Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Where do Brave Hearts Go? Know the Metro Manila Community-Based Orgs Hosting This is Me: Brave and Free

By Raymond Martin Manahan

Hey, you! Are you a brave heart living in the Metro? Come celebrate with us as the first community-based multi-site HIV screening day takes place this May 26, 2018. This is Me: Brave and Free sets the stage for you lovers to showcase the beauty of self-love by knowing your status.

LoveYourself Inc., together with its partner community-based organizations (CBOs) brings fast, free, and confidential HIV screening all over the Metro. Sign up now!

Get to know how to get to the community-based organizations hosting this event of courage, liberty, and self-love.

“Let’s all do it the DIOSSA way: Be sure, be safe, and #BraveAndFree”

DIOSSA formally started in 2014 and has since took the commitment of working towards a more positive image for the transgender community; addressing their physical health, psychological well-being, and human rights issues. Through its efforts, it envisions a gender-fair and trans-friendly Taguig City.

Members of DIOSSA actively work with the Taguig Social Hygiene Clinic by organizing outreach activities that aim to spread information about HIV and AIDS in areas where key populations can be found most. DIOSSA endeavors to extend this volunteer work with other CBOs, and small groups of men having sex with men (MSM) and transgender persons in neighboring cities.

On May 26, you can visit the 9th floor of the SM Aura Tower in Bonifacio Global City to experience the multi-site screening day the DIOSSA way. From the MRT-Ayala Station, you can take a jeepney ride at the terminal just behind the Shell Gasoline Station. Take the jeep going to Market Market. Tip: ask the driver which drop off point is nearest to SM Aura Tower. After dropping off at Market Market, you just need to walk towards the large parking area and cross the 26th street. The building right across the street is where you want to go.

You may also visit DIOSSA in their district 1 site at the Taguig Social Hygiene Clinic in Tutukan, Taguig City, which operates on weekdays during regular business hours. DIOSSA also has a district 2 site at the Taguig Drop-in Center in Taguig District Hospital. This site is open on weekdays from 8am to 10pm.

Want to know more about the organization? Visit DIOSSAs facebook page or call them at 09262716671 (for the District 1 site) and 09286896422 (for District 2).

“Being #BraveAndFree is not about telling the world you are negative. Being brave and free is knowing your status and knowing what to do next, and doing what must be done next.”

Our partner CBO in Quezon City is a group that is relentless in their passion to provide age-appropriate and gender sensitive psycho-social support to MSMs and Transgender persons living with HIV.

HASH was co-founded by Desi Andrew Ching and Michael P. De Guzman officially in 2013. Ching and De Guzman were former volunteers in a telephone counseling line on HIV and AIDS.  The two friends decided to spearhead an organization that is geared towards promoting the well-being of people newly-diagnosed with HIV.

The organization initiates activities that mainly seek to enable the community to establish sustainable practices that contribute to the group’s goal of promoting the welfare of PLHIVs. These programs include Community-Based Screening (CBS) training, mentoring, and quality assurance; providing prophylaxis assistance to indigent PLHIVs; mentoring newly-established PLHIV support groups; community capacity building; and case management.

HASH will be hosting This Is Me: Brave and Free on May 26. HASH is just a jeepney ride away from MRT Cubao. Just take any jeep or public utility van going to E. Rodriguez and drop off at the white building right before T. Gener. You can ask the driver to drop you off at Happy Sauna since the building is just situated before it.

Need to reach HASH? Give them a call at any of these phone numbers (02)634-3938/0998-555-2475 or send them an email at You can also keep yourself posted with their latest activities by visiting HASH’s facebook page.

LoveYourself Community Centers

A “healthy and vibrant” sense of self-worth – this is the heart of LoveYourself’s initiatives and values. LoveYourself believes that nurturing one’s self-worth greatly improves a person’s quality of life, which emanates to the community, inspiring people to do the same.

As such, LoveYourself is committed to its pursuit to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS through awareness, counseling, and education.

Ronivin Pagtakhan, together with his colleagues and friends, founded the organization in 2011. The social media clamor on STIs, HIV, gender and sexuality among the youth and MSMs inspired the advocacy and gave birth to the organization. It has since then exponentially grown as more and more people joined the cause.

LoveYourself - through its community centers, offers services that aim to promote self-care among its target members of the community. These services include free and confidential community-based HIV screening and HIV counseling.

Mandaluyong City: LoveYourself Anglo

Situated along the busy road of Shaw Boulevard, LoveYourself Anglo is your destination if you are in or near Mandaluyong City on May 26.

