Friday, April 20, 2018

Come in and Play: Safer Sex with Toys

By Brethren

When we were kids, getting to know the world meant that we get to explore the different range of sensations through play. From blowing raspberries and playing peek-a-boo; as we grew older we began to make use of toys to extend our imagination to the real world. Expanding the limits of our play space to have fun with our playmates. As we mature, our view of fun and play changes and same goes with the toys we fancy. Seeking pleasure, be it cognitive, emotional or sexual, is human nature. Having a sex-positive attitude greatly helps in acknowledging the fact that satisfying our sexual needs is part of a healthy lifestyle. 

The Bare Necessities for Safe and Satisfying Sex With Toys

When using adult toys we always aim to pleasure, to satisfy sexual needs be it done with a partner or alone. For those with a partner to play with, some use them as part of foreplay by a vital part in attaining climax. Some use them during the main intercourse, which adds another layer of sensation towards safe and satisfying sex. In 2011, a study published in the International Journal of STD & AIDS found that there is room for discussion regarding the role of sex toys in enhancing pleasure and reducing the transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) especially for self-use.

According to the UK National Aids Manual (NAM), the risk of contracting HIV and STIs varies. UK NAM stresses that sharing sex toys without proper care may pose a high risk for HIV and STI transmission while the use of properly cleaned sex toys poses a negligible threat. When sex toys are shared, use a new condom for for each person who will used it especially the penetrative types. It is important to note however that using the same condom for multiple people is the same as not using a condom at all, thus the risk of transmission can remain high. Using a different condom between use significantly reduces the risk of HIV and STI transmission to negligible levels.

Helping Your Toys Go the Distance

Proper cleaning and caring for the toys is important for prolonging their life as well as for the user's health especially when they are shared. Sex toys are made of different materials and as such there are different ways.


Dos:
  • Clean using soap and water for all types of toys.
  • Use water-based lubricants with all types of toys.
  • When toys are shared always use new condoms when using to another person.
  • Always dry the toys before putting it in a ziplock or pouch to safeguard it from dusts.

Don'ts:
  • Use oil or petroleum based lubricants.
  • Immerse electric or battery operated toys in water.
  • Use silicone-based lubricants on silicone type of toys.
The table below from SmartSexResource provides us proper care and what lubricant can be used to specific types of toys.

Sex toys aid us to have a more vibrant and vivid sex life, whether alone or with a partner. Spice up your bed with the variety of toys that Love365 offers. In our youth, we were told to “Come out and play.”, but in adulthood we invite potential partners to “Come in an play!”.



Love365, is an adult toy store located in Makati City. They have a wide range of sex toys for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. Your health is their priority. In order to promote sexual health news and knowledge, they closely work with NGOs and health care professionals. All to help people explore the different ways they can have safe and satisfying sex.

Check out what options you have for your first adult toy here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Come in and Play: Exploring Toys

By Brethren



When we were kids, getting to know the world meant that we get to explore the different range of sensations through play. From blowing raspberries and playing peek-a-boo; as we grew older we began to make use of toys to extend our imagination to the real world. Expanding the limits of our play space to have fun with our playmates. As we mature, our view of fun and play changes and same goes with the toys we fancy. Seeking pleasure, be it cognitive, emotional or sexual, is human nature. Having a sex-positive attitude greatly helps in acknowledging the fact that satisfying our sexual needs is part of a healthy lifestyle.

A Whole New World With Sex Toys

As we begin to explore a new world of play, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed with the options available. Anyone can use sex toys regardless of one's sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression after all it’s up to the users how they want to play. It's important to note that you are starting to get to know a new part of yourself, so it may take time to get comfortable with the idea of using toys to enhance pleasure.


As someone who’s currently single, you may be interested in items such as erogenous zone stimulators and vibrators, penetrable and penetrative molds, or even blood retention toys.

For those with a partner who want to be more adventurous, there are even more options! Cuffs, neck chokers, ticklers and whips, rope, and sex furniture can be great options to spice things up in the bedroom. However, stimulators, vibrators, and masturbators work well for foreplay as well.


Using Sex Toys for the First Time in Forever?

Knowing what you want will aid you in choosing the right toys for you. First timers? No need to worry, we asked Love365 for their Top 3 pick for beginners, whether they be for personal use or for sharing.

