Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The LoveYourself Testing Experience

By Dun King

Admittedly, getting tested for HIV is not one of the easiest things you’ll ever do in your life - in fact, it can be one of the most unnerving experiences you’ll ever have to go through.  There are a myriad of reasons why you are getting tested - it may be a follow-up test to your previous result several months ago, or a  requirement for getting recruited overseas, or you just simply decided to take the plunge and get yourself tested for the first time. Regardless of the reason, it’s difficult to really get the hang of it - whether it’s your first or fifth time getting tested. In any case, getting tested is the only definitive way to know whether you will turn out “reactive” or “nonreactive”.
The Loveyourself Testing Experience
At Loveyourself, we know and understand the importance of getting tested.  By getting tested, we become aware of our HIV status and carry out informed and responsible decisions based on these results. For those who turn out to be reactive, treatment and support are available and by seeking medications, one can manage HIV and keep on living a healthy lifestyle. And for those who do not turn out to be reactive, we teach our clients about different aspects of self-care.
Regardless of the results, we at LoveYourself strive to ensure that your experience will assuage your fears, clear out issues you may have, and give you the assurance that support and help will be provided..
Getting Ready
1. It’s free. The test is completely free of charge. All you have to do is head to our clinics or mass testing events such as the upcoming Incognito 2.0 and let our friendly volunteers guide you through the process.
LoveYourself is a non-profit organization. Through its partnership with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM), LoveYourself is able to provide HIV screening at no cost. Furthermore, as the organization promotes a healthy sexual lifestyle through safe sex practices, clients can get condoms and lubricants for free.
2. Ask Questions. You’ll have all the opportunity to ask your counselor any questions you may have. Our volunteer counselors are trained to handle different types of questions and situations. Don’t be afraid to ask. Only when you ask will you find out what those answers are especially if they’re bothering you. The counselors have been trained to handle various situations. Remember, you are not alone through all this, and many people have been under similar or comparable circumstances.
3. Keep an open mind. All you need is an open mind to get the most out of the Loveyourself Testing experience. Understand and learn everything you can from HIV 101 up to the counseling provided from ways to keep yourself healthy while maintaining an active lifestyle to lessons in life.
Getting Tested
The entire testing process is comprised of 3 parts – pre-counseling, blood extraction, and post counseling. This usually lasts for 2 to 3 hours. In mass testing events where privacy and time are crucial, HIV101 or the pre-counseling stage is merged with counselling.
Pre-Counseling. Clients are educated about HIV and its different aspects through HIV 101. Counselors discuss what HIV is, its modes of transmission, sexual practices and respective risk levels,  debunk misconceptions about the disease, and safe sex practices.
The risk assessment is also part of the pre-counseling stage. Risk assessment determines the level of risk posed by the sexual behavior of the client in contracting the virus. The counselors also validate the data that the client fills up and ensure as much as possible that all concerns of the client are addressed.
Blood Extraction –  In its mass testing events, Loveyourself uses Community Based Screening (CBS). Testing kits are used - a finger is pricked with a sterile lancet, and a few drops of blood are placed onto the test kit. This is done by our trained counselors. Once this is done, all you have to do is wait.
Post-Counseling– with CBS, all you need is 10 to 20 minutes to find out what your status is. The kits are designed to validate if a person is reactive to either HIV 1 or HIV 2 or to both within minutes. The counselor discusses management of one’s health through the paradigm of the Triangle of Self CARE and what actions to take if the result is reactive.
Reactive or Nonreactive?
Yes, you read that right. The results that will appear are either “nonreactive” or “reactive”. There can only be two outcomes when you get your results.

Nonreactive. If the result turns out that the client does not react to an HIV antibody or antigen, they are advised by counselors on how they can maintain their status and practice safe sex always. Clients are also encouraged to get tested regularly.  Sexually active people are advised to get tested every three months, as this is the accepted window period, the time between when one gets infected by the virus and the time the body develops antibodies or antigens detectable by test kits.

