Tuesday, December 01, 2015

LoveYourself Observes World AIDS Day With Community Events

By Kris Tangco

Today is World AIDS Day, and LoveYourself joins the global community in its observance by hosting three events: an empowering pageant, an HIV testing day and an HIV awareness campaign with media trailblazer Rappler.

World AIDS Day is designated on the first day of December, and has been commemorated since 1988 to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by HIV infection, as well as to remember those who have died of the disease.  

The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS, known more commonly as UNAIDS, reports that at the end of 2014, 36.9 million people globally were living with HIV, with 2 million new infections in the said year. Also from 2000 until 2014, 25.3 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses, while 15.8 million people have access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy as of June 2015. 

Philippines: AIDS epidemic in-the-making
While the number of infections worldwide has dropped from 3.1 million in 2000 to 2 million in 2014, a 35% decrease, the Philippines has reported a staggering 2000% increase in the number of infections since 2008. The Philippines currently is now one of only a handful of countries classed by UNAIDS as at risk of a full-blown AIDS epidemic. As of October 2015, 651 new cases of HIV infection were recorded in the country, with more than half of these cases coming from the Metropolitan Manila region. A total of 542 cases (83.26 percent) come from MSM's or men-having-sex-with-men. 

LoveYourself fights back with free HIV testing
In the light of the spread of the AIDS epidemic and the rising tide of HIV infections particularly in the LGBT community, LoveYourself, a non-government and non-profit organization, offers free counseling and HIV testing in conjunction with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine or RITM, a DOH-appointed institution for HIV and AIDS research in the country. At the same time, the organization seeks to increase HIV awareness while anchoring on the importance of self-worth. 

The organization is comprised of mostly LGBT volunteers who conduct counseling and awareness campaigns and programs targeting at-risk populations. While the organization mostly appeals to men who have sex with men, its two clinics, LoveYourself Anglo along Shaw and the LoveYourself Hub-RITM Satellite Clinic in Malate, welcome people from all walks of life who wish to know their status.

As part of its awareness campaigns, LoveYourself also aims to educate the public and combat the social stigma associated with the disease. It supports lifestyles of LGBT groups while emphasizing the importance of safe sex practices and of knowing one's status as a springboard for empowering oneself, leading to a better sense of self-worth and self-care. At the same time, awareness programs reach out to the public to promote an environment of acceptance. 

LoveYourself events for World AIDS Day 2015
Regularly LoveYourself holds events spearheading its advocacy.

Last weekend, at the advent of the World AIDS Day, two events took place with HIV awareness and prevention at the helm of its goals. Mr. and Ms. Fratpad beauty pageant was held on Saturday, November 28, with participants mainly coming from local LGBT groups, or "clans". 

On Sunday, November 29, HIV mass testing was held at Victoria Court in Caloocan in an effort to reach out to those who live in northern areas of Metro Manila. 

Collaboration with Rappler for #StayNegatHIVe Campaign's HIV-fy Movement

News website Rappler has partnered with LoveYourself in launching its #StayNegatHIVe campaign aimed at raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. The campaign consists of various activities, including open online discussions on social media platform Twitter, interviews, and links to various articles related to HIV/AIDS, including entries from LoveYourself's page

In line with #StayNegatHIVe campaigns, and as one of its indirect but creative thrusts, is the HIV-fy movement. A number of LoveYourself articles and entries will be modified so that all instances of "hi" will be temporarily replaced by "HIV". This temporary replacement will make the repeated occurrences of the three letters "HIV" more prominent throughout the affected entry, as one way to impart awareness of HIV to readers. 

Thank you to Hornet and Grindr

Social app Hornet Gay Social Network has helped LoveYourself by blasting announcements of its events as well as ads promoting its free counseling and testing services as part of its efforts to observe World AIDS Day. Grindr, another LGBT social app, also helped in blasting announcements for the mass testing event held last November 29. With Hornet and Grindr as both in the top five social apps preferred by gay men in the Philippines, LoveYourself is able to maximize its reach effectively.