 The Massage Wand. Unsure if you’re ready for penetration? Are you interested in a whole different sensation? The Massage Wand is an external vibrator which stimulates the adjacent erogenous areas such as the vagina or the underside of the testicles for alternative pleasure. You can use it by yourself to explore your different body sensations, or you can try it on your partner before you move on to penetrative activities.

Cute-Sized Dongs. Sometimes, big things come in small packages. These dongs might look cute and small, but they’re highly effective. These are recommended for people who have just started trying out penetration. It’s great practice to prepare for a partner’s bigger package.

Masturbator Cups. Mainly for people who want to do the penetrating, it comes in a variety of different designs and containers. It’s easy to find one that fits your fantasy and discreet! You might even mistaken it for one of your tumblers.
Sex toys aid us to have a more vibrant and vivid sex life, whether alone or with a partner. Spice up your bed with the variety of toys that Love365 offers. In our youth, we were told to “Come out and play.”, but in adulthood we invite potential partners to “Come in an play!”.


Love365, is an adult toys store located in Makati City. They have a wide range of sex toys for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. Your health is their priority. In order to promote sexual health news and knowledge, they closely work with NGOs and health care professionals. All to help people explore the different ways they can have safe and satisfying sex.



Check out how to practice safer sex with adult toys here.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Undetectable Equals Untransmittable: The Battle Against HIV

By Ulysses Konstantin Largado and Jhemarie Arca

Much has been said about what one can do to prevent getting infected with HIV. In recent years, as we’ve seen an alarming spike in reported cases in the Philippines, most campaigns are aimed at educating Filipinos on how to lower their risks.

This approach remains to be the focus, and for good reason. As of the December 2017 HARP data, over 48% of reported HIV cases since 1984 are under Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) - the science of suppressing the virus to levels that are essentially low, it can no longer be detected (“undetectable”) during tests, which also means it can no longer be transmitted. Note that HIV can only be transmitted through 3 modes: blood and blood products, mother-to-child, and unprotected penetrative sex. The effectiveness of ART in lowering the viral load benefits not only the PLHIV undergoing treatment, but also other people who are at risk of HIV infection through sexual contact and mother to child transmission. It is the basis of the Undetectable Equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign, a significant shift in approach on how we deal with HIV. As crucial as it is to drive prevention, it is only half of the battle. As any battle would require, the soldier aka the person fighting for one’s own welfare, should be mindful of the discipline, adherence, and an overall improvement of lifestyle.


Timely Treatment and Testing

LoveYourself’s care principle, the Triangle of Self-Care (TSC), emphasizes the importance of Timely Testing to know your status, and Timely Treatment for those found to have been reactive for HIV.

So we can fully understand U=U, let’s refer to the risk checklist known as ESSE - Exit, Sufficiency, Survival, and Entry. Sufficiency refers to higher levels of viral load found in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. When any of these bodily fluids exit the body and enters another, HIV is transmitted.

Baselining and succeeding routine tests determine a PLHIV’s viral load. When it can no longer be detected, it simply means the content is no longer sufficient for HIV to be successfully transmitted.

Several studies on U=U yield the same output, backing up its efficacy and reliability. Numerous case studies and researches, such as the 2016 PARTNER Study, support the stance that U=U, best seen in serodiscordant couples where one is infected with HIV while the other isn’t, and remains negative. Understanding the concept of U=U leads to a goal-oriented approach in taking and adhering to treatment. This sets PLHIVs to a realistic and attainable objective.

In a statement released through the Prevention Access Campaign, “People living with HIV on ART with an undetectable viral load in their blood have a negligible risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Depending on the drugs employed it may take as long as six months for the viral load to become undetectable. Continued and reliable HIV suppression requires selection of appropriate agents and excellent adherence to treatment. HIV viral suppression should be monitored to assure both personal health and public health benefits.” In its statement, the term “negligible” refers to one that is insignificant, something so small or unimportant as to be not worth considering.

LoveYourself’s Role

LoveYourself continues to partner with its clients in attaining U=U. To date, 99% of our clients on ART have been virally suppressed, and 80% have undetectable viral levels. This demonstrates how timely treatment actually works, and this is what we aim to reinforce.

LoveYourself Anglo community clinic located in Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong is a DOH accredited primary care facility for HIV in the region, where PLHIVs get initial medical assessment and obtain ART. LoveYourself Anglo provides its clients with education, testing, treatment services, and life coaching services.

“We focus on client needs in terms of psychological and biochemical support. We are open to the client choices regarding time management (ARV medication) and treatment schedule (refill schedule) as long as it benefits both parties.” ~ Kahel Jay Sta. Maria, Lead Life Coach, HIV and TB Program Co-Manager.