Reactive. If the kit yields a line in the HIV 1 and or 2 sections, the client will have to fill out another form which will be sent to the  Department of Health’s STD AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory for confirmatory tests. Final results usually take up to 1 month.
While waiting for the confirmatory results, clients have the choice of going to LoveYourself Anglo’s Treatment Hub or to RITM in Alabang for baseline testing. This type of test will determine if a person will be administered with Antiretroviral Therapy (ARV) or if other medical concerns have to be addressed first.
Here to Help
Loveyourself stands by its belief that a “reactive” result is not a death sentence, nor will it hinder anyone from reaching their dreams. With proper lifestyle adjustment, People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) can still enjoy life to the fullest.
At Loveyourself, we endeavor to cater to different types of clients’ needs. With this, we have devised various kinds of services that will allow Loveyourself clients to feel that they are valued and are treated appropriately depending on their needs.
Loveyourself Solo is the regular testing for individual clients carried out in our clinics LoveYourself Anglo and LoveYourself Uni. There’s also Loveyourself Purple for couples -  important for those who want to know the status of their partner and how they can lead a healthy sexual life. Finally, there is Loveyourself Platinum which gives premium priority to the confidentiality of the client and can only be done by appointment.
Occassionally, LoveYourself holds mass testing events to reach out to sectors of the population not usually reached out to by our clinics at LoveYourself Anglo and LoveYourself Uni. These mass testing events are done with greater confidentiality and speed with streamlined processes. For those who are interested, the next mass testing event, dubbed as Incognito 2.0, will be on 27 November 2016.
No matter which service you avail, Loveyourself protects the identity of its clients and ensures that they are in a safe and secure place. Clients who test reactive may avail of the Life Coaching service for guidance and support.

Photos by: Mark de Castro, Jamie Well Titan

Photo editing: Kevin de Dios

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hottest Gay Guy in the Philippines Takes The Test - MGWP Winner Invites Everyone to Incognito 2.0

By: Raybert Domingo

“Syempre, tuwang-tuwa ako (I was elated),” shared 2016 Mister Gay World Philippines (MGWP) John F. Raspado when he got the result of his first HIV screening years back –a sigh of relief from all his qualms after braving such a test.

Since then, this gentleman from Baguio City has encouraged people within his circle to take the HIV test in ruling out all their doubts and even misconceptions about the disease.

Taking a bolder step as a modern gay guy, Raspado is the lead ambassador of LoveYourself Incognito 2.0, which is the country’s most trusted community-based HIV screening that is free, anonymous and fast.

Raspado urges every individual to undergo HIV testing on 27 November at Victoria Court Malate in Manila by signing up at go.loveyourself.ph/incognito, an event made possible through the cooperation of LoveYourself and its partners - the Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and MGWP Organization.

“It is not the virus that kills them, it is the pride and stigma,” stressed MGWPO Board of Director Ryan D. Soto. Highlighting the importance of early detection of HIV, Soto said “Everyone must be responsible to his/her health and welfare and educate others.”

Catering to a wider audience, LoveYourself Executive Director  Ronivin G. Pagtakhan said “With Incognito, we are bringing the HIV testing and discussion to a greater scale in an effort to reach and help more people.”

“I also take pride with my co-volunteers, because they really exert extra effort for our clients to have a smooth sailing testing experience, especially to first-timers. They devote their time with passion to care for people who need our services,” Pagtakhan relayed.

Being the 2016 MGWP winner, Raspado said “I would like to create awareness and encourage more research on the treatment of HIV here in the Philippines,” by capitalizing on the usage of social media, such as Facebook, to enlighten more people who are frequently inquiring about the medical interventions for the disease.

Moreover, Raspado advised everyone to remain keen about their HIV status especially those who are previously tested and had a non-reactive (HIV negative) result. He noted that “It doesn’t stop  with just one HIV test. You would always have to be careful and be safe.”

The traditionally romantic Raspado advised that “It would also be better if you’d stay loyal to your partner,” which is one of the many ways for people to have safe and satisfying sex and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Following his landslide win in the 2016 MGWP, Raspado also continues to promote his platform of modernizing the image of gay men in the Philippines, which entails becoming bolder, wiser, and sexier by being competent, creative, and confident about one’s self.

Raspado said “I would like to use my voice and be a role model for the members of the LGBT community who are still in the process of acceptance.”

To remove the stigma on the LGBT community, Raspado noted that “Once you’ve become more confident of yourself, we can eradicate the stigma.”

