Monday, June 01, 2020

Innovating in times of crisis: LoveYourself sustains HIV services amid COVID-19 (Part 3 of 3)

By Edgar Bagasol Jr. and John Oliver Corciega
Reduced mobility and stringent community quarantine measures in the face of COVID-19 pose a major challenge for HIV health service providers and facilities, including LoveYourself. Roughly 6,000 PLHIV clients rely on the organization for uninterrupted access to life-saving medication and other HIV services. 


LoveYourself staff ensuring proper management of data for pioneer programs
Photo by Edgar Bagasol Jr.
 More initiatives: acXess and digital campaigns

To support iCON and SelfCare, LoveYourself also introduced the acXess program to ensure continuum of care, especially among clients who obtain reactive HIVST results. Services covered include confirmatory HIV testing, viral load and CD4 testing, and Hepatitis B, syphilis and CBC diagnostic services. Designed to address mobility issues amid quarantine measures, acXess works in two ways: first, as a mobile laboratory where a medical technologist comes to provide testing and diagnostic services at the client’s own home; or second, as a client transport provider to pick up and drop off clients from their residence and take them to a LoveYourself facility for onsite testing and ARV initiation. To date, 22 reactive SelfCare clients have been scheduled for acXess services.


Taking advantage of the public’s increased online presence and activity at this time, LoveYourself also released a nationwide online survey to assess the effects of COVID-19 on Filipinos’ sexual health behavior. The results of the study will be used to inform the development and implementation of a digital social marketing campaign for HIV combination prevention. A total of 1,001 respondents answered the survey and analysis is currently underway.


Cover Photo of the HIV Combination Prevention Campaign Survey
Reflection, innovation, and community participation

In delivering HIV services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, LoveYourself returns to its mantra “Iniingatan, Inaalagaan, Inaasikaso”, three Filipino terms that speak of someone as being cherished, cared for, and provided compassionate service, encapsulating the premium the organization places on client-centeredness and unconditional positive regard. LoveYourself’s responses to COVID-19 are innovations grounded on reflections from and with participation of the community that it serves and that it is made of.

LoveYourself Executive Director Dr. Ronivin Pag- takhan expressed, “We didn’t necessarily have to start from scratch, we only needed to modify our existing services based on the situation and on the community’s expressed needs.” He further said, “before doing anything, we had to understand our clients’ experiences through active and continuous consul- tations. We always welcome feedback from staff and volunteers, as well as the greater community that get in touch with us on social media for their inquiries and recommendations.”

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, community participation remains to be the foundation of all LoveYourself initiatives. Beyond its operations, the organization is also continuously raising awareness about the syndemic (COVID-19 and HIV) and conducting initiatives for and with its volunteers and partner community-based organizations (CBOs) across the Philippines through the Champion Community Centers (CCC) network.
Champion Community Center Logo
This ECQ, the CCCs have been reinforcing their respective Department of Health regional offices, local government units and designated treatment hubs to provide continuing prevention, testing and PLHIV treatment, care and support services in key cities/provinces nationwide—Pampanga, Pala- wan, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Davao—with assistance from LoveYourself.

Considering that the pandemic does not seem to be abating in the country, the primary challenge for LoveYourself now lies in ensuring the sustainability of the innovations it has introduced and in replicating the same in its partner CBOs.

While we have Mark and Francis who are satisfied clients of LoveYourself’s programs, there are more Filipinos elsewhere who are also dealing with their own HIV concerns but have yet to be reached. Dr. Pagtakhan encourages health service providers in the HIV advocacy to keep fighting. He reminds the community that while the responsibility is huge, it is important to always ensure our clients’ safety and well-being. “Government support is imperative. “Duty-bearers, he challenges, should contribute further to an enabling environment that would help providers serve all key HIV populations, especially sectors who are most vulnerable during this time of pandemic.” 

Innovating in times of crisis: LoveYourself sustains HIV services amid COVID-19 (Part 2 of 3)

By Edgar Bagasol Jr. and John Oliver Corciega
Reduced mobility and stringent community quarantine measures in the face of COVID-19 pose a major challenge for HIV health service providers and facilities, including LoveYourself. Roughly 6,000 PLHIV clients rely on the organization for uninterrupted access to life-saving medication and other HIV services. 


