Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Batch Duque, LoveYourself’s 18th batch, completes the nostalgic series of the organization’s heritage

By Mark Angello C. Ganon
September 30, 2017 – Fresh faces once again dotted the People’s Hall of SM Aura Premier with the orientation of Batch Duque, LoveYourself’s 3rd set of volunteers for 2017.

JM Maynes, Love U (the corporate university of LoveYourself) admin, oversaw the batch orientation of 45 promising individuals who underwent and passed a selective recruitment process. The whole-day affair centered on the essence of volunteerism in the organization’s HIV awareness and prevention advocacy.
Batch Duque, 45 new and promising LoveYourself volunteers

In 2016, LoveYourself’s triad of volunteer batches highlighted the country’s three main islands as a sign of patriotism (Magayon for Luzon, Kinaadman for Visayas, and Bahandi for Mindanao). This 2017, the inspiration for the names and logos of the three batches of recruits are the iconic architectural structures significant to the organization. They were the hubs and halls that were witnesses to the growth of LoveYourself as a family, both in bond and advocacy.

The nostalgic series kicked off with Batch Guinto, reminiscent of LoveYourself Hub, the 1st LoveYourself clinic situated at Leon Guinto St. from July 2012 to January 2015. The clinic was then relocated in December that same year along the street of San Marcelino in Manila, which became the namesake of this year’s 2nd batch, Marcelino.

Like its two predecessors, Batch Duque got its name from a location where most of the events of LoveYourself occurred, Duque Hall at the DOH – San Lazaro compound in Tayuman, Manila. It is within its walls that the first meetings and general assemblies were held. It was witness to the early days of LoveYourself that evolved around the sharing of ideas, kindling of similar passions, and unfolding of dreams. Most importantly, it was where new blood was welcomed from the first batch (Originals) up until Batch Hiraya in 2015. If only walls could talk, the Duque Hall would definitely recount how LoveYourself has been and what it aspires to be: a home where, once visited, judgment is dusted off at the doormat and hope is served for snacks.
The batch Duque logo pays tribute of the Duque Hall at the DOH – San Lazaro compound at Tayuman, Manila
The logo, created by Geno Maglinao and Mark Long of LoveYourself's Communications Committee, draws inspiration from the weekly illustrated atlas of the “Windows of New York” project. Set in a green backdrop, the logo depicts the Duque Hall as more than just walls and pillars; it was a home to the starting years of the organization. Geno, head of creatives, fondly stated that the nostalgic series of logos for 2017 gets completed with the orientation of Batch Duque.

Vinn Pagtakhan, LoveYourself founder, welcomes Batch Duque at the People’s Hall of the SM Aura Premier
Batch Duque pushes LoveYourself’s population to nearly 900 individuals. But it’s not just the number of volunteers that is growing. LoveYourself’s relationship with its various partners is also thriving. With aid from Test MNL, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, ISEAN HIVOS, RITM-DOH, and the Taguig City Government, LoveYourself continues to be a champion of HIV awareness and prevention amidst increase in the number of new cases. It continues to be a rallying point for the advocacy, where volunteers, new and old alike, strive to serve their best in its HIV testing clinics (LoveYourself Anglo at Shaw, LoveYourself Uni at Taft and our first transgender clinic, LoveYourself Victoria). And it continues to channel its efforts to innovative projects and endeavors (like PrEP in the Philippines and the first ever Love Gala).

*Photos courtesy of Geno Maglinao and Leo Pura

Monday, October 16, 2017

STATUS: HIV and Blood Donations

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

Everyone has talked about a particular status in his or her life, be it their relationship status, their financial status, and heck people talk about their problems on their Facebook status all the time! But one thing that’s rarely talked about is one’s HIV status. Despite its relevance today it is still greatly stigmatized and has been thought of as taboo by many. This monthly column aims to help facilitate discussion on issues surrounding HIV testing and living with HIV.

