Paulina Quintao – The Vice Minister of Health, Bonifacio dos Reis, said the Ministry of Health (MoH) will continue to promote the global HIV/AIDS prevention method of ABC, Abstinence (A), Be faithful (B), or use a Condom (C), to prevent the transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
He added that from a health perspective, promoting condom use is important as a last resort in the prevention of HIV infection and that condoms are currently available at all health facilities.
He acknowledged that within Timorese society, it is still a taboo to discuss condom use but he believes condoms prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) when people lose self-control.
"When we talk about prevention, the best way is to abstain or not have more than one sexual partner, but if this fails, using a condom will prevent sexually transmitted diseases," he said in Dili.
He said unless people use condoms it will be difficult to reduce the number of STD's in the country.
He added nonetheless that even though the health sector will continue to promote the use of condoms to prevent HIV and other STD's that this does not mean condoms will be distributed to the public arbitrarily.
He said condoms not only prevent STD's but can be also used as a family planning method. The vice minister also appealed to the public, especially to young people, to avoid risk behaviours including free sex that may lead to the transmission of STD's including HIV.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Organization Estrela Plus, Ines Lopes, said the ABC method is a globally proven method for HIV prevention.
She said that sexually transmitted infections have increased every year in Timor-Leste and that using a condom is the way to stop the transmission of STD's.
"But we also need to deliver education prevention activities and raise awareness about this issue in the community, but in the end, it will be up to the community to choose what works for them" she said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary for the National Commission for Combatting HIV/AIDS in Timor-Leste, Daniel Marcal, said the commission does not promote condom use in its campaign efforts, because condom use does not provide 100% guarantee in the prevention of the HIV virus transmission.
He said that many countries promote condom use and yet HIV cases continue to be identified and are on the increase, so Timor-Leste needs to consider this issue.
"Condom use does not 100% solve the HIV virus transmission. We will only be able to solve the issue 100% by providing information about changing risk behaviours and to give moral support and counselling. This we will continue to do," he said.
He does not believe the rise in the number of HIV cases in Timor-Leste is not due to the Commission not promoting condom use, but it is because more people are aware they should be tested and find out their HIV status.
World AIDS Day, has been marked every year on 1 December since 1988, and is an international day designated to raise awareness, including in Timor-Leste, of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.