LoveYourself staff coordinating schedules for iCON
Photo by Edgar Bagasol Jr.
Giving virtual consultations

Access to a healthcare professional is another need expressed by LoveYourself’s PLHIV clients. This has become challenging with COVID, primarily because they are concerned of their susceptibility to COVID-19 if they go out, due to their immuno-compromised status. While there is still no evidence to prove that they have indeed greater risk of ac- quiring COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) still advises PLHIVs, especially “those with advanced diseases, those with low CD4 and high viral load, and those who are not taking ARV” to take extra precaution.

To respond to this expressed gap, LoveYourself launched its telehealth program called iCON, short for “interactive consultation” (http:/go.loveyour-self.ph/icon), where PLHIV clients on treatment can consult with a healthcare professional via so- cial media or other digital platforms.

Besides giving clients the opportunity to consult treatment and other medical concerns, this pro- gram is also seen to encourage positive health management behavior and discourage self-diagnosis among PLHIVs. Clients’ psychosocial concerns, on the other hand, are referred back to the volun- teer life coaches assigned to them when they were initiated to treatment.

Close to 200 PLHIV clients have already accessed iCON since its launch on April 3. Most of them are concerned with the side effects of ARVs, while some inquire on COVID-19 symptoms and possible STIs and opportunistic infections.

Consultations through iCON are scheduled from 12:00 NN to 3:00 PM, Wednesdays to Sundays. At present, iCON is only available to clients who are currently enrolled in LoveYourself’s treatment program. Concerns on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and transhealth are directed to the organization’s PrEPPY program (http:/go.loveyourself.ph/preppy, +63917155PREP) and Victoria by LoveYourself (http:/go.loveyourself.ph/victoria, +639158318715) hotlines respectively.


A home testing kit by Chembio used for the SelfCare program.
Photo by Edgar Bagasol Jr.
Addressing the testing challenge

Besides WHO’s advice for PLHIVs to take extra precaution, UNAIDS also challenged HIV advo- cate groups to offer alternative options for prevention and testing. LoveYourself stepped up to this challenge and officially launched SelfCare, the first unassisted HIV self-testing (HIVST) program in the Philippines (https:/www.facebook. com/SelfCare2S) in an online concert last April 12. This couldn’t be timelier as, according to UNAIDS, “HIVST is a safer way to carry out HIV testing at present, one that reduces contact with other people and reduces the service burden on health facilities.”

In the frontlines of this program is a chatbot (http:/m.me/SelfCare2S) named “Cat”, so-called after Miss Universe 2018 and SelfCare ambassa- dor Catriona Gray. Cat facilitates client access, as- sesses eligibility, and collects delivery information through automated conversations on Facebook Messenger, in lieu of providing direct, in-person contact. The chatbot also has a Filipino counterpart called “Paolo,” named after actor and SelfCare co-ambassador Paolo Gumabao. 

Rosadiño explained that the chatbot for SelfCare is already fused with necessary instructions and information about HIV, the self-testing procedure, as well as resources available based on their test results. On top of this chatbot, a counseling card to guide the clients through the whole process also comes with the kit that is delivered to them for free.

“SelfCare offers a very convenient way for people to know their HIV status from the comfort of their homes,” Rosadiño notes. “However, the initial offering of this program is only for men-who-have-sex- with-men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) 18-49 years old residing or working in Metro Manila who were previously HIV-negative or who don’t know their HIV status yet. Clients on ARV or PrEP, moreover, are not eligible for the service.” Despite these quali- fications, demand for SelfCare was overwhelming with over 2,200 eligible client sign-ups in just one month, well beyond its target of 1,200 clients.


LoveYourself staff ensuring proper handling for the delivery of SelfCare kits.
Photo by Edgar Bagasol Jr.
This SelfCare pilot implementation is part of a six-month demonstration study that aims to determine the feasibility and acceptability of HIVST among MSM and TGW. The results of the study will inform the development of a national policy on HIVST. LoveYourself is implementing this study in partnership with the National Institutes of Health of the University of the Philippines - Manila, Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Department of Health Region 7, and with support from the Global Fund Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA) Program.

Around three months after his last exposure, 24-year-old Francis (not his real name), signed up for SelfCare on April 23. “The chatbot was very clear and straightforward. I was able to follow the instructions easily and with confidence,” Francis expressed. “I received the kit a day after I signed up. After know- ing my status, I felt relieved and it has helped lessen my anxiety.”

