Nation & World

‘Avoid condoms’ because they don’t feel good, says leader of country with HIV problem

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said that people shouldn’t use condoms because they aren’t pleasurable.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said that people shouldn’t use condoms because they aren’t pleasurable. AP

The Philippines has an HIV problem.

Out of all the countries in the Asia Pacific region, the nation — with a population of more than 100 million — has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic, according to a report from the United Nations.

It’s especially a problem for gay men in the Philippines, a group that has experienced a tenfold increase in HIV cases in just the past five years, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

“The country’s growing HIV epidemic has been fueled by a legal and policy environment hostile to evidence-based policies and interventions proven to help prevent HIV transmission,” reads the 46-page report from the international organization. “Such restrictions are found in national, provincial, and local government policies, and are compounded by the longstanding resistance of the Roman Catholic Church to sexual health education and condom use.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says condoms are “highly effective” in keeping people from getting HIV. But on Tuesday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suggested that people shouldn’t use condoms because they are “not pleasurable.”

Avoid condoms because condoms aren’t pleasurable,” Duterte said, according to a translation from the Rappler.

Instead, the president suggested that women use contraceptive pills. He then put a wrapped candy in his mouth as an example of why condoms are bad, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Here, try eating it without unwrapping it,” he said. “Eat it. That’s what a condom is like.”

The Human Rights Watch derided Duterte for his comments in an article titled “Duterte’s Condom Criticism Imperils Philippine HIV Fight.”

“Instead of criticizing condoms as a pleasure inhibitor, Duterte should take meaningful action to protect the health of Filipinos by backing urgently needed policy changes to expand the accessibility and use of condoms in the Philippines,” it concluded.

Risa Hontiveros, a senator in the Philippines, also took aim at the president’s comments on Twitter.

Duterte is known for controversial statements and policies. He has said that Philippines troops should make female communist rebels “useless” by shooting them in the genitals, joked about raping a Miss Universe pageant winner and has engaged in a drug war that has led to police officers killing thousands.

TIME has a collection of images that capture the harrowing fight against drugs. Often, police officers kill suspected drug users and dealers without due process.

Duterte temporarily pulled police out of the drug war after pressure from the international community but ordered police to continue their efforts in Decemeber, according to The Guardian.

“You can go to hell, all of you,” he said in reference to human rights groups.