Friday, July 29, 2011

The Love Yourself Charity Photoshoot

Tara, photoshoot na!

You are invited to participate in Ian Felix Alquiros' first charity photoshoot for the benefit of The Love Yourself Project. All profit generated will be used in the provision of free counseling and assistance to the youth and key population affected by HIV/AIDS. Photoshoot participants donate Php1,000 which entitle them to (1) one Love Yourself t-shirt; (2) grooming services for the shoot; and (3) one digital photo layout, in the style of "Love Yourself." They say a picture is worth a thousand words -- in this special charity photoshoot, it's worth a thousand pesos and a lot of love, for yourself and for a society we envision free from the scare of HIV/AIDS.

This photoshoot is open to all generous souls and beautiful people who have the heart to help. It will be on Sunday, August 14, 2011, from 10 AM to 10 PM, at #88 Panay Avenue, Quezon City [location map]. Get a priority shoot timeslot that's most convenient for you, register here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We are now SEC-registered!

The Love Yourself (VINN Advocacy for the LGBT-MSM) has been officially recognized as a corporation by the Philippine government on July 21, 2011.

LoveYourself (VINN Advocacy for the LGBT-MSM) Inc.
Company Reg. No. CN201112409.
Company TIN 008-086-738.

A definite milestone for the organization. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gibbs Cadiz: "I dodged a bullet."

Gibbs Cadiz, Lifestyle desk editor and editorial writer at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, recently took his first HIV test. We feature below his honest and wonderful storytelling. Gibbs is a supporter of The Love Yourself Project.

I had long danced around the idea of taking the test, for one simple reason: I was terrified. Despite my conscientious efforts otherwise, I have had occasional lapses of my own when it came to risky bedroom behavior. All these years the specter of the virus had seemed quite remote, abstract to me. I comforted myself in the thought that I was not into the alcohol-soaked scene, I didn't do drugs or Ecstasy parties and so had never lost my faculties in the haze of intoxication, had never frequented the bathhouse, took relatively good care of my health, and, at 40, has never had a major illness or health breakdown requiring hospital care.

But who knew, really? Those occasional lapses were troubling enough, but just this year the subject became alarmingly starker, more personal when a number of friends, and friends and friends, revealed they had gotten the virus. Too, the anecdotal stories were piling up--about otherwise young, healthy gay men around the metro who were suddenly getting sick or dropping like flies from suspicious-sounding causes, pneumonia chief among them. One moment you saw them hale and hearty at the gym or our (wholesome, I must assert) Fabcasters parties, the next you saw their Facebook accounts peppered with goodbye messages. Chilling.

There's no way around the truth: It's here... Truth to tell, I had absolutely no idea how I would react if the test proved positive. At the back of my mind, I knew it was a possibility--one friend swore he engaged in risky sex only once in his life, and yet he got it--but I couldn't get that far ahead in terms of imagining how my life would have to change if push did come to shove. It wasn't myself I was too worried about; I knew I could, surely after some period of self-anger, blame and regret, get around eventually to a sort of rapprochement with the new reality. It's the thought of telling the people around me, of having to burden them with my condition--my mother and family, especially--that cut at me deeply.

Read the full article here.

"Harapin na, para magawaan ng paraan."

Using an AIDS patients dramatic recovery to demonstrate the effect Topsy and its antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme can have on those battling the advanced effects of HIV/AIDS. When treated, a person on the verge of death can return to health in a matter of months.

And, Selinah today:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let's talk. You are safe here.

The Love Yourself (VINN Advocacy) project opens its doors to the youth and MSM community - inviting them to reach out, to talk, in a highly discreet and confidential conversation with the group's trained HIV counselors and life coaches. Fear and shame need not be barriers to seeking help. Love yourself, and let's talk. You are safe here. Email us at

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Davao girl, 12, becomes youngest to contract HIV thru sex

DAVAO CITY -- A 12–year-old girl from this city has become the youngest person to become infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through sexual intercourse, a city health official said.

Dr. Josephine Villafuerte, City Health Office (CHO) chief, said the girl is the youngest since the city started monitoring HIV cases in 1993.

"Naay mga bata na karon na naga-engage na sa sex at a very young age (There are children now who engage in sex at a very young age)," Villafuerte said.

She said 22 new cases of persons living with HIV, 21 of them are males, have been recorded between January and March this year. The new cases have brought the number of persons living with HIV in the city to 140.

Villafuerte said 39 new cases have been recorded in the city in the whole of 2010.

