000, or five percent of the total population, come from Region 11.

Among those, almost three in five Region 11 youth have no source of information about sex, which is the second highest among all regions.

“The data is alarming, and we really have our work cut out for us,” Marquez said. (Brent Harvey S. Jimenez, AdDU Intern)