Sunday, August 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potential nominees can be a representative from the following sectors:

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

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

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

Behind this extensive collaboration of Filipino organizations is Better Together.

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

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

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

Miss Universe 2015 as Ambassador of Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala

Miss Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, made the heart sign with her hands after being named on Wednesday (9 August) as the first-ever ambassador of “Love Gala.”

In giving her time wholeheartedly to the HIV advocacy, Wurtzbach announced her personal project called Project Progressive Information Awareness (PIA) campaign, or simply dubbed Project PIA, which bears the Love Gala.

Love Gala is Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala event, which will serve as a donation mechanism to support the HIV and AIDS advocacy, and will honor ten (10) outstanding individuals at “The Ripple Awards” for their exceptional contributions in raising the level of HIV and AIDS awareness in the country.

“We hope to see an increase in HIV awareness, spread love for people living with HIV, and make HIV testing among Filipinos a normal part of their health and wellness routine,” said Ms Wurtzbach. “I believe we can strengthen our bonds and achieve our shared goal of ending AIDS in the Philippines, Asia-Pacific and the Universe.”

The first Love Gala will be held at the official city partner of Taguig on 1 December alongside the celebration of the World AIDS Day.

It will also feature a fashion show by top Philippine designers, a star-studded mini-concert, and a special auction.

Meanwhile for the “Ripple Awards,” the Love Gala organization will only be accepting nominations until 31 August 2017.

To nominate, click the link: Nominees will be screened based on their initiatives to create ripples of positive change that greatly influence the domestic and global HIV and AIDS advocacy.

The gala is a collaboration of private and public institutions and youth-oriented organizations, which was espoused by the Better Together Organization. It also aims to augment the efforts to normalize the HIV and AIDS advocacy to a larger audience.

“I believe we can strengthen our bonds and achieve our shared goal of ending AIDS in the Philippines, Asia-Pacific and the Universe,” says Ms Wurtzbach.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

New cases of HIV in the Philippines hit record high with 1,098 in May 2017

By Nel Lee Hadlocon

An alarming increase of HIV cases, with now an average of 35 per day, has been reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) in May 2017. This is 48 percent higher compared with same time last year and is the highest recorded number of cases since 1984.

Sexual contact continues as the top mode of transmission.

Nine hundred eighteen (918) reported cases were men having sex with men. Five hundred fifty-eight (558) of these cases were through homosexual contact. Bisexual contact accounted for 360 of the total number of cases, heterosexual contact for 150, and sharing of infected needles among injecting drug users for 27.

Thirty (30) percent of these cases were from the 15 to 24 age group, while more than half were from the 25-34 year age group.

Photo by Carlos Diego A. Rozul

Many individuals find it difficult to get themselves tested. Existing laws in the country require individuals age 18 and below to secure parental consent prior to getting an HIV test. This becomes a barrier  for younger people to know their status.

In an article published by Human Rights Watch last December 2016, lack of effective sex education on and off the school, late intervention, and social stigma are among the challenges we face in this fight against the HIV epidemic.

Education and early detection and intervention are the best weapons to combat the epidemic.

Sex education in the country is under scrutiny and is oftentimes faced with firm opposition from different conservative groups. Last 2006, the Department of Health (DOH) attempted to implement a pilot sexuality education program, which received immediate strong opposition from conservative lawmakers, with the influence of the Catholic Church, on the grounds of ‘promoting sin.’ The Comprehensive Sexuality Education is part of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law that aims to provide a curriculum, as early as Grade 1, to be delivered by qualified and fully trained teachers.

Existing sex education is limited to the explanation of the human reproductive system that primarily focuses on the science of reproduction, physical care and hygiene, correct values, and the norms of interpersonal relations to avoid premarital sex and teenage pregnancy.

DOH proposed to give away free condoms to senior high school students, and the Department of Education (DepEd) disapproved the initiative stating that it needs parental consent. Human Rights Watch asked people with HIV, from 18 to 35 years old, and found out they experience unease when buying condoms. No-cost contraceptives and other family planning services are free and available at social hygiene clinics, but many Filipinos do not visit these places for fear of the stigma attached to them.

Up to this day, majority of Filipinos consider sex education or sexual health as taboo, a topic most parents dread to talk about with their children. Based on the latest HARP report, 325 cases were among the youth aged 15 to 24 years and 95 percent were male. With the lack of sex education, adolescents look for answers elsewhere, and they often end up having unprotected sexual encounters.

The National Youth Commission (NYC), headed by Aiza Seguerra, is strengthening their anti-HIV campaign through open discussions with parents and teachers on HIV and sex education. The NYC appealed to lawmakers to amend Republic Act 8504 and lower the age of consent for HIV testing. Miss Universe 2015, HIV and AIDS awareness advocate, and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific Pia Wurtzbach has also appealed the same.

Currently, liberal lawmakers are moving toward the review, revision, and expansion of existing laws to keep up with the changing trends and alarming rise of HIV cases. Representative Rene L. Relampagos co-authored House Bill Number 53 that seeks to establish the Philippine National AIDS Council as an attached body to DOH, a body that will act as a policy making, planning, and coordinating body of the Philippine and National HIV and AIDS program, empowered to develop a national multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS strategic plan, among other functions, to address the epidemic.