The two clinics in Pasay expand LoveYourself’s reach: LoveYourself Uni along Taft Ave. offers testing accessible even to those residing outside the Metro. The newly-renovated Victoria by LoveYourself broadens its services by not only providing HIV testing and counseling, but offers hormone replacement therapy consultations as well. Find out more about our services and facilities here.


Winning the Battle

The key in winning any battle, in life or in actual battlefield, is the knowledge in knowing what you’re getting into. By being mindful about the information around us, one will know how to strategize and equip themselves with the right weapons to reach the goal. Thus, with early detection and treatment one can prevent the further transmission of HIV by attaining an undetectable status.

Photos by: Jhemarie Arca and John Danvic Rosadiňo

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Atma-Prema, LoveYourself’s First Batch for 2018, Roars with Love for the HIV Advocacy

By Mark Angello C. Ganon

March 3, 2018 - 53 volunteers rounded up Batch Atma-Prema, LoveYourself’s first clutch of fresh recruits for 2018. Supported by the Australian government and in partnership with the Taguig City Government, LoveYourself embraces the new bloods in the fight against HIV and the stigma that surrounds it.

Batch Atma-Prema, LoveYourself’s new advocates in HIV awareness and prevention

Gracing the halls of the People’s Hall of SM Aura Tower, the new faces were welcomed to the LoveYourself family by seasoned volunteers headed by James Anthony “Jay” Soliman, HIV Counselor, Life Coach. Pushing the number of volunteers to 946, Batch Atma-Prema are LoveYourself’s new warriors in reaching out to the community in propagating ideas and practices that encourage loving one’s self.


BEHIND THE NAME : A STAIRWAY OF LOVE

Since its conception in 2011, LoveYourself has knighted its batches of volunteers with distinctive names in the hopes of creating a sense of amity. The names of LoveYourself batches ranged from native terms like Bahandi and Magayon, to English words like Sensation, Absolute and Originals. For 2018, the core group of LoveYourself drew inspiration from love all across the globe.
Danvic Rosadiño, Love University Chancellor, talks about the essence of volunteerism

Atma, also coined as Atman, is a Sanskrit word that depicts "the self" while Prema is defined as "[divine] love". The merging of these two concepts became the inspiration for the batch name, Atma-Prema (pronounced as aatma prem), a term that means "self-love", a very timely happenstance to the organization's namesake, LoveYourself.

"The river that flows in you, also flows in me.”
~Kabir, Indian mystical poet
Core group discussions during the batch orientation are aimed at fostering camaraderie and processing insights
Since the ancient times, the Hindus have always been lovers of life; not just the biological life, but the life that sustains and transcends the physical body as well. Devoting time and attention in their search for something profound, the Hindus brewed a five-step stairway in achieving a sense of fulfillment.

The first step in the stairway was dubbed kama, a Sanskrit word depicting sensory cravings; an indication that first and foremost, humans are geared to gratify their sexual desires. The next step is shringara, or rapturous intimacy. Hand in hand with kama, shringara signifies that without true intimacy and sharing, one will be left feeling hollow and useless. In modern times, shringara can be depicted as romancing or foreplay. Following suit is maitri or generous compassion. It was thought in the olden times that love can also be achieved in giving; for it is in giving out love in little ways that love will come full circle. Fourth in line is bhakti, which translates to impersonal devotion. It was a commonplace belief that one can also cultivate himself through love and devotion to a higher ideal, may it be an entity, a truth, or a social justice. In the last tier is atma-prema, which connotes unconditional self-love. The philosophers believed that there is a self that exists at the center of each one of us; and it is in realizing that presence and appreciating its existence that one gets to fully immerse in love and learn from its pursuit.

"The simplest acts of kindeness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer"
~Mahatma Gandhi
Chris Lagman (in white), LoveYourself’s Director of Learning and Development, engages the new volunteers in a post-activity processing

BEHIND THE LOGO :
A LOVE WITH RESILIENCE

With the addition of Batch Atma-Prema, LoveYourself has 19 batches to date. Like all other batches, Atma-Prema came with a distinct and meaningful logo.
Batch Atma-Prema’s logo exudes a resilient love with the amalgamation of the unyielding tiger and the magnificent Anahata (heart chakra)

Rick James “TJ” Monzon of LoveYourself Visual Communications was tasked to develop a logo that bears as much relevance as the batch name it will represent. With a green and white motif, he created the background with the Heart Chakra or Anahata. In essence, it can be interpreted as "unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten", signifying a love that is unswayed, resilient, and strong.

