Sunday, January 07, 2018

Safe Spaces PH Distributing Free Condoms and Lubes, Launched

By Geldof Resuello and Tino Largado


In a country where social stigma is still heavily attached to condom access and use, how does one protect one’s self? LoveYourself, in partnership with Save the Children formally introduced Safe Spaces PH on December 22 at Greenbelt 3’s My Cinema in Makati City through an adult education dialogue which tackled the idea of a sustainable condom distribution supply chain that is augmented by technology.


adultED: DIALOGUES IN SAFE SPACES


LoveYourself volunteers greeting the attendants with huge smiles. Photo by Chris Lagman.
Dubbed as “adultED: dialogues in Safe Spaces PH”, the Safe Spaces launch was a series of forums which fosters dialogue about sexual health and wellness. Guest speakers include Dr. Miel Mora from Save the Children and Global Fund for HIV Prevention, Noel Palaypayon from Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau, student leader and advocate JB Deang, young professional and advocate Jabar Esmael and Project and Data Manager for PrEP Pilipinas Danvic Rosadiño from LoveYourself.


(L-R) adultED speakers Danvic Rosadiño, Jabar Esmael, JB Deang, Dr. Miel Mora and Noel Palaypayon. Photo by Yanyan Araña II
Safe Spaces PH aims to solve the problem of low number of condom use. Currently, 7 out of 10 of the youth are ashamed to buy condoms, making them vulnerable to HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). To date, the Philippines has the highest rate of increase of newly-diagnosed people living with HIV across the Asia and the Pacific region.


Mr. Noel Palaypayon talking about the early start of risky behaviors among the youth.. Photo by Chris Lagman.
Danvic Rosadiño reiterating the organization’s advocacy of empowering the community by affirming energy and self-worth. Photo by Chris Lagman.
The forum discussed the alarming HIV epidemic in the country and highlighted the various methods in addressing this.


"We believe that if you follow the triangle of self-care, you are proactively managing your sexual health. In turn you are proactively loving yourself,” said John Danvic Rosadiño.


As part of taking care of one’s self, they stressed out the importance of correct and consistent use of condoms and the role one’s family play in his/her choices. In retrospect, the issue of condom availability to everyone has also been brought into discussion.


"For consistent condom use to increase, condoms need to be accessible and available,” Dr. Noel Palaypayon pointed out.


"I always believe that the concept or the discussion on the use of condom, sexual orientation, choices must also start with our own family. We also need to empower the families,” JB Deang added.


INNOVATIVE DISTRIBUTION MODEL


Safe Spaces PH designates areas where people can get access to free condoms with water-based lubricants without embarrassment and judgment. This is made possible by partnering with non-discriminatory and sex-positive establishments that serve as safe spaces or “Depots” where the dispenser for condoms are installed.


Sample condom dispenser which can be found at
LoveYourself Anglo clinic. Photo by Geldof Resuello.

Safe Spaces can be anywhere: bars, coffee shops, restaurants, which can be determined by looking for the Safe Spaces logo at the entrance. Thus, giving a holistic solution to the barriers on active utilization of free condoms by the people.


LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan pointed out that accessibility of condoms with water-based lubricant remains a huge challenge.


“The government offers condoms for free not just as contraceptive, but more importantly as a protection against contracting HIV and STIs. We just have to mobilize its distribution to ensure that we really target and reach the right market or people,” Pagtakhan emphasized.


He added, “A sizable number of condoms procured by the government are largely unknown and untapped by the public, hence sometimes these were put to waste unused.”


In addressing this problem, Dr.Miel Mora stressed, "If we make these safe spaces available (and) accessible, it will be familiar, and everyone will be talking about it, and who knows? We'll curb the epidemic through condoms.”


SINGLE MOBILE APPLICATION PLATFORM FOR ALL


Screenshot of the Safe Spaces PH app
Safe Spaces PH also entails a heavy digital campaign for smart selling of the Depots and the program at large. Safe Spaces PH comes with a mobile application to provide a quick and convenient service, especially for the key-affected population such as the youth and men-having-sex-with-men. In the application, one may locate the closest Depots and details of the establishments. One may also report how much supply is left so that the condiment station can be restocked.

 

The Safe Space app is available on Google Play store and App Store for download. For more information, one may also visit the Safe Spaces PH website.