Pre-qualified by the WHO, the Chembio SelfCare kit can detect one’s HIV status within 20 minutes. If tested reactive, clients are encouraged to report their results via the SelfCare Messenger or mobile hotline (+63 915 310 7322, +63 999 529 2211) so that they may be referred to acXess, linked to facility-based testing, and initiated on treatment, should they so wish. LoveYourself volunteers maintain these Messenger and mobile hotlines, ready to provide client support from 12:00 NN to 12:00 MN, Wednesdays to Sundays.

Non-reactive clients, on the other hand, are provided information on HIV combination prevention. To reinforce these prevention messages, condoms and lubricants are included in the SelfCare kits, and clients interested in PrEP are connected to LoveYourself’s PrEPPY program.

Innovating in times of crisis: LoveYourself sustains HIV services amid COVID-19 (Part 1 of 3)

By Edgar Bagasol Jr. and John Oliver Corciega
Reduced mobility and stringent community quarantine measures in the face of COVID-19 pose a major challenge for HIV health service providers and facilities, including LoveYourself. Roughly 6,000 PLHIV clients rely on the organization for uninterrupted access to life-saving medication and other HIV services. 


Delivery rider for pioneer programs Xpress, iCON, and SelfCare
Photo by Edgar Bagasol Jr.
LoveYourself, a community of HIV advocates in the Philippines, continues community center operations and pioneers programs such as Xpress, iCON, and SelfCare, despite challenges brought about by the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic affected our mobility. Everything was unprecedented,” says Danvic Rosadiño, LoveYourself’s Senior Operations Manager, with regard to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that the Philip- pine government imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

For people living with HIV (PLHIV), the continuous supply of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs is a primary need. “We couldn’t stop operations because we have clients relying on us for their ARVs. We needed to carefully strategize on how we can sustain not only ARV provision for our PLHIV clients but also access to HIV testing and preventive commodities for key affected populations, all while undertaking precautionary measures for another life-threatening infection (COVID-19),” Rosadiño said.

LoveYourself modified and adapted its approach to service delivery by maintaining a skeleton workforce in its community centers, tapping remotely into its volunteer base, and leveraging the use of digital and social media platforms. 
Link to Xpress ARV refill, an ARV delivery initiative by LoveYourself
Ensuring PLHIVs’ adherence to treatment

As soon as the ECQ was imposed, one of LoveYourself’s first priorities was to increase the units of its text and call hotlines and the number of staff and volunteers assigned to respond to client inquiries. Indeed, majority of concerns raised in the hotlines in the first few days of the ECQ were related to ARV access. While LoveYourself has been doing ARV deliveries before the ECQ, albeit at a limited scale and with corresponding fees, it recalibrated the service in response to the crisis. As a result, the organization arrived at a strengthened ARV refill and delivery program called Xpress.

Using an online mechanism (http:/go.loveyourself. ph/xpressrefill), LoveYourself is able to receive and manage requests for ARV refill, from clients en- rolled in its community centers and from non-clients alike. Health and program staff as well as volunteers of the organization facilitate outbound client calls, identify priority clients, and schedule and monitor ARV deliveries. The team caters around 100 client sign-ups a day, and has served over 3,200 clients to date.

Chief Nurse Ron De Villena explains, “For Xpress, we prioritize clients who have a critically low supply of ARVs. We do emergency deliveries within one to three days for those who only have five remaining pills or less. Regular deliveries, on the other hand, usually take around five to seven working days.”
Oplan #ARVAYANIHAN, an initiative to help PLHIV find their nearest treatment facilities by The Red Whistle
Xpress delivers to clients in Metro Manila, Cavite Province and Cebu City, initially via regular motor-based couriers, then eventually, with the help of motorcycle drivers engaged specifically by the organization for the purpose. Meanwhile, clients who are not residing in areas serviceable by LoveYourself, or those who cannot visit any of the organization’s community centers, are linked to and provided appropriate endorsement letters to treatment facilities nearest to them (http:/ go.loveyourself.ph/txhubs) where they can more readily access medicines. The Oplan #ARVayanihan map (http:/arvayanihan.theredwhistle.com) of The Red Whistle, another local HIV organization, is also utilized to locate treatment facilities.