Although the figure shows that HIV is prevalent among men, Villafuerte said it is not yet conclusive that the highest incidence in the city is indeed men having sex with men.

HIV is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids). Aids is the late stage of the chronic disease, which is caused by HIV infection.

"Even if they are positive with HIV, there is still hope. There are free medicines we can provide for them," Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said HIV must not be associated with death since there are advancements, which can now prolong the lives of persons living with HIV.

Less than 20 people have died of HIV infection in the Davao City since 1993, she said. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 18, 2011.


OFW Shares His HIV Test Experience

Migs the Manila Gay Guy is a big supporter of The Love Yourself Project. Below is an email from one of his blog readers, codenamed Oidlei1980, relating his experience and lessons learned from going through his HIV test. We're sharing this letter here with permission from both Migs and Oidlei1980 in the hopes that a more positive and hopeful energy would embrace all of us who are concerned with the growing number of people infected and affected by HIV here in the Philippines. As Migs would repeat in his blog, sending all of you light and love!

- o -

Dear Migs,

Greetings of Peace! (maiba namn from your World Peace!..hahahaha)

Noong una I just got interested sa mga pictures posted sa website mo and I really did enjoy those and never paid much attention sa mga blogs and any other information very ironic for me to do that because mahilig ako magbasa. Kaya noong mga panahon na yun I just spent most of my time kakatingin ng mga pictures kung ano ang mga bago and minsan kahit na view ko na cge lng ng cge...and to the point na napadalang na ang pagbisita ko sa website/blogsite mo...makabasa lang ng konti pictures na naman... but biglang nagbago ang lahat a month ago.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Do you want to help?

We welcome everyone who has the heart to help in the effort to curb the increase of HIV infection among the youth and MSMs in the Philippines. Every little contribution is welcome - your time, effort, skill, or financial support - we welcome all the help!

Fill out this volunteer form.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Day with the Boys: An HIV Confidential Counseling and Testing Event

On July 10, 2011 the Love Yourself (VINN Advocacy) group, a not-for-profit organization focused on HIV prevention among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), in association with the Quezon City Health Department (QCHD), held their first advocacy project, “A Day with the Boys: An HIV Confidential Counseling and Testing Event” at 35 West Avenue, Quezon City. The event was undertaken together with volunteers from QCHD, Pinoy Plus, Take The Test, and representatives from SaMACKA. The event was able to serve a total of 54 clients from 10am to 5pm on that day.

All 54 clients that were counseled and tested declared themselves as Men who have Sex with Men (MSM).

As per DOH protocol, during the post-test counseling and release of the rapid HIV test result, all clients were given instructions:

The blood samples of clients that turned out reactive will be sent to National Reference Laboratory-STD AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory / San Lazaro Hospital to undergo the confirmatory test. The QCHD will contact the client after two weeks and the results will be given. If confirmed positive, the client will undergo further laboratory tests, most importantly the CD4 level to determine the need for administration of anti-retroviral drugs.

For all others that received non-reactive results for the test, they were encouraged to take the voluntary HIV Confidential Counseling and Testing after three months.

Discreet and Confidential

Love Yourself Founder Wins Nurse of The Year Award

The Shorty Awards honor the best people and organizations on Twitter. These unique awards are for the Twitter community, by the Twitter community. Online voting is public and democratic, culminating in an awards ceremony that recognizes the winners in 26 official categories as well as crowd-sourced ones.

On March 28, 2011, the 3rd Annual Shorty Awards proclaimed Love Yourself (VINN Advocacy) Founding CEO/President Ronivin G. Pagtakhan as Nurse of the Year, beating other nominees from around the world, and thus became the first Filipino honoree of the award-giving organization.

Congrats, Vinn!

The People Behind the Group

Who are the people behind The Love Yourself Project (VINN Advocacy)?


CEO/President: Ronivin G. Pagtakhan
Ronivin Garcia Pagtakhan is a registered nurse in the Philippines and California. He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Manila where he took his BS Nursing degree, and PWU for his MA Nursing degree. He has been an educator since he was 19 and he is currently a faculty member of Mapua Institute of Technology, Centro Escolar University, and UP core-group review CENE and other national nursing board review centers around the Philippines. He was among the topnotchers for the nursing board exam in 2004 and a university scholar. He has been active in socio-civic activities since his college days where he was part of the UP USC. He co-authored a book entitled National Board Exam Review Notes by CENE publishing. He was recognized as one of the 2011 MAPUA's most outstanding professors and recently won the 2011 Twitter Oscars Shorty Awards as the Nurse of the Year (@ronnievinn), the first Filipino to win the said international awards. He recently got his HCCT counselor certification.