HELP THE CAUSE AND BECOME A SAFE SPACE




Love Yourself believes that more than access to free condoms and water-based lubes, Safe Spaces PH also provides the experience of being safe and secure. While the initiative continually seeks for new establishments that can serve as depots, the collaboration does not end there.


"As we scale up, we definitely would like to look into places that are public and more accessible also to different social strata,” said Chris Lagman.


Safe Spaces PH also envisions to partner with individuals to help in making condoms accessible to everyone.  

Safe Space
Because everybody needs one.


To become part of the movement and become a Safe Space, you may email info@safespaces.ph

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Celebrating 2017 at Behind the Mask: The LoveYourself Ball



LoveYourself had a successful 2017. Through its fundraising events, community-based screening events, implementation of a youth-centered campaign, launch of the first transgender health clinic in the Philippines, organizing Asia’s premier charity and awards gala to the creation of a mobile application for condom utilization, LoveYourself continues to grow and spread the message of love. On December 16, 2017, volunteers gathered to celebrate the year that has been through merriment and recognition.

Vinn Pagtakhan giving his speech Photo by Mike John Diaz

Behind the Mask: The 2017 LoveYourself Ball started off with an inspiring speech by Ronivin Pagtakhan about the organization’s achievements in 2017, encapsulating the year with a video. Pagtakhan further explained the upcoming goals and objectives for 2018, which included a new organizational scheme aimed to achieving LoveYourself’s strategic objectives. An elegant cotillon followed the heartwarming speech. Composed of the many beauties of LoveYourself, the cotillon definitely set the ball rolling alongside the spiritful singing of Allen Ramos.


Lady Gagita Performing Photo by Aaron Dacanay


Lady Gagita rocked the stage with a masterful lip sync performance to Lady Gaga’s Coachella renditions of Bad Romance and The Cure that kicked off the first Lip Sync Competition in LoveYourself. Joining Gagita in judging the competition were Rey Daniel Espinueva, a member of the House of Mizrahi Philippines, and Prince MJ Casaverde, the operations manager for DSTNQT.  Amongst the crowd were reunited batches of volunteers who cheered on to the much hyped lip sync performances of their fellow volunteers.


Volunteer Awardees Photo by Aaron Dacanay


Outstanding volunteers were also given praise for their hard work and dedication throughout 2017. Along with the recognition of being the passionate volunteers that they are, gift packs from the generous sponsors were also given.
Most Outstanding Communications Volunteer
Editorial Communications - Diego Rozul
Visual Communications - Jego Calderone
Social Media and Strategy - Alin Nelson Cheng
Community Management Team - Mark De Castro
Strategic Communications - Raybert Domingo


Kuya Law Comms Leadership Awardees
Geno Maglinao
Eric Torres
Jean Natividad
Raybert Domingo


Most Outstanding Events Volunteer
Robin Marero


Outstanding Logistics Volunteer
Leo Icaro Olefane


Outstanding Sponsorships and Partnerships Volunteer
Noel Bon Evasco


Most Outstanding iTLY Volunteer
Innovations - John Oliver Cociega
Technology - Mike Toyoda


Rookie Volunteer Award
Mark Nino Bejosano


Most Outstanding LoveU Volunteer
Jay Soliman


Special Awards
Bien Salaza
John Cedric Santiago
Marvin Frondoza
Robert Pinauin
Jem Titan


Most Outstanding HIV Operations Volunteer
Genesis Aspiras
Special Award
Marvin Natural
Top Counselors
Mark Ramos
Mel Olesco
Rommel Mendoza
Eric Sendon
Abel Cabio
Top Life Coaches
Jem Titan
Mark Ramos
Leo Pura
Top PrEPPY Peers
JD Miguel Dela Cruz
Marvin Natural
Abe Isaiah Gagui


Most Outstanding LoveYourself Volunteers
Genesis Aspiras
Mike Toyoda
Raybert Domingo

Behind the Mask: The 2017 LoveYourself Ball was presented by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Department of Health. Co-presented by Greenyard, Vest Alternative by Ax Lantican, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL Holdings, Inc). Brought to you by DSTNQT, Aramesh, Noel & Wilson Fragrance Collection, and DJ Sam Arts & Prints. Special thanks to Wells Fargo, Victoria Court, Creamsilk, Goya, Skin White Solutions, Migo Skin Enterprise, Hoja De Laurel, 3NKairos Trading, HM Printing, Andrew Jardenil Professional Hair and Make Up Artist, Dawn Bolus Mawis of BAGA Manila, Batch Duque, Jay Soliman, and BSA Twin Towers.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