PLHIV clients who have the means to visit a LoveYourself community center are encouraged to walk in for their ARV refills. As a safety protocol, they are asked to conduct a risk self-assessment prior to their visit, and then obliged to adhere to preventive measures such as temperature checks, use of alcohol and face masks, and physical distancing upon their arrival at the facility.

Mark (not his real name), a PLHIV from Valenzuela City, decided to sign up for the Xpress program last April 10. He immediately received his medicine after two days. “I wasn’t hesitant because the pro- cess was convenient while remaining confidential at the same time. It’s like your typical food delivery. I was also happy with the driver because he was very professional. I didn’t feel any judgment when he delivered my medicines to me,” he said.

Xpress drivers, shares Nurse De Villena, are given a background regarding the mission. “They are prop- erly oriented about the process, especially on confidentiality, since they are required to confirm clients’ personal details upon delivery.” Drivers are also provided guidance on the steps to take should they be apprehended at quarantine checkpoints.

LoveYourself TV Relaunch: EXTRA LOADED

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul


LoveYourself relaunches its YouTube channel with new exciting shows! Don't miss out on what we have in store for you moving forward to our new normal. Hosted and produced by our various volunteers and ambassadors, it has been one of LoveYourself's Integrated Communications Team (iCOMM) collaborative project yet.




Previously, the YouTube channel was used as a video repository for LoveYourself's different campaigns and events. However, iCOMM Creatives lead Ria Brines saw the importance of maximizing available social media platforms of the organization. LoveYourself TV envisions itself as an avenue for audiences and supporters of the organization to contribute to the HIV advocacy by simply watching, commenting, liking, and subscribing to the YouTube channel. Through a strategic content plan featuring the different intersections of advocacies LoveYourself has engaged in.

Pa'ano is a sexual health series featuring LoveYourself volunteer, Peachy Roberts and special guests talking about practical tips when it comes to sex. Get to know more about precarious preparations and extraordinary experiences they've had to go through to know what they know now. Are you still figuring out how to like bottoming? Curious about manscaping? Join Peachy in Pa'ano.

Just Wandaring started as a Facebook Live event on LoveYourself pages featuring Macoy Dubs, Mikoy Diaz, and the titular Miss Wanda talk about a top five list based on the answers of their viewers while the audience guesses what they think is in the mystery box. The first person to guess what's in the box gets a special prize. They also have special guests join them at the end of the top five countdown and give them a surprise challenge. What's your favorite show so far? We were  #JustWandaring.


Recess gives us a break with the high energy shows like Pa'ano and Just Wandering. Hosted by Brian Barreto and Flourish Circle ambassador Alaiza Malinao, does some therapeutic activities while discussing important issues on mental wellness. Rest and reassess while on Recess!

Mx. Agenda features the wide array of volunteers LoveYourself has in the LGBTQIA+ community. Watch a group of people of diverse identities talk about navigating the gender and sexuality spectrum. Wondering how to ask someone about their gender identity without sounding judgemental? We've got you covered with Mx. Agenda.

Universe Speaks with Ms. Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Ms. Universe 2018 Catriona Gray gives us an opportunity to catch up with what's going on in the HIV advocacy around the Philippines. From getting to know different community centers to having fun with drag, watch how the Universe Speaks.

Queenesu is a vlog of the wonderful drag queens of LoveYourself. Watch them as they push forward the advocacy by making different gender expressions visible in public spaces. Listen to their insights on growing up, discovering drag, and many more on Queenesu!


After months of hard work iCOMM is proud to finally relaunch LoveYourself TV.. Don't forget to like, share, subscribe, and hit the notification bell to be up to date with our latest shows!



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lit Love: Feb Fair, Death Traps, Zombie Apocalypse, and my Anxiety

By: Joel Donato Ching Jacob

Amy asked why I felt that I wanted to meet with her. I answered, “I wanted to meet with you because I do not want to meet with you.”

I didn’t know it then, but I have social anxiety. I am not sure how it feels for other people I can only relay how it feels for me. It does feel like I was going crazy because I get upset over conflicting fears. I get overwhelmed with fears of missing out but I am also afraid of people. I dislike interacting with people. Some of my friends find it hard to get on board with the idea; maybe I did too at the start. I can be loud. I can be fun. I am the guy you can expect to call for the waiter at the restaurant or to ask for the manager if we had complaints in a venue. I love dancing in the clubs. I am not the least bit shy, so social anxiety seemed like the least of my problems.