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

Thursday, July 06, 2017

STATUS: The A to E of Being Positive to a Healthy Lifestyle

By Reiner “Meow” Grospe

“Am I going to die soon?” This is one of the first few questions a person newly diagnosed as positive with HIV would usually ask their counselor/healthcare provider. The answer is a resounding “No.” Being diagnosed as HIV positive means a person has the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in their body, and it doesn’t mean the person will immediately die of the virus. How soon a person living with HIV (PLHIV) will die under natural circumstances depends on the line between HIV taking control of their body or them having control of the virus.
A to E.jpg

To better know what healthcare measures PLHIVs should commit themselves to, we must first understand what this virus does to the body. Once infected with the virus, immune system cells called CD4 lymphocytes or T-cells are either directly killed or penetrated and then used by the virus as hosts in which to replicate. Once the penetrated CD4 cells can no longer contain the virus, they explode and result in a higher viral load and a weakened immune system. If nothing is done to intervene, the condition will progress to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – the stage of HIV infection described as having a weakened immune system and being infected with opportunistic infections that can lead to death.

Therefore, the focus of concern here is to strengthen the immune system. It gives the message to do things that boost the immune system and turn away from those that further weaken it. Here are simple ways to a healthier, more positive  life:
Adherence to Treatment

Dubbed as Timely Testing and Treatment by LoveYourself’s Triangle of Self-Care, it encourages PLHIVs to adhere to the antiretroviral therapy (ART) given to them by their healthcare providers. ART prevents HIV from penetrating and killing CD4 cells, keeping the viral load low. On the other hand, skipping, discontinuing, or not taking ART at all will lead to AIDS and eventually, death. This is why it is smart for PLHIVs to religiously follow their treatment regimen on the dot.
Balanced Diet and Exercise

Healthy food not only helps boost the immune system, but it also helps deal with symptoms brought about by HIV such as weight loss and diarrhea which may be experienced by some. For a healthy and balanced diet, eat more fruits and vegetables for more fiber, vitamins and minerals, protein-rich foods for building stronger muscles, carbohydrates like brown rice and potato to give you the energy you need, and of course, small amounts of fats, sugar, and salt.

Eating healthier always comes with regular exercise. Keeping a regular physical activity that is fit for you three to four times a week does more than just keep the immune system strong. Exercise helps release happy hormones called endorphins which reduce stress – one of the major contributors to a weakened immune system. Exercise also boosts energy and keeps bones strong to prevent osteoporosis. Also remember to have enough quality rest every day. So eat right, move right, and sleep right.
Counseling and Support

A healthy lifestyle is not limited to staying physically healthy – it also addresses mental health. Receiving news that you are infected with HIV may not be that easy to take in, and for some, adjustment takes time. Some people may be extremely bothered by their worries and questions causing anxiety, loss of appetite, loss of motivation, and lack of sleep. Experiencing all of these at the same time negatively affects the immune system as well. Talk to a trained HIV counselor about your thoughts and feelings, and if you are ready, you may also disclose these to your family, partner, and/or friends. Sharing your burdens with someone whom you can trust always gives you a lighter feeling, and gaining the support of the people around you can keep your head in the game.
Don’t Engage in Substance Use

Avoid using drugs and sharing needles as PLHIVs with weakened immune system are more prone to being infected with other diseases such as Hepatitis B and/or C. Meanwhile, the use of alcohol, being a downer, decreases energy and lowers the level of your immune system. Furthermore, using either or both impairs judgment,  which increases the chances of you engaging in risky behaviors like unprotected penetrative sex. Smoking is never a healthy option. There are numerous opportunistic infections, and two of the most common airborne infections are pneumonia and tuberculosis. You will not want to further deteriorate your lungs, increase stress, and crash your immune system by smoking.
Exercise Protected Sex

Dubbed as Safe and Satisfying Sex and Consistent Use of Condom by LoveYourself’s Triangle of Self-Care – the  use of condoms is not only for preventing the spread of HIV but also for other sexually transmitted infections (STI). Being infected with HIV does not permit you to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse. It is still encouraged to correctly and consistently use condoms to prevent you from being exposed from different STIs like syphilis and gonorrhea.

To sum it up, PLHIVs should adhere to their treatment, keep themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy, and practice protected sex. It is not really far from what we usually have to do in general regardless of our HIV status. Dr. Rossana A. Ditangco, Head of AIDS Research Group in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine said, “I would always tell them (PLHIVs) that a healthy lifestyle is simply common sense. What is advised to a person without HIV will be the same advice given to those with HIV. There is no special recommendation. The principle is: Being HIV positive will not make you any different from somebody without HIV infection; you are the same person – in that way, you should really feel normal and feel no difference.” So whatever your HIV status is, just remember this: “Hey, love yourself.”

Photo/Model: David Miller @tn2sd
Icons from Google Images