Blood is the lifeline that flows through the body. It nourishes and transports waste products to appropriate filtering organs. In the past year, there have been reports1,2 of increased donated units that have tested reactive for HIV after screening consistent with the rise of HIV infections in the Philippines. However, there have also been accounts of nonreactive men having sex with men (MSM) who have been deferred from donating blood on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Reiner, a registered nurse in Pampanga, was a yearly blood donor ever since his college years, being part of organizing bodies in blood drives as well. In March 2017, a friend reached out to Reiner to donate blood for a relative who badly needed it. During the screening interview, everything went smoothly as he did not have any tattoos, piercings, or travelled out of the country in the past two years. Reiner was overall a healthy person. The screener then asked about his partner’s gender, and when the interviewer found out that his partner was also male, his application form was set aside with a pile of unorganized documents. He was told that there should be a year interval since the last same sex sexual contact before donating.

A similar experience was noted by Watson in May 2017 who, on a whim, wanted to donate blood after seeing that there was a blood drive in a mall in Pasay City. There was a screening question that asked if he has had sex with an MSM in the last twelve months. His last sexual contact was in December of 2016. Watson got deferred from donating until January of 2018 despite showing records of his nonreactive HIV test results of two weeks prior.

As a person who has a healthy sex life, following the triangle of self care, you decide that you want to become a regular blood donor. What would be some of the things that you should know before making this decision?

How do my sexual activities affect my eligibility to donate blood?

Not all blood may be beneficial to the person receiving it. As such, blood donation centers need to properly screen potential donors to ensure the collection of safe and healthy blood. Some of these screening questions may ask about your sex practices. The following may be subject to temporary, indefinite, or permanent deferral from donation depending on the center’s protocol:

  1. Having unprotected sexual contact with a person living with HIV
  2. Having an HIV positive status (even if undetectable)
  3. Having sexual contact with a sex worker
  4. Having multiple sexual partners
  5. Having unprotected sexual contact with an MSM

A temporary deferral would require you to wait until a specified date before donating blood. This is to rule out your nonreactive HIV status as not being within the window period. It is important to note that blood donation centers may consider a wider window period than that advised by your regular HIV testing site.

An indefinite deferral would require you to wait for an unspecified amount of time before being eligible to donate blood. Most people who have had contact with an MSM would fall under this category if your center follows the DOH Guidelines for Blood Donation.

A permanent deferral would prohibit you from donating blood in your lifetime. This may be due to your condition being irreversible unlike an acute bacterial infection. Since the blood will be stored in optimal storage conditions, viruses and bacteria can still survive despite it being outside the body. If you plan on becoming a donor, communicate with your local blood bank for further details.

Can I know my HIV status after donating blood?

You will only be notified if the blood donation center has found any abnormalities in your blood. The abnormalities can relate to HIV infection or other screening tests the center does to ensure the safety and security of their blood bank. The notification will depend on the protocols of the center you donated to. Thus, if you have any concerns, it is best to coordinate with the center. If your blood turns out to be normal and healthy, you will not be notified.

However, due to HIV testing being a voluntary screening procedure and it being confidential, you will not be informed about what kind of abnormality was found. You will most likely be called back to the center to be properly informed and counseled about its implications. When it comes to HIV status, it is best to get tested regularly in a separate testing center instead of in a blood donation center.

LoveYourself offers free and confidential HIV testing, pre- and post-test counseling, and treatment for all regardless of sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. Moreover, LoveYourself Anglo offers life coaching services for newly diagnosed PLHIV clients enrolled in its treatment program to guide them in their journey toward acceptance of self and proper health management.

Monday, September 25, 2017

HIV cases continue to rise, according to latest HARP data

By Jay-Ar Keita

The Philippines’ battle with HIV continues, as the number of newly diagnosed people living with HIV (PLHIV) remains high.
According to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), an average of 30 new cases per day were reported in June 2017, only five cases less compared to May 2017's daily average.This time last year, there were 841 new cases reported. The latest data shows a 20% increase to this month’s census of 1,013. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of these were asymptomatic at the time of reporting.
Stock photo / Pixabay
Sexual contact remained the top mode of transmission, according to the report. Eight hundred eighteen (818) reported cases were men having sex with men (MSM), while 151 were from heterosexual intercourse. Out of the 818 MSM cases, 554 were through homosexual contact, and the remaining 264 came from bisexual contact. Also listed were sharing of infected needles with 25 cases and mother-to-child transmission with 7, while the remaining 12 were still unknown.