Illustration by Isaac Brines


But I was also very flaky. I would agree to go to events and I would be ready but I would cancel at the last minute. The idea of interacting with other people made me uncomfortable. At work, when people come to my desk with requests, I would ask them to go back to their desks to send me an email instead; I have made up a very real and valid excuse that I am forgetful and that if I were busy, I can queue their requests on my inbox. But I did not want to be talking with my co-workers. It got so bad that some of my friends have stopped asking me out because there was no point; I was not going to arrive. I am often late for work because I need to build up the courage to interact with other people.

The desperation to seek help finally arrived when the UP Feb Fair was going to be held a few blocks from my workplace and the idea of tens of thousands of people freaked me out to the point of indigestion and sleeplessness. Amy is a psychiatrist and she was going to be my therapist for the next 8. My first session was spent making introductions and instructions on how to maintain a mood diary where I was going to track my anxiety events, thoughts during the event, feelings during the event, and most importantly, I had to write down physiological observations as I went through the event, like if I was short of breath, or physically agitated in any other way.

Illustration by Isaac Brines


I pace. I probably could have walked from SM North to UP Diliman with the pacing I do in the parking lot over a week. I don’t keep a pedometer because I am sure I can knock any step goals out of the park. But in staffing ours, my away-from-desk time is not looking admirable. In an exercise, Amy asked me to report about a moment of extreme stress and what could go wrong. I was like “Talaga lang? (Oh,really?) Are you challenging me?” So I spent an entire hour telling her how horrible malls were and how I imagine stuff like fires, martilyo (hammer) gang attacks, terrorist bombings that would result in zombie-apocalypse-level stampedes. I transitioned into an actual zombie apocalypse scenario because I was soon explaining how I spent most of my time in malls imagining how to escape from zombies. At some point after, I talked about disease transmission by droplets, bodily contact, or by air. Malls are death traps. Near the end of our eight sessions, Amy gave a bit of advice and I wrote it down word for word because I knew it was going to change my life: Avoidance causes anxiety because it keeps you from the position to create positive change whereas, even with failure, action is anchored on hope.

I have become paralyzed by things that I should do right. I have expectations of how to behave to impress my friends when they never verbalized those expectations of me. So I end up flaking out on opportunities to be a friend to them. I have this idealized self that presented himself as a distinguished co-worker that I can never live up to so I just gave up and stopped interacting with my officemates. Malls are still death traps.

Illustration by Isaac Brines


Does interacting with people still freak me out? You bet. I hate it! But now I do my best to follow through because I want to have hope. I had lost hope in myself and I had to regain that. Do I still flake out? Yes. Do I still panic in public? Yes. But do I hope to get better?



Yes. I sought help.



_______________________________________________________________________

Joel Donato Ching Jacob is called Cupkeyk by friends. He is the 2018 winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award; Wing of the Locust is coming out later this year. Cupkeyk is also a 2019 Editors Choice Awardee for The Best Asian Short Stories for “Artifacts from the Parent.” He lives in Bay, Laguna with his mother and two dogs. He likes hiking up mountains, lifting weights, and eating out. Follow him on Twitter or IG: @chimeracupkeyk

Sunday, May 24, 2020

LoveYourself White House Continues Services in the Time of COVID-19

By: Ryan Taborada

Restricted mobility in Cebu City due to imposed lockdowns has posed a real challenge for its residents who continually need to avail of HIV-related services by LoveYourself White House.

Knowing that testing and access to medication is critical to combat the spread of HIV, LoveYourself continues to open its door to anyone who needs its services.



Except on holidays, LoveYourself White House remains open from Wednesdays through Sundays, with temporarily reduced service hours of 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., cut-off time at 4 p.m. Starting on May 20, 2020, the center will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., 6 p.m. cut-off time. Its return to its regular hours of 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. will be announced once this becomes viable. 



To keep the in-person antiretroviral (ARV) refill uninterrupted for those undergoing treatment, LoveYourself has recently activated the Xpress Refill program. They may now receive ARV refill via delivery by registering here: go.loveyourself.ph/xpressrefill.


