Behaviors and Behavior: Not the Same Coin

Here’s a letter I wrote to the Inquirer and which they published in their April 1, 2015 issue:

I wish to commend the Inquirer’s March 29 editorial (“Life-and-death issue”) for seeking to raise public awareness of persons afflicted with the HIV virus. Statistics show that the numbers are still on the rise. The editorial, following a World Health Organization report, also rightly pointed out the persons most at risk in contracting the virus: “men having sex with men, sex workers, transgender individuals, prison inmates and people who inject drugs.”

To help solve this problem, the editorial suggested: “More than ever, the necessity of beefing up the education campaign on HIV/AIDS and the perils of unprotected sex is paramount.” As regards “protected sex,” the editorial echoed the suggestion of the WHO: “the common sense of using condoms as protection during sex.”

In the interest of truth and fairness, may I point out that this “common sense” is itself a very risky common sense.

The editorial made reference to a previous one (Opinion, 12/4/13) on this same topic. The earlier editorial also proposed the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection. I wrote to the Inquirer a commentary expressing the idea that such suggestion is not a wise solution. A person who thinks using a condom guarantees safe and protected sex may be led to adopt even more risky behavior. I have suggested that a better alternative is the practice of a virtue: chastity.

I was very glad to read in another editorial of the Inquirer a few days ago, about the Singaporean leader who recently passed away, saying that what we do need to develop our nation is the practice of virtue. Now, I think chastity is a virtue we cannot ignore.

I am very grateful to the Inquirer for printing my letter even though it criticized the paper’s position. As a result I received some reactions from some readers, among them a person who admitted that he was a person who did such risky behavior. Thinking he was safe by using condoms he went on with his usual risky behavior. Finally, he contracted the virus despite his using condoms. After some soul-searching and a deep conversion, he realized that the best way to avoid infection is the practice of chastity.

This virtue is very much misunderstood. It is typically viewed as a set of rules that prevent one from enjoying the God-given gift of human sexuality. On the contrary, chastity is the virtue that involves a very human and wholesome understanding of the meaning of human sexuality and its rightful use in the context of either conjugal love, that is married love, or its role in single blessedness embraced for the sake of service to others. Such an understanding does require not only the dissemination of information but above all the education of the mind and heart. This, I propose, must be made part of the education campaign the Inquirer advocates in the March 29 editorial.

If we achieve this kind of education, we can successfully reduce the number of persons adopting risky behavior that puts them at high risk of contracting HIV. Better still, we will have more persons who are in a position to contribute more to the development of our society.

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