In terms of age range, 32% of the cases were from the youth aged 15 to 24, while half were from the 25 to 34 age group.
The rise in the number of reported new infections is due to increased HIV screenings, in which the government and other organizations play a vital role - to urge individuals, especially those at risk, to get tested.  
But even with the current efforts to stop the spread of HIV, there’s still much to be done. Our country needs to catch up if we want to stop the epidemic.

LoveYourself offers free HIV testing and counseling services in its clinics. For more information, click here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

STATUS: Working with HIV

By Jeffrey Venzuela

The latest data (June) released by DOH, shows that more than half of the reported cases of HIV belong to the age range of 25-34 years old, which means that most cases are young professionals. With the ongoing advancement of treatment and maintenance for HIV and AIDS, it should be known that life doesnt end upon diagnosis. Living, however, can still be an uphill battle.

While some people look to their jobs to make ends meet, others consider their work as a part of their self-fulfillment and self-realization. In this edition of STATUS, we ask: Should your serostatus matter at your workplace?

Ones serostatus is very sensitive and private information. Only you can choose to disclose it. However, there may come a time when working conditions are not so favorable to your health or you would need to explain frequent absences. In times like these, it would be beneficial to talk to your supervisor or human resource personnel about your situation.

Image by Jiru Rada

According to Article VII Section 35 of R.A 8504 (Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998), Discrimination in any form from pre-employment to post-employment, including hiring, promotion or assignment, based on the actual, perceived or suspected HIV status of an individual is prohibited. Termination from work on the sole basis of actual, perceived or suspected HIV status is deemed unlawful. This should be your safeguard against unjust dismissal.

The law not only protects you from termination due to your serostatus, but it also preserves your right to privacy and confidentiality. It should also protect you from discrimination in all its forms and subtleties. These were reiterated by the Department of Labor and Employments Department Order 102-10, Guidelines for the Implementation of HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control in the Workplace Program.  The D.O 102-10 was issued to strengthen the workplace response in implementing the provisions of RA. 8504 and to provide directions for employers, employees, and program implementers in the workplace.

However, despite these provisions, there are still many victims of discrimination in the workplace. According to the executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines Gerard Seno, there were employment applications that had been turned down, workers who are PLHIV had lost their jobs, their promotions declined, and access to affordable health services denied. He urged for discrimination like these be removed.

Miguel (not his real name) was a ward nurse who had been diagnosed as HIV positive. Prior to his diagnosis, he was angling to be transferred to a specialty area. He already had everything lined up. He had glowing recommendations from his unit manager and his transfer was already being talked about. Weeks before everything was finalized, he had donated blood for a patient. Later on, he was called to the blood bank where he was advised that his blood had tested positive for HIV.

The transfer he had hoped for never happened. Instead, he was switched to an area which, as he described, involved doing more administrative work than being an actual nurse. Things turned for the worse when he started noticing his colleagues whispering when they see him and then stopping when he stares them down or when he confronts them about it. According to Miguel, the rumors about his serostatus even reached the doctors and head nurses of the hospital.

Despite being able to keep his job and preserve his income, he felt like he lost his dignity at the hospital. It seemed to him that his competence as a nurse was no longer based on his skills but on his serostatus. When asked if he is considering pursuing legal action in relation to his situation, he said no. He is afraid theres no sufficient evidence to support his case. Hes also much more concerned about his growth as a nurse, which would be difficult at his current function. Miguel plans to speak with the head nurses first to see if they can work something out with him and his intentions of being transferred to a specialty area.

Another notable case would be that of Renato Nocos'. He filed charges of discrimination and unlawful termination against his employer Ricky Reyes and Reyes business associate Tonneth Moreno. After disclosing his HIV-reactive status, he was reassigned to a location that wasnt doing so well, which ended up closing. He was not given a new assignment after that. Nocos won and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) ordered Reyes to reinstate Nocos, and pay him back wages and benefits, including salary differentials, emergency cost of living allowances, 13th month pay, separation pay, and attorneys fees amounting to a total of PHP615,313.06.

In relation to Nocos victory, ALU national executive vice president Gerard Seno said, Oppression like this happens because there are still a great majority in our society whose judgment calls are still guided by their ignorance about HIV and AIDS.

