Monday, December 09, 2013

Erasing Stigma by Example: Student Leaders Take the HIV Test

Roughly 1 of 4 new HIV cases now come from Filipino youth aged 15 to 24.

Alarmed by this trend, student leaders recently partnered with LoveYourself to take an HIV test, hoping to encourage more youth to know their HIV status and practice safer sex.

13 student council representatives from different schools trooped to the LoveYourself hub in Malate late last month. They joined 40 other visitors to avail of the free HIV testing and counseling services at the community center.

“It has come to our attention as student leaders that the incidence of HIV in the Philippines has been on a rapid increase. What bothered us more is the fact that a significant portion of these recent increases in HIV incidences come from the youth sector,” explained Arjay Mercado, head of the Gender Committee of the U.P. Diliman University Student Council, and one of the student leaders from the Student Council Association of the Philippines (SCAP), which led the initiative.

“With this in our minds, we decided to take the HIV test ourselves. We thought that if their student representation could not be good examples to others, then who can? That’s why we all took the test  to encourage the youth that knowing your status is something that should be top priority.”

HIV awareness campaign and university initiatives

By taking the HIV test, the student leaders wanted to erase the stigma of HIV testing, and encourage more youth to practice safer sex and keep their reproductive health in mind.

The student leaders' HIV awareness campaign culminated with a press conference on December 2, 2013 which coincided with the World AIDS Day celebrations. Read the students’ official statements here.

The student leaders expressed support for the Reproductive Health law, which will institutionalize an HIV-AIDS module in school curriculum. They also advocated for more adolescence desks in universities to help the youth receive proper advice on sexual and reproductive health.

Individually, each student leader is also working to enact changes in their schools that would help promote HIV testing.

“For example, in UP Diliman, we are lobbying to give training to our medical technologist and health service staff to undergo HIV-AIDS training so that HIV testing could be done anytime in school,” said Mercado.

UP Diliman also held a week-long lineup of events which included a commemoration of World AIDS Day, a forum, film screening, discussions on HIV and the RH Law, and also free HIV testing for students.

“We’re really targeting this age group through messages from student leaders who are very young so as to inspire them that the HIV issue should be their concern,” said Mercado.

Love Yourself provides free HIV testing for youth 

Love Yourself is proud to support SCAP and its student leaders to encourage HIV testing among the youth.

The advocacy provides free and confidential HIV testing, but all minors (below 18 years old) need to obtain parental consent. Friendly and knowledgeable LoveYourself counselors can help answer questions about HIV and AIDS and will guide every visitor through the HIV testing process.

Feel free to read our HIV testing FAQs to know more or schedule now for a free HIV test.