Closure of gay bars looms in Baguio

Baguio City, Benguet—Health officials asked the city government on Wednesday to close down gay bars to prevent the spread of the dreaded disease AIDS, which showed an upsurge in the past several months.

Dra. Celiaflor Brillantes, head of the social hygiene clinic, said 80 percent of the 60 AIDS cases in the city have been traced to men having sex with men and returning overseas workers, who got infected abroad.

“We have to close down the gay bars and strictly regulate the operation of nightspots in order to prevent the further increase of individuals contracting the dreaded disease,” Brillantes said.

Six cases were recorded this year compared with nine cases last year but the threat of an upsurge among gays was real. More than a dozen bars will be affected by a closure order.

A total of 60 AIDS cases were reported in the city since 2010 and at least four of them have died. Most of the cases were traced to men having sex with men.

Brillantes said she considered the threat of an AIDS as serious because the city has an active night life and gay bars and night spots frequented by sex workers were doing brisk business.

She said high school and college students were vulnerable at getting infected and called on authorities to implement strong measures, including mandatory weekly checkups for sex workers.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan said he was alarmed at the report and cautioned residents to be careful and to avoid risky sex.

“We are just human beings, but we can prevent ourselves from contracting the dreaded disease by sticking to our respective partners and not to patronize commercial sex establishments,” he said.

He said he will not hesitate to close down gay bars, which have been pinpointed as the source of the disease, but legal impediments must be cleared before an order can be issued.

“Business permits of suspected establishments will not be renewed next year. It will be one of our options,” Domogan said.

He said prostitution is an old problem because of the desire of some women to earn easy money to sustain their lucrative lifestyle but they should be careful against contracting the disease.

In Zamboanga City in Mindanao, at least 23 of 113 cases of HIV reported in the area have died since October this year, according to city health officer Dr. Rodelyn Abgulus.

She said 89 of the cases were men, who contracted the disease for having sex with other men and the others were client of sex workers and most of them have ages ranging from 25 to 34 years old.

Agbulos said most of the patients were residents of Zamboanga but the others were non-residents, who were discovered to be infected with the disease when they were checked while donating blood.

by Dexter A. See, A. Perez Rimando
Source – Manila Standard Today