The statement above is agreed upon by the results of a study conducted to see the relationship between peoples knowledge and their attitude toward people living with HIV in the workplace. Results indicate that the respondents who have a higher knowledge level manifested a lower tendency to discriminate against PLHIV at the workplace, whereas those who have lower knowledge level have a higher tendency to discriminate against PLHIV.

People who had higher scores on HIV and AIDS knowledge demonstrated supportive attitudes: 1) allowing PLHIV to work in a company or any organization, 2) recommending PLHIV to work in ones company or organization, and 3) working closely with a PLHIV. They are confident that they will not contract the disease by working closely with PLHIV.

On the other hand, many of the respondents who were against of the idea of allowing PLHIV to work in organizations have fears of contracting HIV and believe they could contract HIV if they stay near PLHIV, share a toilet with PLHIV, and share eating utensils with PLHIV. They also believe that it is okay to refuse employment of PLHIV for the protection of other employees.

This goes to show that proper and accurate education regarding HIV and AIDS is the key to eradicate the stigma surrounding the illness. Earl Patrick Penabella,head of the Philippine Business Sector Response (PBSR) arm of LoveYourself, claims that the situation is changing for the good on the private sector. Various companies like BPOs, manufacturing, and financial institutions among others, and are now proactively reaching out to them instead of them having to initiate and offer their services like conducting HIV Awareness and onsite testing. The seminars are well-attended and the participants are very engaged in the discussion of HIV and AIDS and show genuine concern regarding the issue.

If youre a PHLIV whos looking for guidance or simply someone to talk to, you can check out these support groups. You could also visit the LoveYourself Uni and Anglo clinics to talk to our Life Coaches. Also, if you feel like your company is in need of an HIV Awareness discussion, feel free to email and copy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala on HIV Advocacy Unveiled

Long before Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach exponentially raised HIV and AIDS awareness in the country, many Filipino individuals have been working hard to change the landscape of the HIV and AIDS advocacy in the country.

Ten (10) of them will be recognized this World AIDS Day on 1 December during the first-ever “Love Gala.”

The Love Gala, as unveiled Wednesday (9 August), is the Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala event, which will honor outstanding individuals and their immeasurable contributions at “The Ripple Awards.”

The organization believes that “a single person's act of love can start a wave that can save millions of people.”

The Ripple Awards nomination period is open until 31 August 2017.

Visit the Love Gala page: to nominate someone who has created ripples of positive change that greatly influenced the domestic and global movement towards the HIV and AIDS advocacy.

Potential nominees can be a representative from the following sectors:

           Business (HIV policy in the workplace, companies, programs for business)
           Youth (program for the youth sector, youth-initiated)
           Academe (educational institutions, school organizations, program for schools)
           Government (legislators, LGUs, government organizations)
           Media & Advertising (digital, media organizations, media programs)
           Influencer (individual)
           NGOs (NGO-led programs)
           PLHIV (support groups, individual)
           Medical (hospitals, doctors, clinics, medical practitioner)
           Arts (films, stage play, artworks, artists)

Additionally, the gala is a collaboration of private and public institutions and youth-oriented organizations to augment the efforts in mainstreaming the HIV and AIDS advocacy to a larger audience.

Institutions and organizations coming together for Love Gala are the following: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Black Maria Productions, Decent Image of South Signal Association (DIOSSA), Dentsu, Pinoy Plus Association Incorporated, Positibong Marino Philippines, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), Taguig City Government, Team Mag, The Red Whistle, The LoveYourself Incorporated, and the US Embassy. 

Behind this extensive collaboration of Filipino organizations is Better Together.

Better Together, an initiative founded by Dr. Antoine Bondaz and Mr. Kenneth Kwok for the purpose of empowering future generations in Asia and beyond, is a founding member of the Love Gala.

Uniting for a single cause, the gala will also feature a concert headlined by artists who are also HIV and AIDS awareness advocates, and a mini auction that will raise funds to further HIV and AIDS education.

With the Philippines peaking its HIV infection incidence, “We have to firmly stand together in fighting this pandemic, not only for the Philippines, but for the rest of Asia and beyond,” the organization concluded.