It is located at Unit 5, 3rd Floor, Anglo Building, #715-A, Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City. It is just a 3-minute walk from MRT-Shaw Boulevard station. From the southbound side of EDSA, you just need to walk along Shaw Boulevard until you reach the tail-end of the flyover. You’ll know you’re there when you see the Anglo hardware.

LoveYourself Anglo offers free HIV testing and counseling Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12nn-7pm, and Sundays 9am-2pm. LoveYouself Anglo can be reached through their hotline: 09278926611.

Pasay City: LoveYourself Uni

Stuck in traffic along Taft Avenue? Try stopping by at LoveYourself Uni to experience warm, friendly, and non-discriminatory HIV screening and counseling.

Visit LoveYourself Uni at 2028 Taft Avenue Extension, Pasay City. It sits conveniently near LRT1-Gil Puyat Station. You just need to look for the Mercury Drug along the northbound side of Taft Avenue, across the DLTB bus terminal. Then, proceed to the second floor.

For more information on how to get to LoveYourself Uni, click here.

LoveYourself Uni can be reached at (02) 256-9384. Uni operates Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12nn-7pm, and Sundays 9am-2pm.

As the first community-led transgender health center in the Philippines, Victoria by LoveYourself does not only offer free HIV screening and counseling; it is a community center that focuses on the needs of transgender persons. Its services include hormone management, pre-GAS (Gender-Affirming Surgery) assessment and counseling, and assessment and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Visit Victoria by LoveYourself on May 26 at the 2nd Floor of Torres Building in 2442 Park Avenue, Pasay City. Coming from LRT1-Libertad Station, you can take a tricycle ride from the Victory Pasay Mall. Tip: You can ask the driver to drop you off at Torres Building along Park Avenue.

VLY operates Saturdays through Wednesdays from 12nn-7pm. You can reach VLY though their hotline: 09158318715

Come join us, lovers! Demonstrate that courage for self-love and acceptance, and witness freedom from stigma this May 26, 2018 at This is Me: Brave and Free. Visit any of our community-based organizations and community centers near you after signing up at
Raymond is an aspiring neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, currently taking his Bachelor's Degree in Development Communication at the University of the Philippines in Los BaƱos. He takes it as his mission to be part of initiatives geared towards ending HIV/AIDS stigma and, in effect, help stop the spread of the virus through education and empowerment.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sharing Love Behind the Set of This is Me: Brave and Free

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

Let’s take a look behind the shoot of the Philippines’ first community-led multi-site HIV testing day on May 26, 2018! Meet the talented people who shared their passions for the HIV advocacy. Seven Barreto a fashion photographer of ten years, Erwin Aguila member of the Fashion Designers Alliance (FaDAL), Vincent Mallanta a gym buff make-up artist of seven years, Jenn Tuazon who balances medical technology and make-up, and Mila Gulfan an up and comer make-up artist shared love for This is Me: Brave and Free.

Getting Involved

It was an easy decision for Vincent and Seven to shoot for the campaign, even offering his studio to use. “I got a call from a friend and offered me to shoot for LoveYourself. I immediately accepted the offer, in the name of the advocacy.” Seven stated. Similarly, Erwin shared how FaDAL’s support for the HIV advocacy has driven him to join. HIV Prevention has been the advocacy of FaDAL Manila for a long time now so when I was given the opportunity to dress the models for this campaign, I said yes right away.” Erwin shared.

When Mila was invited to support the advocacy through her skills in make-up, she was thrilled! “I was also an HIV proficient medical technologist and the cause of the organisation is very close to my heart. Being able to do my passion (make-up) while volunteering for a cause has always been a dream of mine.” she shared. Jenn was also excited to do something she loves for a worthwhile cause. “Supporting causes like this through what I do makes me feel proud.” Jenn said

Seven, Erwin, Vincent, Jenn, and Mila may have come from different backgrounds, but they put their time, skills, and talents together for a single purpose. Much like the many community-based organizations supporting the event, their shared passions and resources are pooled for the greater good of the HIV advocacy.

Being Brave and Free

Being brave and free means different things for every person. For Mila, being brave and free means coming out of your shell. I was always a shy kid. Growing up and meeting different people inspired me to embrace everyone, everything, and most especially myself.” she said.

Jenn and Seven shared the same idea on how following what you love shows your courage and freedom. “Breaking free from your inhibitions, knowing that there will always be people who will criticize you, especially when it comes to your sexuality, takes so much courage and sometimes can be too overwhelming that some of us in the community choose to hide. With that, I think being yourself without caring about how people think of you or how they perceive you is the bravest thing you could ever do.” told Seven.