“It is important for us to keep helping the community, especially in the time of COVID-19,” says Jan Estrada, head of LoveYourself White House. “Immunocompromised individuals are at great risk. Now more than ever they need our help.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, LoveYourself had partnered with Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia - Philippines for HIV education, testing, and treatment of inmates in Cebu City Jail. 



Upon learning that this community had also been affected by COVID-19 transmissions, the organization immediately offered help. Wasting no time, LoveYourself launched #ProtectCebuCityJail donation drive in coordination with Champion Community Center, SafeSpaces, and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. As of May 13, 2020, 180 cloth masks, 6 1L cartons of fresh milk, 40 cans of 250 ml liquid nutrition Ensure, and 3 cans of 850 g Ensure Gold have been distributed. 



However, there is still a need to procure vitamins, face masks, face shields, PPE gowns, 70%-solution alcohol, bleach, and disinfectants for the Cebu City Jail. 



To sustain this initiative, LoveYourself White House are still accepting donations during the current service hours or through bank transfer to BDO account number 004190392920.



Although most LoveYourself volunteers are also stuck in their homes, their advocacy work continues. On Facebook, Cebu’s LoveYourself volunteers are actively engaging the public with awareness campaigns not just on HIV/AIDS but also on COVID-19. Additionally, weekly games with exciting prizes are held to reach out to people in these unprecedented times. 


LoveYourself White House is the first community center of LoveYourself outside Metro Manila. Located at #40 J. Lllorente St., Capitol Site, Cebu City, it offers free, rapid, and confidential HIV testing, counseling, and treatment to all, no matter the age, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. For inquiries drop a message at LoveYourself White House or contact +63 927-873-7575.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Lighting Up the Community

By LoveYourself Communications



The fight on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues alongside the battle with COVID-19 as the nation observed the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PIACM) on May 17 for the Light Up, an online concert ceremony.

Following the imposition of the physical distancing, the Philippine HIV community gathered virtually for “Light Up” in commemorating the lives of people we have lost to HIV and celebrating the progress we have made through the years in our fight against the disease. Hosted by Tim Yap and Patrixia Santos, the online event was streamed on the PIACM Facebook page.

Highlights of Light Up included the inspirational messages from UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and staunch HIV advocate, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray.

Wurtzbach said, "Despite these trying times, we light up each candle as a symbol of our stronger faith and serves as a pint of hope that we all need right now." Enthusiastically, Gray said, "We remember. We take action. And we live beyond HIV/AIDS." That is our promise whatever season we're in, whatever storm were up against.
Another HIV advocate, Miss Universe-Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados, led the candle lighting ceremony together with more than 50 community advocates. Ganados prayed that people find strength in the midst of two ongoing crises -- HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.

Also, giving their inspirational messages were Dr. Stanley Carrascal of the Department of Health-NCR, Assistant Secretary Rhea Peñaflor of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Dr. Louie Ocampo of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 

One of the event's highlights was the formation of the Red Ribbon video message, which emphasized health as a basic human right. The call was conveyed by various movers in the HIV advocacy, including actress Cherry Pie Picache, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Directors Melvin Lee and RS Santiago, health experts, community leaders, and other influencers.
Also showcasing a free online concert, Light Up’s roster of performers included Katrina Velarde, who sang "Isang Himala," Nina with "Sunlight," and 4th Impact with "Hallelujah." Asia's Premiere Vocal Harmony Group, The Company performed two songs, "Nandito Pa Rin Tayo" and "Isang Tawag Mo Lang." Joining performers include Ice Seguerra, Zeus Collins, Anna Ramsey, Phi Palmos, Adrian Lindayag, Addlib Divas, Nicole Asensio, Arman Ferrer, Globe Voices@Work, and drag queen performers. 

Towards the end of the concert, the Light Up My HIV Story photo essay contest winners were announced. Winning the first place was Anthony Louie David with his photo essay entitled: "Unconditional Love." Kael Mata's "Salamat HIV" entry took the second spot, and Alliah Nicole Tabarangao Sayo, whose piece was entitled "Think POZitive" got the third place. 

The concert concluded with the exceptional performance by Lea Salonga, Morissette Amon, Jed Madela, Radha, and many more artists singing "Seasons of Love." The concert gained 36 thousand views just after Light Up streaming has ended. 

