Paulina Quintao – The National Commission for Combating HIV/AIDS in Timor-Leste (KNKS-TL) is standing by its decision to not socialize about condom use to the public as a prevention method for HIV transmission despite receiving strong critiques from organizations and groups.
The Director of the Education and Prevention Program at KNKS-TL, Venancio Coelho, said the commission does not talk about condom use in public, because condoms are not 100% safe in preventing HIV transmission, and because communities and particularly the young still lack knowledge about condoms and its function, which may lead to misunderstandings.
He also said the commission is aware that the Ministry of Health's position is that technically, it speaks about the ABC international method for HIV prevention to the youth; to be Abstinent, to Be Faithful to their partners, and to use a Condom if they cannot remain abstinent or faithful to one sexual partner.
KNKS-TL only speaks about condom-use for HIV prevention to at-risk groups including army personnel and sex-workers.
"The community nowadays particularly youngsters lack knowledge about condoms, so when talking about condoms on the one hand we introduce HIV prevention, but we will also be motivating them to engage in free sex because they will know the condom will prevent a pregnancy. This is why during socialization, we do not mention about using a condom if you are not abstinent or faithful to your partner," he said during a socialization session in the Suku of Hera.
He added even though the commission does not talk about condoms in public that anyone with an interest in knowing how to use or the function of a condom can come to the commission for counseling.
Meanwhile, the General Director for Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Odete Viegas acknowledged that information about HIV/AIDS being socialized to the public has created confusion in the community due to lack of coordination between the Commission and the HIV/AIDS program unit at the Ministry.
She said the HIV/AIDS prevention method in general is A (Abstinence), B (Be Faithful) and C (Condom).
She added, the commission changed the method C (Condom) to Self-Control, and this decision is hard to explain because there are many perspectives including that of Health and that of the Church.
"The issue is difficult to explain, but for me as a doctor I am very clear; we need to give options so we can prevent this contagious disease," she said.