Erwin and Vincent also shared similar sentiments with how knowing your HIV status is also a test of courage. “To know our status already says that we are brave and free so once we’ve done this first big step, we already have the courage and the strength to do the next correct steps.” Erwin stated.

Shouting Out THIS IS ME!

Fashion, make-up, and photography can give life to your day. As Jenn, Mila and Vincent pointed out how these things can boost your self-esteem. If it can help boost someone’s confidence, then it can be a way to inspire people to live a more beautiful life.” stated Mila. Vincent even shared that this new found confidence can empower you towards more healthy habits.

For Seven, supporting worthwhile causes like the HIV advocacy is a stride towards you standing up for your beliefs. “Participating in awareness and educational campaigns like this is an enormous thing for the community. We need to enlighten people and debunk all those negative perceptions on getting tested, and on HIV, in general.” he said. Erwin further discussed how knowing your HIV status is not the end. “Once you know it, life goes on.. you may even have a better life because you already know what to do and what not to do.. You can enjoy life even more because you are not scared anymore, no regrets.. you can live life happily.. you are free to dream and free to be YOU.” shared Erwin.

Truly being yourself is about the bravest thing you can do. In this endeavor, we continually strive to discover more about ourselves. May it be knowing more about how we work, handle stress, or even just our sleeping schedule, it all helps us in becoming more self-aware. In our journey to self-discovery, let’s include our sexual health, and  a single HIV test can be your first step to accomplishing this.

The stage is set for you, lovers. Join us at This is Me: Brave and Free - the first community-led multi-site HIV testing day launching on May 26, 2018. Join in the celebration of self-care by bringing your courage to community based organizations (Juan Positive Movement, HIV & AIDS Support House, Inc, Decent Image of South Signal Association, Cavite Positive Action Group, GAYON, Project H4, Kagay-an PLUS, and Olympus Society of Davao) alongside LoveYourself (LoveYourself Anglo, LoveYourself Uni, and Victoria by LoveYourself). Get to know your status with the fast, free, and confidential community based-screening process.

Go to to sign up and you’ll receive a confirmation notice in a few days!
Carlos Diego is an HIV counselor and the Head of Editorial for LoveYourself. Outside of volunteering, he is a clinical audiology student and a registered psychometrician. He aims to facilitate a deeper meaning to health by discussing the importance of aural, sexual, and mental health.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Owning Your Identity, Owning Your Health in This is Me: Brave and Free

By Jhemarie Arca

The support from the community far transcends our expectations as the Philippines’ first community-led multi-site HIV testing day happening on May 26, 2018 is just around the corner! Join us as we welcome our transgender volunteers: Disney Aguila, trans Deaf advocate, and makeup artist from Mandaluyong; and Margaux Medina, stylist from a major commercial network. The duo share their advocacy that inspires both the Deaf and transgender community.

Joining the Campaign

The lovely ladies both expressed their admiration for the campaign as it showcases inclusivity through all expressions and orientation.

Disney pointed out that the key to every action is loving and caring for yourself first. “The campaign is really perfect since it’s about loving yourself. And all people must be aware of HIV.” She explained that everyone, no matter how small, can help spread the word. “I really wanted to join today’s campaign as a volunteer and to give service to the organization.”

Margaux expressed her desire to inspire more people by joining the campaign. “Beauty with a purpose, I wanna help in my little way in encouraging people to be aware and to know their status,” she said as she explained being an image of beauty also means to take care of oneself. “We enjoy life so we have to take care of it”, she added.

Brave and Free

While others may shy away from HIV testing, Disney understands that there might be some feeling of fear and doubt. “I really wanted to show the support, to stand and say there’s nothing to worry. You have to set the fear aside and show people that you believe in them and testing is the way to do so,” Disney explained.

Margaux echoed the idea that no one should feel any hindrance in knowing their status. “You stand for what you believe in and free because walang hindrance, walang any fear that’s why you’re free.” She observed that this negative feeling of fear should not be stronger than our love for ourselves that will not only give us freedom but also leads to a healthier life. “The stigma and the fear prevents us from getting tested, but if we love ourselves, we should be brave enough to get ourselves tested, to know your status.

By being aware of the feelings you may have, you have the power to control  what to do. Like what we understand from the heroes we watched when we were little, any fear, any doubt, will be defeated by love.

Shouting Out THIS IS ME!