LoveYourself thrusts to empower everyone in embracing and nurturing their  self-worth, which is pivotal in creating ripples of positive change in the community. In this line, Pagtakhan said “We anchor our advocacy in boosting one’s self-worth to propagate ideas, attitudes, and practices and integrate these factors to help fight against the spread and stigma on HIV.”

Apart from winning 2016 MGWP, Raspado also won the “I am Pogay” TV contest, which was aired in ABS-CBN’s noontime show, “It’s Showtime.”

Recently, LoveYourself sought a partnership with MGWPO to eradicate the social stigma on the disease and its relevant interventions, in which MGWP 1st runner-up John Bench T. Ortiz promoted the significance of fitness and sexual health to elevate the HIV prevention advocacy.

MGWPO is a non-profit organization supporting the fight against sexual prejudice, injustice and equality for the LGBT community across the world. The organization aims to modernize the image of gays and break all stereotypes from the general public’s perception. It also aims to continue the advocacy of HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment assistance for everyone.

LoveYourself is a non-profit organization conducting HIV testing, counseling and peer education founded on enriching an individual’s self-worth. LoveYourself can be reached through its official website at www.loveyourself.ph, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveyourself.ph/and on Twitter at @LoveYourselfPh and Instagram at @loveyourself.ph.

Monday, November 14, 2016

How To Get To Victoria Court Malate for Incognito 2.0

Congratulations for taking the brave step to know your HIV status with LoveYourself Incognito on November 27. Before anything else, make sure you register to ensure a slot. 

On the day itself, proceed to Victoria Court Malate between 10AM to 7PM. You are encouraged to print the map below or save the photo on your mobile phone for reference. Read on for more details on how to get to the location.

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

From the LRT - Quirino Station / Taft Avenue
- It is a 10-minute walk from LRT-Quirino Station / Taft Avenue
- Or you can take a public transportation vehicle going through Quirino Avenue and ask them to drop you off at Victoria Court Malate. It should be on the right side.

From Roxas Boulevard
- It is a 5-minute walk from Roxas Boulevard
- Or you can take a public transportation vehicle going through Quirino Avenue and ask them to drop you off at Victoria Court Malate. It should be on the left side, and you might need to cross the street.

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

Google Maps
Search for "Hotel Victoria De Malate" on the Google Maps app or website to get a detailed map of the vicinity.

STATUS – Community Based Screening: What is it and how is it done?

By: Carlos Diego A. Rozul
Everyone has talked about a particular status in his or her life, be it their relationship status, their financial status, and heck people talk about their problems on their Facebook status all the time! But one thing that’s rarely talked about is one’s HIV status. Despite its relevance today it is still greatly stigmatized and has been thought of as taboo by many. This monthly column aims to help facilitate discussion on issues surrounding HIV testing and living with HIV.
LoveYourself has started to embark on a great change, adapting a quicker and more efficient way of testing for HIV in its mass testing events - Community Based Screening (CBS).  

It was first used in the May 2016 Incognito testing which tested 300 clients, so far the most successful turnout for any LoveYourself mass testing event.

The advances in the time required to obtain results with high levels of accuracy have allowed LoveYourself to offer its Incognito event last May 2016 and the upcoming Incognito 2.0 to be held towards the end of the year as quick and efficient, promising results in 15 minutes time from the time of collection of blood sample.
The decision to shift from Standard Testing Protocol to Community Based Screening was due to a large number of repeat clients getting tested in the LoveYourself clinics. This was a response to the need to reach more people for HIV testing, and entailed moving out of the clinics to locations more accessible to target groups.

These people include those living far from a testing center, those who are still afraid of the probable stigma that comes with testing or going to a HIV testing clinic/facility, those with tight schedules or live on subsistence and cannot miss a single day from work, and those who are simply uninformed or misinformed.
The shift was also due to the long waiting time - around one to two hours - with standard testing compared to the 15-20 minute processing time of the Community Based Screening method.

In LoveYourself, we use the immunochromatographic assay kits for our Community Based Screening which is effective in detecting HIV 1 and 2 antigens or  antibodies. This is essential in detecting the infection early and linking the client to treatment, care and support. The kit has also been approved by the Word Health Organization.

With Community Based Screening, we hope to eliminate the shortcomings of standard testing and give our clients another option. This new method does not require a licensed health professional to examine the blood sample. You would only need a test kit, a reagent, and a trained change agent or a counselor who underwent Community Based Screening orientation.