Hindus consider Anahata as an integrating and unifying chakra. Most spiritual traditions recognize love as the ultimate healing force, correlating Anahata with Atma-Prema.

In that same sense, TJ quips that he added the tiger as an ode to India’s national animal. The tiger, which exudes strength, is often depicted as a solitary animal that strives for and by itself. Together with the heart chakra, the logo depicts a love that is strong, unyielding and resilient.

With Batch Atma-Prema, LoveYourself positions itself at the frontline in our battle against HIV. It is in being united with a common initiative that LoveYourself volunteers, both seasoned and budding, are fuelled to not just create ripples of positive change in our community, but to be the ripple that transcends and changes.

“If one would expand, he must love, and when he ceases to love he dies.”
~Swami Vivekananda

*photo credits to Aaron Dacanay and Leo Pura

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Trans Woman’s Risk

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

The HIV and AIDS epidemic has long been attached to the LGBTQI+ community since the early 1980’s.[1] As of December 2017, the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines has reported that 87% of sexually transmitted cases of HIV are men having sex with men (MSM).[2]

Globally, there is limited data on the prevalence of HIV infection among transgender people as most epidemiological surveillance systems only ask for a person’s sex at birth, making transgender women fall under the MSM category.[3] A meta-analysis by Baral and colleagues in 2013 [4] revealed that the average HIV prevalence among trans women in several North American, Latin American, European, and Asian countries was 19.1%, significantly higher than the general population. Other studies, found that transgender persons have higher risk of HIV infection than MSM.[5]

What is the essence of a trans woman?

There are many qualities to trans women that make up who they are as a group and as individuals. Simply put, a trans woman is a person who was sex assigned as male at birth but identifies and sees herself as female. A trans woman does not necessarily have to undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or gender affirming surgeries, as such her appearance and expression may vary in between the spectrum of masculine and feminine. A trans woman may be attracted to men, women, both, or none. Sexual roles among trans women may also differ from being inserters or receivers of penetrative sex to being non participative in sexual activity.

The Transgender Flag
Why are Trans women at risk for HIV infection?[6,7]

Transgender populations across the world experience high levels of minority stress from the attached social stigma and discrimination which can severely limit a transgender person’s opportunities for education and employment. Trans women in particular are further stigmatized as being sex workers who propagate unsafe sex. This can further limit a transgender person’s access to correct information with regards to safer sex practices. Which can lead to lower rates of condom use and HIV testing.

The lack of access to health professionals competent in transgender health and sensitive to transgender issues can also lead to unregulated hormone replacement practices such as sharing needles for injectable hormones, overdosing on hormones, or even taking medications that are not recommended when on HRT.

The stigma and discrimination transgender populations experience extends its effect on one’s mental health which can lower a person’s self-esteem making it harder for transgender people to say no to sexual partners insisting unsafe sex practices. This discrimination is also present in the healthcare system which can discourage transgender people to seek medical consult for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

There is also limited research on the complex dynamics of transgender issues, HIV risk and protective factors, prevention, and treatment. Studies regarding drug interactions or contraindications when on HRT are also limited. These factors make the development of effective health programs for transgender populations difficult.

Staff from Victoria by LoveYourself - the first community-led transgender health center in the Philippines
Photo taken by Yanyan Arana


Initiatives in the Philippines

In 2014, Transgender COLORS, Inc. in partnership with the City of Cebu, supported by the World Health Organization launched the Femina Trans Initiative - a peer-outreach program aimed to make sexual health services more accessible to transgender women in Cebu. Through the establishment of a transgender desk with trained peer counselors sensitive to transgender issues, the program has played a significant role in increasing HIV related knowledge and HIV testing rates among the transwomen of Cebu.[8]

In December 2016, LoveYourself launched the first community-led transgender health center in the Philippines. Victoria by LoveYourself (VLY) was established to address the lack of services catered for trans health issues such as biomedical transitioning. As part of its holistic approach to transgender health, VLY offers gender sensitive HIV testing and transition counselling services specialized for transgender populations. Hormone replacement therapy consultations with a doctor is free for transgender people who are looking into starting their transition as well.

If you’d like to learn more about how the HIV advocacy relates to transgender women, you can check out how some of our volunteers from Victoria by LoveYourself address these issues here.