STATUS: Live and Let Love - An Open Letter from a Person Who Learned What Is to Be True About HIV

By Reiner “Meow” Grospe with Kelvin Vistan


We have seen all types of love – that is all types of couples. There are heterosexual couples, LGBTQI+ couples, and there are also serodiscordant couples. Serodiscordant couples are partners in which one is positive of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the other is negative.Our HIV status should not be an issue, and it will not be if people free themselves from the social stigma brought about by misinformation on HIV and AIDS.  
But how come the person living with HIV is able to prevent the transmission of the virus to their seronegative partner? Are they not having sex? They are, and thanks to science because, aside from the couple protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections with correct and consistent condom use, the seronegative partner may also take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which further lessens the chance of being infected.


It is also worthy to mention the effectiveness of the Anti-Retroviral Therapy of the seropositive partner, in the reduction of viral load until it becomes undetectable. This in turn makes the transmission of the virus through sexual contact less possible, since the sufficiency of the viral load in blood, breastmilk, seminal and vaginal fluid is important in the successful transmission of the virus.


However, some newly diagnosed persons living with HIV (PLHIV) still develop the feeling of impending doom in their studies, career, and/or romantic relationship, while others refuse to engage  sexually and/or romantically with a PLHIV.
If only we think as openly as Kevin Vistan, a community organizer, who wrote an open letter after being educated about the basic facts about HIV and AIDS. Here, he affirms that hate can never drive away hate, but love can. He wrote:


Because this is what I’ve learned to be true;
That HIV is more than a virus – it’s a social stigma.
And what makes this sad is that not all who hear truly listen.
Not all who have read understood.
Not all who knew cared to know more.
For if they only listened well, their eyes will be opened too, and see that those who have HIV are still the people they have come to know; that their fear of them is more contagious than what they carry.
And if they tried to read the lines of the faces of those they only know as statistical numbers; they’d see that those lines are from them smiling against frowns and raised eyebrows when they say, “I can still live a normal life.”
And if only they were not content to simply know the facts and figures of HIV and AIDS, they’d realize that they should know more about the person rather than the infection. How HIV can no longer be, must no longer be treated as a dark night which covers people in permanent darkness but as a dim lit dawn, with a sunrise they can still look forward to.
Because this is what I’ve learned to be true;
That a kiss, a hug, a word and a food in a plate with them will harm no one.
And yet we avoid them in more ways than these. There are those who dare not even talk to them and far worse, would cringe at the thought of their skin grazing THEIR skin. Touch---that which is the most comforting of senses deemed like a criminal.  And to the extreme, there are those who wouldn’t even consider being in the same room as THEM. This act of shunning and shutting them off is far worse than “attacking” them.  
Worse than ghosts which are felt because THEY, after much rebuke and discrimination, loose the feeling ---of being felt.
But what ways and of the things and of what truly counts? The ways in which we should be reminded that they are not their condition. They are the self-same sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and lovers we know. What truly counts is to help them build their confidence back, enrich in them the sense of belongingness and acceptance like the love of a parent to a child, a sibling to another, a friend to another friend, of a partner, a lover, to another. They still deserve love and are still very much capable of loving. HIV only becomes a wall we create to withhold that which they need to feel now more than ever if we do not even attempt to understand them and their situation.
And what of the things which may carry our efforts to look at them eye to eye, and see that they are no different from us. That they breathe the same air, wake up to the same mornings and are deserving of love as much as we are.