Disney encourages all especially those in the Deaf and transgender community to stand up and spread awareness, “I want to help them especially in terms of awareness and advocacy for all the communities - really to remove all the worries.” Her selflessness shows not only by being part of the campaign, but by her continuous support to the community. “I give my heart to everyone.” Disney signed.

Margaux shared her philosophy in leading a healthy and happy life by knowing your status. “Sa aking mga sisters, to enjoy our life, if we are sexualy active- we have to do this!” Her powerful call to action to everyone. “Because we love ourselves, lahat tayo maging healthy.” Margaux said.

Their message of courage and self awareness is a strong foundation in leading a healthy and worry-free lifestyle. By deciding on taking the HIV test and knowing your status, you have transformed into a healthier, better version of yourself. Be brave, be free, and shout: This is Me!

The stage is set for you, lovers. Join us at This is Me: Brave and Free - the first multi-site HIV testing day launching on May 26, 2018. Join in the celebration of self-care by bringing your courage to community based organizations (Juan Positive Movement, HIV & AIDS Support House, Inc, Decent Image of South Signal Association, Cavite Positive Action Group, GAYON, Project H4, Kagay-an PLUS, and Olympus Society of Davao) alongside LoveYourself (LoveYourself Anglo, LoveYourself Uni, and Victoria by LoveYourself). Get to know your status with the fast, free, and confidential community based-screening process.

Go to to sign up and you’ll receive a confirmation notice in a few days!
Jhemarie Arca. A simple observer who learned how to weave stories before she can actually read, Jhem discovered the beauty of storytelling at an early age along with the reality of loss, death, hope, and truth of life. Realizing stories are her fuel, she blogs, writes, and immerse herself in as much human interaction as possible knowing she'll gain and exchange stories with other people along the way.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Motherhood and HIV: Finding Support in the Family

By Dun King

Thousands of people, regardless of gender, have been infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the Philippines. According to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines, in 2017 alone there were 11,103 reported cases of HIV positive individuals. However with the steady increase of cases in recent months, the cases has yet to reach a plateau. This increase can be an indicator of people slowly taking courageous action towards knowing their status. Despite the many campaigns aimed at normalizing HIV testing, many are still hesitant because of misconceptions regarding HIV. Because of this, it has been a challenge for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) to disclose their status, and entrust their story. However, as a mother Elena Felix, Nay Elena as people call her was able to receive overwhelming support from her family.

Like many parents who strive to support their family Nay Elena, a mother of four, was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW).  She was working in the Middle East back in the ‘90s to provide for her family. As a requirement to work abroad, she underwent a routine medical exam that she didn’t barely paid attention to. Little did she know that the result of her exam would drastically change her dream of sending off all of her children to school and end her marriage with a person she was faithful to.

“Inintay maubos lahat ng pasyente bago i-abot sakin nung doktor. Yung director pa mismo yung nagabot kaya kelangan daw ako kausap mismo pero wala namang counselling nun. Sad to say, pagbukas ko siyempre ang pinakaimpact sakin nung result “unfit to work”. Eh ready na yung visa ko, ready na yung ticket ko eh I really need to go back sa Dubai kaya ayun, yun yung  pinakamabigat sakin para akong binagsakan ng langit at lupa. Nakaburol si Nanay tapos ganun pa yung makukuhang result so nagmakawa ako sa doctor.” - Nay Elena

At a time where HIV was talked about in hushed voices and muted discussions, she kept it in the sake of her children who are relying on her. Without proper counselling that is provided nowadays, she was left in the dark with what it meant to have HIV.  Instead of thinking about herself, what she thought was her children and means of survival. In a desperate move to clear her positive status with the belief that the result was in err, she decided to go to another clinic where she was deemed negative. She was able to fly back to the Middle East later that year. However, results came back reactive when she underwent a mandatory medical exam. She was strongly advised to seek a medical institution that would care for her.

Nay Elena was forced to return in 1995. She was left untreated for 13 years, without any type of medical attention, and without any hope to live longer. She bore each day with the thought that her days were limited as her doctor told her.

Even when she has mustered all the courage to finally get checked and cured for her symptoms, nothing could prepare her for what happened to her. She was to undergo an operation to remove a myoma and was referred to a hospital. Her doctor advised her not to disclose her status for the process to go smoothly. At the last minute, when she mentally prepared herself, took a leave from work, and borrowed money just to get the procedure done, the doctor, without her permission, disclosed her status. The hospital told her that there were no doctors to operate on her when, in fact, the doctors backed out. However heartbroken she was, she did not lose hope.

