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Sex, health, tears

WHAT is a TRO? T for Temporary, R for Restraining, O for Order. It’s an order from the court to stop or restrain an action or a law, but that order is merely temporary, and temporary doesn’t mean permanent.

It’s been one month shy of two years since the Supreme Court pulled back the reproductive health law and suspended the distribution of contraceptives (except condoms) on a petition filed by a coalition of pro-life groups. (In the first place, the term pro-life implies that everyone who is not with them is anti-life, which is not the case.)

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial calls attention to just one side-effect of that TRO issued in June, 2015.

As she explained the problem to President Duterte, her department might have to donate to another country R300 million worth of the subdermal implant, Implanon, that could be used by 250,000 women to avoid pregnancy for three years. Why donate, he asked, and she said, because the drugs will expire in eight months. Before the TRO came down, 50,000 women were able to avail themselves of the shots.

Another consequence of the TRO is that family planning products are in danger of losing their certification or registration, without which they cannot be sold or distributed; back to the dark ages.

Meanwhile, with Dr. Ubial’s report that the incidence of HIV has increased among 15 to 24 year-olds – 28 a day in 2015 to 30 a day last year – dare we ask how many pregnancies will result?

Not everything DoH touches is as sexy as hygiene and reproduction, though. For example, as the Secretary told “Bulong Pulungan” at Sofitel, there are six million Filipinos who are “walking time bombs” – they’re half of the 12 million who have high blood pressure “but don’t know it, they’ve no symptoms” but just the same they need to see a doctor.

And yet, how many Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor? After a trip to Cuba, Secretary Ubial is envious that Cubans have one doctor for every 1,000 population. Compare that with the Philippines’ one doctor for every 33,000 and you’ll understand why the holy grail of her administration, after 28 years in DoH, is as simple as “one doctor in every barangay, and every Filipino will see a doctor at least once a year.” It’s so simple it could make you weep. (Jullie Y. Daza)