Photo by: Raffaele Bonora IG: @bonoraf


And that ultimately, what counts is how they persevere to become as productive members of society as us.
Because this is what I’ve learned to be true:
There are persons living with HIV and have partners who do not; mothers with HIV and their children who do not; people living with HIV who have been among us and have not infected anyone else.
But if we continue to keep ourselves under the veils of prejudice and blind fear which feeds this monster called stigma; then we become the ones who closed the door of someone who hasn’t gone out of the room for months for fear of ridicule; we become the coldness someone feels at night when they are alone in bed; we become the mouth who told someone that he or she “can no longer work here;” we become the feet of a person walking away from someone who loves truly and deeply.  
While I was writing this, I have asked people for information about HIV and AIDS. I could have taken this chance to talk at length about the terms, figures and graphs which they provided me with but I chose not to. A lot has been written with and about these.
Because this is what I’ve learned to be true.
What we need more is to feel and make people living with HIV feel us. Our support. Our acceptance. Our touch. Our love.
Loving comes in many shapes and forms. Accepting people for who they are is one of the many expressions of unconditional love, and accepting who you are is another. Knowing your status will open doors to understand yourself more, and to know how to better take care of yourself. Loving oneself is not selfish. It is an opportunity to make a better version of yourself whom you will offer to the one you love and to the world. Step up and be the first to love yourself truly and deeply.   

We understand your needs. We offer free HIV education, screening, testing and treatment. These services comes with free counseling and life coaching sessions. Also, feel free to sign up for LoveYourself Purple (HIV Counseling and Testing for Couples).   Visit us at our LoveYourself clinics located at Anglo and Uni, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12pm-7pm and during Sundays from 9am-2pm, except holidays. Our friendly LoveYourself counselors will be happy to assist you.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

These Squads Explain Why It’s Cool to Know Your Status at the #LoveSquad HIV Screening Day Event on November 26

By Diego Rozul and Jean Natividad


In case you missed it, #LoveSquad, LoveYourself’s fast, easy, and totally anonymous HIV screening day event is happening on November 26, Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Victoria Court Malate. Don’t forget to register here: go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad.


And just in case you need a tad more convincing to show up, we’ve asked our dear squads why making HIV testing your #SquadGoals and a regular part of your self-care routine is important.

#ChillSquad
L to R: Rv Torres, Fifth Pagotan, Kenn Richmond, Apolo Cuenco, Ernest Gatpandan III

Have you been putting off that HIV test even if it’s been months since the three-month rule? Well it’s about time to get rid of those anxieties and finally relax in knowing your status. You’ll certainly find security and assurance with our lovely volunteers assisting you in every step of the way. Getting tested for HIV shouldn’t be such a daunting task, just ask our #ChillSquad!

“Guys, let’s make HIV testing FUN! Me and my friends did it nga kaya niyo rin yan! (Me and my friends did it, you can too!)” Apolo Cuenco shares. As a nurse, blogger, and climate advocate, Apolo has long been wanting to get rid of the stigma associated with HIV and is excited to join everyone who’s taking their first test. Apolo encourages us to look at HIV from a new perspective. “I know it’s [HIV test] scary, eh kasi naman you’ve been perceiving it  wrongly. Atin atin lang ‘to! Walang maingay, let’s go! It’s free pa! (I know it’s scary, but you’ve been perceiving getting tested for HIV wrongly. It’s just us here! No one will gossip, let’s go! It’s free!)"

Rv Torres, an IT manager has also joined the #ChillSquad sharing, “I always wanted to be part of the cause, and the #LoveSquad shoot was a great opportunity.” Rv takes care of himself not just for the betterment of his career, but for his family as well. “Taking the test is quite unnerving to some. The key is to find a compelling reason to do it. I’d like to ask everyone to please support this cause. Take the test for your family, your future, and for your friends.”

#GymSquad
L to R: Cyd Rodriguez, John Magsadia, Gab Carreon, John Cruz Quinto, Tony Fabian

Following the steps of Mr. Gay World Philippines 2016 first runner-up Bench Ortiz, these gym fit hunks want you to take part of a healthy lifestyle. Making healthy choices doesn’t just include your physical or mental health; it should include your sexual health, too. Join the #GymSquad in your road to a healthier you!

Entrepreneur John Cruz Quinto reflects about how much the HIV advocacy means to him by remembering his friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who are living with HIV. “This is the way I think I can help educate people and tell others to not discriminate people affected by the virus.” John reminds us how we should treat people living with HIV (PLHIV). “Acceptance is the other cure to help these people not to hide their status and to encourage them to start and continue treatment.”

Cyd Rodriguez, a sales executive, felt ecstatic about being part of #GymSquad as fitness has been a major part of his lifestyle. Combining it with the HIV advocacy, he feels proud about the message he brings to people. “HIV testing has been part of my usual health routine and being able to share this plays a big impact. Showing and inspiring people to be better, that is something I’m passionate about. Being SEXY comes with great responsibility, and knowing your status gives you that extra boost and peace of mind,” Cyd says.