Light Up was presented by the Department of Health, The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, and The LoveYourself, Inc.; sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. by Hetero, Cepheid, Champion Community Centers, Frontrow Cares, Macare Medicals, Inc., Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Premiere Condoms, Teleperformance Philippines, and Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA); and supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, EON Foundation, the National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), PhilHealth, Positibong Marino Philippines, Inc., The Red Whistle, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, and UNAIDS.


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Friday, May 22, 2020

Breaking Stigma with "My HIV Story"

By LoveYourself Communications



To break stigma and discrimination, this year's Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PIACM) asked the community to share their distinct, and compelling stories of HIV online through a photo essay contest called "Light Up My HIV Story."


Nearly 50 stories were collected, and most of them are genuinely moving and inspirational. Some talked about their own HIV journey while some talked about how they become a supporter of the community.

The Light Up My HIV Story photo essay contest winners were announced during the celebration part of the PIACM 2020 event last May 17. Winning the first place was Anthony Louie David with his photo essay entitled: "Unconditional Love." This entry talks about Anthony's HIV journey as someone living with HIV. He likened his status into being swallowed up by the waves or play along with it.

Anthony described that he felt like huge waves crashing over him following the death of his partner due to HIV complications and upon knowing that he has HIV. According to him, he was tired and wanted to give up. He was slowly drowning from his thoughts about his HIV status.

"It's up to us to decide whether to sink to the bottom or to walk on water. But for me, I choose to survive the waves and embrace every splash with a smile in my face," he said.



Kael Mata's "Salamat HIV" entry took the second spot. His story focused on how he has faced HIV despite many social injustices he has to face.

With his regained strength, he made a promise to himself that he'll be a voice to the PLHIV to fight against HIV, stigma, and discrimination. He said in Filipino, "I will constantly bring with me the stories of PLHIV that even living with HIV, we deserve to be loved, cared for, and an accepting family."  



Alliah Nicole Tabarangao Sayo, who placed third with her "Think POZitive" entry, talked about being optimistic, encouraging, and empowering. Her story revolved around the purpose of her joining the HIV advocacy works.

"In all that I've learned from the advocacy, one of the most important things to know is how to become accepting of people no matter who they are," Alliah said in Filipino.


In this respect, the winners have won PhP25,000.00, PhP15,000.00, and P10,000.00.

Judging the photo essay contest are Imee Igpuara Country Product Manager, Camber Pharmaceutical, Inc. by Hetero; Jeffrey Johnson, Senior Vice President - Human Capital Resource Management, Global HR Committee Member, Teleperformance Philippines; Dr. Maria Stella Flores, Senior Program Officer, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.; Dr. Maria Lorela Averilla, Country Lead for SKPA - Program Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations; and Dr. Ronivin Pagtakhan, a recipient of the 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World, Founder and Executive Director of the LoveYourself, Inc.


Light Up was presented by the Department of Health, The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, and The LoveYourself, Inc.; sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. by Hetero, Cepheid, Champion Community Centers, Frontrow Cares, Macare Medicals, Inc., Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Premiere Condoms, Teleperformance Philippines, and Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA); and supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, EON Foundation, the National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), PhilHealth, Positibong Marino Philippines, Inc., The Red Whistle, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, and UNAIDS.

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Pia, Gazini and Catriona headline the country's first online AIDS Candlelight Memorial

LoveYourself Communications


MANDALUYONG CITY (May 14, 2020) – Advocacy queens Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray will be leading side by side the first-ever online concert ceremony of the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) on Sunday, May 17, at 4PM.

Dubbed as "Light Up," the online concert ceremony has two parts: Commemoration and Celebration.

UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach will head the Light Up's commemoration part alongside community movers, government officials, and private institutions. One of the highlights of the commemorative event is a ceremonial candle lighting to be led by Miss Universe - Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados.
Staunch HIV advocate, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, will top bill Light Up's celebration part, showcasing a free online concert. Performing at the show are exceptional Filipino artists: Katrina Velarde, Nina, 4th Impact, Jed Madela, The Company, Ice Seguerra, Zeus Collins, Anna Ramsey, Phi Palmos, Adrian Lindayag, Addlib Divas, Nicole Asensio, Arman Ferrer, Globe Voices@Work, and drag queen performers and with special participation from Lea Salonga, Morissette Amon, Jed Madela, Radha, and many more.
Hosted by Tim Yap and Patrixia Santos, the Philippine IACM online concert ceremony will be Live on Facebook. The country's 2020 IACM shift to an online concert ceremony was in response to the government's imposition of social distancing protocols as the nation grapples with the COVID19 pandemic.
This year's celebration also includes a photo essay contest featuring the HIV story of any Filipino who is part of the advocacy. Interested participants may still join until May 15, at 6PM. Visit "My HIV Story" for the mechanics and win as much as PhP25,000.00. It will also benefit the Duyan Program of The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation (TRR) that aims to provide care and support to children living with HIV in the Philippines.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported that since 1984, 3,730 Filipinos have died of HIV-related complications and 74,807 have contracted the virus. In the same DOH report, 3,029 newly diagnosed people living with HIV were recorded for the last quarter of 2019. It has to be noted that HIV testing and effective HIV treatment therapy are given by the government and community-based organizations for free.

Light Up is presented by the DOH, TRR, and The LoveYourself, Inc.; sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. by Hetero, Champion Community Centers, Frontrow Cares, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Premiere Condoms, Teleperformance Philippines, and Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA); and supported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, EON Foundation, the National Youth Commission (NYC), Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), PhilHealth, Positibong Marino Philippines, Inc., The Red Whistle, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, and UNAIDS.

The IACM happens every third Sunday of May to commemorate the courage of the people who succumbed to AIDS. It also celebrates the continuing battle by the people living with HIV and the progress the community has made through the years.

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Sunday, May 10, 2020

International AIDS Memorial Candlelight Ceremony to Light Up the World on May 17

By Tino Lagardo

As the world wrestles with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue fighting a battle we have begun – our war against HIV. After all, the need for public awareness, education, and treatment has never taken a backseat even in these unprecedented times.

More than ever, we need hope now, and we’d love to spark a glimmer of light in you through “LIGHT UP: The 2020 Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (PIACM) Ceremony” on May 17, 2020, at 4PM

Themed “We remember – We take action – We live beyond HIV”, this candle-lighting and online concert centers on care and compassion, coinciding with the annual International Candlelight Memorial, happening every third Sunday of May.

LIGHT UP aims to express our undying love for and unwavering support to those who have lost their lives to HIV and to celebrate the great strides the community has made to advance HIV advocacy.

With the shift to online streaming, this year’s celebration is uniquely special as we forge on and beat HIV using the best tool at our disposal —our solidarity. Amid all the uncertainties hanging over us, we need to show grit and optimism, defying the limitations of distance.
It also features the "My HIV Story" which is a photo essay contest that talks about one's experience for the people in the HIV advocacy work. All Filipinos are qualified to join and tell their compelling HIV story. "My HIV Story" winners will be announced on May 17 during the Facebook Live Light Up Concert Ceremony on this page.Prizes include: 1st: P25,000.00, 2nd: P15,000.00, and 3rd: P10,000.00.



Celebrities supporting this event are Pia Wurtzbach, Catriona Gray, Gazini Ganados, Regine Tolentino, Adrian Lindayag, with special performances by Katrina Velarde, Zeus Collins, Anna Ramsey, and other surprise guests.

Allow us to brighten up your Sunday as we all unite to bring back the light in our lives! Let this also be a moment of togetherness as we fervently pray for healing and an end to the battles we are facing today.

This event is brought to you in partnership with the Department of Health, Project Red Ribbon, LoveYourself Inc, Pilipinas Shell Foundation and sponsored by Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA), Teleperformance Philippines, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Champion Community Centers, Camber Pharmaceutical Inc. | Hetero, The Red Whistle and the National Youth Commission for our supporting the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Ceremony 2020.

Join us by hitting that "Going" button here https://bit.ly/LightUpPH2020.

Let's continue the fight against HIV. Get tested, get treated, and LHIVe free. Also, don't forget to like and share the page.
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When not juggling BPO work and HIV advocacy, Tino is a self-confessed TV addict and Broadway musical fanatic. He thinks he’s an old soul, perhaps a sitcom actor in his past life, trapped in a selfie-obsessed man-boy suit.