Saturday, December 02, 2017

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

By Reiner “Meow” Grospe with Kelvin Vistan


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


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


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


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


Photo by: Raffaele Bonora IG: @bonoraf


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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

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

By Diego Rozul and Jean Natividad


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Travel Squad Tells You How to Get to Victoria Court Malate for #LoveSquad HIV Screening Day on November 26

These are the only directions you'll need on November 26, Sunday, as you head to #LoveSquad, LoveYourself’s fast, easy, and totally anonymous HIV screening day event at Victoria Court Malate. It's from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., so grab your squad and be sure to drop by.

And don't forget to register at go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad. You'll receive a confirmation message two days before the event (November 24, 2017, Friday).



Exact Address
Victoria Court Malate, 2184 Madre Ignacia Street corner Quirino Avenue, Malate, Manila

Capture.PNG

From the LRT - Quirino Station / Taft Avenue
It will take you about 10 minutes if you walk from LRT-Quirino Station / Taft Avenue.
You could also ride a public transportation vehicle going through Quirino Avenue. Ask to be dropped off at Victoria Court, which will be at the right side of the street.

From Roxas Boulevard
It is only a 5-minute walk from Roxas Boulevard.
You could also ride a public transportation vehicle going through Quirino Avenue. Victoria Court will be on the left side, so you will need to cross the street.

Landmarks
Victoria Court Malate is facing the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden.

Google Maps or Waze
Driving? Use Google Maps or the Waze app. Just search for “Hotel Victoria De Malate” to see a detailed map of the vicinity.


See you on November 26 for #LoveSquad. Register at go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad beforehand to ensure a slot. Call the rest of your friends, too, and make HIV screening your #SquadGoals!


Monday, November 13, 2017

Get Ready for #LoveSquad on November 26 | Study Squad Explains What Community-Based HIV Screening Is All About

By Ulysses Konstantin Largado


Hang out with us at #LoveSquad on November 26th, 2017, 10 am to 7 pm, at Victoria Court Malate, and experience private, secure, and accurate HIV testing in a fraction of the time—no more than 20 minutes from the time of prick ‘til you see the results on the stick! Quick, isn’t it?

Visit go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad to sign up, and you will receive a confirmation message two days before the event (November 24, 2017, Friday).


#LoveSquad marks the fourth Community-Based Screening (CBS) event held by LoveYourself, beginning with Incognito in May 2016. These testing events serve as the organization’s response to the increasing need to reach out to more people for HIV testing. Potential clients who may have not gotten tested because of several factors—be it location, work schedule, lifestyle, even those who are uncomfortable to submit to screening due to stigma or lack of information— are offered a convenient alternative that maintains discretion, efficiency, and accuracy.

The key to LoveYourself’s fast and efficient HIV testing relies on the structure of CBS. While the standard testing entails up to two hours of wait time, CBS allows an alternative that trims the processing time but assures the accuracy with the use of immunochromatic assay kits. These rapid test kits, approved by the World Health Organization, only require a few drops of blood.
What exactly should you expect to happen during a CBS setup? The letters CBS offer a clue. Complete anonymity is how the process starts. Each client is assigned a unique code, and only contact information must be provided. Personal Information forms are not required.

After the registration, you'll proceed to the laboratory section for Blood Extraction. Don't be overwhelmed, though, as only a small pinprick using a sterilized lancet is enough to be used as a sample. Once dropped onto the kit, a reagent is added to activate it. The sampling ends here, and a volunteer will guide you to a room where one of our Change Agents or counselors are waiting.

Swift and specific results are displayed in the kit within 15 to 20 minutes. While waiting for the results, we intend to keep the wait time worthwhile through engaging discussions about the screening process, HIV, AIDS, sexual health management, and risk assessment. This private individual session with a counselor is the best time for you to raise questions and concerns related to HIV.

It is important to note that with this method, you will only be tested for HIV 1 and 2, and you won’t be given a printed copy of your results. You would have to go through standard testing provided in LoveYourself Uni or Anglo should you wish to have a print out of the results for reasons such as employment services. Moreover, you can have yourself tested for Syphilis and Hepatitis B. Similarly, if your results from CBS turn out to be reactive for either or both HIV 1 and 2, you will need to undergo a confirmatory test and eventually be recommended for treatment through our resident doctor if the result is still positive.

Fun fact: The CBS structure enabled LoveYourself to cater to 345 clients early this year during the Let’s TestMNL event, the most number of clients served in any Community-Based Screening event to date. How about helping us hit a new record? Register now at go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad and come as a squad to get tested, know your status, and break the stigma.


You may also click here to find out more about CBS assay testing kits.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Join the #LoveSquad on November 26 and make HIV screening your #SquadGoals

By Jean Natividad

Hey, you! Yes, you. The #LoveSquad is calling on all you fitness buffs, jet-setters, bookworms, and lovers of life out there. Be at Victoria Court Malate on November 26, 2017, Sunday, for LoveYourself’s fast, easy, and totally anonymous HIV screening day. The event is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., so grab the whole gang and make HIV screening your #SquadGoals.

Visit go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad to sign up, and you will receive a confirmation message two days before the event (November 24, 2017, Friday).



Just like LoveYourself’s previous HIV screening day events, #LoveSquad is here to reach out to key-affected populations, especially the millennial generation, that still experience the stigma attached to HIV testing. This initiative is one of LoveYourself’s many efforts to halt the growing number of HIV cases in the country by promoting HIV testing as a regular part of one’s self-care routine.

The #LoveSquad reflects today’s informed youth that not only finds enjoyment and fulfillment in different activities like working out, traveling, studying, or relaxing - but also believes in the importance of HIV screening to truly make the most out of life. As HIV screening day draws closer, the #LoveSquad asks you to join them in proving that knowing your status is a must.

#LoveSquad HIV screening day prioritizes strict confidentiality and quick screening procedures. Clients won’t have to fill out any lengthy forms. Instead, they will just need to give their contact information upon registration, and they will then be given a Unique Identifier Code (UIC).

LoveYourself’s army of trained counselors will assist clients as they undergo HIV screening. During this process, blood is extracted by a simple prick of a finger using sanitary, disposable, one-time-use needles. The results, which will be discussed privately by the clients and their respective counselors, will only take 15 to 20 minutes.

While waiting for the results, counselors will talk about the screening process as well as safe sex practices to lower one’s risk of acquiring HIV. HIV information materials will also be distributed, and snacks will be served.

In case of a reactive result, the concerned client will need to provide their full information for the Paperless Personal Information Sheet (DOH-NEC form). This is needed for confirmatory testing and referrals to accessible treatment facilities. Results of the confirmatory test usually take two hours.

Even with a quicker screening process, #LoveSquad assures reliable results, as seen in the success of previous LoveYourself HIV screening day events. The 3rd generation rapid test kits to be used have 100% accuracy for non-reactive clients.

So mark your calendar for November 26’s #LoveSquad event and make HIV screening your #SquadGoals. Don’t forget to register at go.loveyourself.ph/lovesquad, and we’ll see you there!