“Regular HIV testing can save your life. Early detection is the most important step. Remember it’s not the end of your life. Get tested and know your status,” actor Tony Fabian concluded.

#StudySquad
L to R: Isa Rodriguez, Rian Eli, Sebastian Castro, Aldwin Chester Amolat, Maan Carreon

Your friendly #StudySquad not only represents the joy in learning but also the benefits of staying informed. Today, it's cool to be smart. And we don't just mean being textbook smart; we believe in being street smart. Be cautious, curious, and critical, especially when it comes to things that might compromise your health and well-being, like HIV. Read reliable sources, talk to experts on the matter, and heed the invitation of the #StudySquad to get tested.

Content creator and tech journalist Isa Rodriguez shared, “HIV testing is for your own good. With LoveYourself, it's free, easy, and accessible, so there are no excuses!” Isa is definitely passionate about the HIV advocacy. “I believe HIV awareness to be a worthwhile cause, so I'm willing to help in what small way I can,” she explained. “I was a student for quite some time, too (I also attended law school for a couple of years), so I know how it's like to have classmates and your school barkada become your support group. All you ever really need is one person in the group to inspire awareness in something, and hopefully this campaign reaches that demographic.”

For HR consultant Rian Eli, being part of the #StudySquad is a beautiful reminder of the values and discipline that learning brings. He told us, “When you are a student, you need to have hard work, focus, dedication, and perseverance. In real life or in other settings, you would also need those values for you to achieve your goals or to succeed in life, whatever your line of endeavors is. And the discipline that you trained with in school can be of big help, too.” Eli was also an ambassador for the Let’s TESTMNL! HIV screening day event last May, so spreading awareness about HIV is nothing new to him. “Regular HIV testing means loving yourself and taking care of yourself. People should be responsible of their actions. To know your HIV status and to make it a regular routine just shows you care about other people as much as you care about yourself. By spreading this knowledge or awareness, we are a mile ahead in eradicating the stigma and lessening the effects of HIV and AIDS.”

“I have been a college student, and we all know that unprotected sex happens even with students. So it's best that they have themselves check,” is medical representative Maan Carreon’s advice. Maan feels honored to be part of the #LoveSquad campaign, and she encourages others to be brave and know their status. She remarked, “Having themselves checked is important. To avoid the spread of HIV, be educated on how to deal when infected and how to make the most out of everything.”

#TravelSquad
L to R: Jed Garcia, Jadee Dafielmoto, Cristelle Tolentino, Mark Jen “Troi” Avendaño, Isaias Jenobiagon

Traveling is a whole lot of fun, but acquiring an unpleasant ‘souvenir’ isn’t. As you pursue your passion for exploring new places, immersing in various cultures, and making new connections, be sure to stay safe. And while you’re at it, why not educate those you meet, too? Your help in promoting not just picture-perfect places but also HIV education and prevention will go a long way. Just take it from our #TravelSquad members.

Hotelier Mark Jen “Troi” Avendaño believes “travelling isn’t always by feet. We travel through our dreams, through relationships, through love, and through many other ways. However, the most unforgettable travel that we’ll ever experience is the travel of one’s life to being part of another.” Through his participation in the  #LoveSquad campaign, Mark aims to inspire a strong sense of responsibility for one’s life and those of others: “It feels great to be part of something that aims to encourage, help, and promote wellness and awareness through providing programs like this for the community. All health tests are important, and that includes HIV testing. If you value your life and the life that surrounds you, you shouldn’t skip it. The risk is not knowing; get tested.”

Key account specialist Jed Garcia, who was also part of the previous Let’s TestMNL! campaign, shared with us, “It’s a privilege to be part of the campaign for the second time, and I think for me, it’s allowed me to do something significant for the community/nation, which is educating them about HIV screening and overall health.” In order to encourage everyone to know their status, Jed explained, “It’s [HIV testing] like the ordinary annual exam, and as they say, prevention or early detection is way better than a cure.”

Travel consultant Jadee Dafielmoto put it simply when he said, “If you love yourself, then get tested.”


Grab the whole gang and make HIV screening your #SquadGoals. Register for #LoveSquad on November 26 at go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad. You will receive a confirmation message two days before the event (November 24, Friday). See you there!