“Ang problema sa ward – pinagsigawan, “Eto yung may AIDS”. Yung mga ooperahan na kasabay ko binibihisan ng maayos, ako pinaghubad sabay sipa ng damit ko at tinapon sa basurahan. Just because of HIV pinandirihan ako ng mga tao. May nakalagay sa kama ko “Universal Precaution”. Yung mga nakarinig diring diri ayaw akong tignan. Ayaw dumaan sa space ko. Anjan na yung tagalinis pero bibigay sakin yung walis. Ako ang pinaglilinis. Yung nagdadala ng pagkain ipapalipat pa yung pagkain sa sarili naming gamit.” - Nay Elena

A mother, no matter what she is going through, always thinks about her children before herself. When she first found out about her status her first thoughts were her job and her means of supporting for her family particularly the education she wasn’t able to get herself. She had four mouths to feed and she was the only person she can count on.

Yung kinikita ko ng tatlong buwan dito, kikitain ko dun ng isang buwan. Kaso just because of HIV inalisan nako ng karapatan magtrabaho. Yung pangarap naming makapatapos ng 4-year course, lahat naman sila 4 years ang gusto nila. Syempre kung di ko naabot yung kolehiyo, at least, sila man lang. Ang naging pakiusap ko nalang just because ganito na si nanay kung pwede 2-year course nalang at kailangan ko talaga ng tulong nila. Hirap kami sa buhay. Namamasukan ako tapos sa gabi may iba pakong gingawa.” - Nay Elena

She never lost hope knowing that her family is behind her and despite the discrimination and injustice, her family became her rock. They kept her from breaking apart. Nay Elena clung unto her family’s love and support to make everything bearable from the discrimination to her advocacy. There was a time when she was scared to touch them in fear of infecting them, but this changed when her son handed her her first grandson  and told her that the baby won’t get it virus with a kiss or a hug. This feeling put her at ease. In a time where HIV was synonymous to death, her children became her source of information. Their unwavering love enabled Nay Elena to live with the family with no fear of being discriminated against. When many tend to reject PLHIV because of their misconceptions on how it’s passed on to other people, her family never thought twice to still kiss and hug her.

“Ang panganay ko yung nag-eeducate. Parang ang pakiusap ko lang na wag nila akong itrato na may sakit. Basta enjoy nalang natin habang buhay ako kasi sooner or later mamamatay din si nanay.” - Nay Elena

“Pinandidirihan siya, sinabi nanay mo HIV o yuck, ganyan. Syempre sinasabi ko hindi ganito o ganyan yung HIV tapos ineeducate ko sila kung ano ba yung tamang information tungkol sa HIV hindi yung kung ano ano lang. Hindi naman walang dahilang para magalit. Ang kailangan sabihin mo yung tama kasi kung magagalit ka walang mangyayari.” - Nida, Nay Elena’s Grandchild

Nay Elena understands the feeling of being isolated - the feeling that no one understands what you’re going through. So, she’s been passionately advocating about the rights a PLHIV has and should have that has been long due.

“Nung kasali na ako sa mga support groups, nalaman ko yung ACHIEVE. Yan yung maraming trainings. Dito ko natutunan yung stigma and discrimination. Ang nangyari pala sakin ay self-stigma. Ang ginawa ng ospital ay discrimination. Malinaw yun, violation against human rights. Dun ko din natutunan ang basic human rights. Dun ko din nakilala si R.A. 8504. Lumalaki na din mga apo ko at lumalabas labas na ako at baka makilala ako ng mga kaklase ng mga apo ko. Kung ano narinig man nila yun ang totoo. Kailangan malaman ng bawat isa ang status nila. Ang high risk pa rin ay kababaihan dahil kami ay receivers. Ang karapatan ng PLHIV ay mahabang panahon nang napabayaan at binalewala. Hindi nabibigay ang nakasaad sa batas.”  - Nay Elena

Her life shows images of footprints of society, scarred by her battle with HIV that started from the time where HIV was considered a death sentence. We cannot deny that HIV is now part of our community. Without a cure yet, people adhere to treatment to live normally. For now we cannot change one's positive status, however we can change how we view people living with HIV. As Nay Elena proves, she is more than her status.

This is the story of Nay Elena – a PLHIV, a woman, a Ripple Awardee, and on top of everything, a mother.

King is a full-time HR professional and a freelance writer. During his free time, he climbs mountains or goes to the beach to escape. He enjoys baking and trying out new recipes whenever time permits.