Secretary and Treasurer: Neil Bryant S. Calizo
Neil Byrant Calizo is a registered nurse in the Philippines. He belonged to the upper 15 percentile of the board exam passers in 2008. He is a graduate of BS Nursing at Centro Escolar University, where he was an active leader, and officer of the Red Cross Committee. He was a consistent honor student during his school days. He is currently working at Ameriprise Financial while doing volunteer nursing and HIV awareness programs.


Director for Counseling and Education: Ian Felix Alquiros
Ian is a Registered Physical Therapist. After working for almost a decade as an Operations Manager in a Call Center in Quezon City, Ian has decided to focus on his creative craft as a Professional Photographer. As an accomplished fashion photographer and portraitist, he owns and operates The Room, an innovative photo and events studio in Quezon City. He also has a certificate in Video Production from the UP Film Institute (Film Making) and Project Management and Production Design from the NCCA/CCP.

Director for Communication and Partnerships: Chris Lagman
Chris is an Executive and Life Coach from the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara (California, USA). He relocated back to Manila in March 2011 to pursue his love for education, consulting, and coaching. He is currently a faculty member at the Ateneo de Manila University, and does Training and Organization Development consulting work on the side. Chris holds degrees in BS Physics (UP Diliman) and MS Information Technology (Ateneo de Manila University). Chris also attended Asian Institute of Management’s Executive MBA Corporate Change program. He has recently obtained his HIV Counselor certification from the Woodwater Center for Healing.


Von Arroyo
Anthony Liam
Jun Nenada
Antonio Payomo III
Deogracia M. Valderrama
Kenn Velasco


VINN Advocacy was founded by Twitter Shorty Awards Nurse of the Year Awardee, Ronivin (Vinn) Garcia Pagtakhan. He was joined by very close colleagues and friends who were inspired by the increasing demand and queries by LGBT-MSM through social media such as Twitter on venereal infections. Vinn (Ronivin) thought that he could do more about these concerns, could touch more people than just by social media and could actually do something about it, thus consulted his close friend and colleague James Garcia Bon and James Worrasaran who had the same thing on their mind, and had an experience with such advocacy during their stay in the United States where they (James B.) took his Nurse Practitioner Residency.

Since then, the organization exponentially grew through social networking and was spearheaded by a core group of concerned and socially aware YOUTH & LGBT-MSM professionals and supporters with diverse ideas and preferences yielding to the goal to minimize the morbidity rate and in the near future to completely eradicate venereal infections (STD, HIV and AIDS), help the youth & high risk LGBT-MSM in their battle with confusion, prejudice and respect, and ultimately open a safe haven and resource centre for the LGBT-MSM here in the Philippines.

Mission, Vision, and Goals

VINN Advocacy's mission is to serve as a resource centre for the youth & LGBT-MSM (men having sex with men) promoting wellness through education, prevention, cure and rehabilitation in response to venereal infections (STD and HIV) and sexuality concerns.

VINN Advocacy's vision is to develop a safe, gender-sensitive society of HIV/STD-free youth & LGBT-MSM in the Philippines

Long-Term Goal:
VINN Advocacy's goal is to open a self-sustaining resource centre for the the youth & LGBT-MSM.

The acronym V.I.N.N. stands for Venereal Infection Nuisance Nursing, wherein the word NURSING, has an operational definition that does not implicate nor has any relation to the nursing profession, but instead the verb connoting care or nurturing. This organization aims to help the Filipino YOUTH & LGBT giving priority to the high risk MSM (men having sex with men) sector to prevent, detect, treat and control the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

STIs pose a big threat to Filipino youth & LGBT-MSM (men having sex with men) of the nation according to the most recent statistics of reported HIV/STD sexual transmission cases (dated January 2011), YOUTH & LGBT-MSM peaked from last year’s 74% to a whopping 81% sexual transmission rate, giving a cumulative 1984-2010 rate of 54.8% which is very alarming.

True enough, the government has a good program about it, yet it is underutilized, there are no organizations, support group or resource centre here in the Philippines that provides free detection, treatment, contact tracing and education on prevention and management of venereal infections. The organization wants to spearhead this cause.

VINN Advocacy supports the Filipino youth & LGBT-MSM (men having sex with men) through counselling on sexuality issues, diagnosis and management of STD and HIV to optimally eradicate the growing morbidity rate among the YOUTH and LGBT in the Philippines. It wishes to establish a resource centre, a safe house for the LGBT-MSM in the Philippines.