This new method also requires less time to test the sample - from one to two hours, the process is complete in just 20 minutes! LoveYourself envisions our trained counselors going to untapped populations directly with kits on hand for testing, leaving less  Filipinos left unaware of their HIV status.
There are plans to incorporate Community Based Screening procedures in LoveYourself Anglo and Uni clinics, to expedite testing of its increasing number of new and regular clients. For now, Community Based Screening will be used in the upcoming Incognito 2.0

Community Based Screening using the immunochromatographic assay kit involves a few simple steps. Firstly, your finger would be disinfected and get pricked with a sterile lancet, which is properly disposed of as biohazardous waste afterwards, then blood from the finger would be dripped onto the test kit with a reagent. This procedure provides the same quality (specificity and sensitivity) of results as what standard testing provides, only with less blood and less time.

The kit will reveal the results in 15-20 minutes time. While waiting for the results, your counselor will talk you through the entire process of CBS and discuss salient information about  HIV, AIDS, and sexual health management. Clients are also provided time to ask any concerns regarding the test.

It is important to note that with Community Based Screening, 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 Community Based Screening 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.
For testing at LoveYourself’s clinics at Anglo and Uni and at our mass testing events such as Incognito 2.0, HIV testing is open for all regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status, provided totally free of charge. All personal information collected will be handled with strict confidentiality.
If you want to get tested or try the community based screening yourself, then you can sign up for the next Incognito testing event this November 27, 2016.
For more information about the effectiveness of Community Based Screening test kits please click here.

Photo editing: Mark Long

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

MGWP First Runner Up on Promoting Fitness and Sexual Health to Fight the Stigma on HIV

By Raybert Domingo

Cognizant of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, LoveYourself, Inc. strengthens the promotion of its HIV awareness campaign with its newest ambassador, Mister Gay World Philippines 2016 1st runner-up John Bench T. Ortiz.

As a fitness coach, Ortiz advised that “Health is wealth. Relatively speaking, sexual health is very important and we, the LGBT community and the larger society, need to be more knowledgeable on this aspect.” Ortiz serves as one of the faces of the LoveYourself Incognito 2.0, which is the country’s largest community-based HIV screening that is free, anonymous and fast.

Through the Mister Gay World Philippines Organization (MGWPO), Ortiz supported LoveYourself and its partners, the Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., in encouraging individuals to undergo HIV testing on 27 November at Victoria Court Malate in Manila by signing up at go.loveyourself.ph/incognito.

LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan said “We aim for more movers in the community, who will rally behind our causes towards enriching one’s self-worth to eradicate the stigma on HIV.” Meanwhile, MGWPO Board of Director Ryan D. Soto said that their organization uses its profile and its victors to champion these causes.

During his stint at the 2016 MGWP pageant, Ortiz espoused the platform #CoachForEquality to propagate the message of fitness, sexual health and gender equality in empowering the LGBT community, which is hounded by the stigma on HIV and AIDS.

This 24 year-old lad from Tayug, Pangasinan uses his coaching prowess to fight the stigma on HIV saying that “If more people will try to understand us [the LGBT Community], then we can educate them to be more knowledgeable about the issue and we will be able to stop the spread of HIV.”

Identifying “fear of acceptance” as a major factor for Filipinos to get HIV test, Ortiz emphasized that “It is okay to know your HIV status, because there is someone who will be there to help.”

He also informed that if people turned out to be HIV positive, “there is proper medicine and proper care for them to enjoy living their lives to the fullest.”

By winning 1st runner-up in the 2016 MGWP, Ortiz pledged to influence more people by being active in giving thoughts and sound information on how to get tested to know one’s HIV status.

Ortiz said, “I will post pictures of any activities related about the advocacy for them to become more comfortable in knowing their status.”

Earlier, LoveYourself, Inc. sought a partnership with MGWPO to eradicate the social stigma on the disease and its relevant interventions.

MGWPO is a non-profit organization supporting the fight against sexual prejudice, injustice and equality for the LGBT community across the world. The organization aims to modernize the image towards gays and break all stereotypes from the public perception. It also aims to continue the advocacy of HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment assistance for everyone.

LoveYourself is a non-profit organization conducting HIV testing, counseling and peer education founded on enriching an individual’s self-worth. LoveYourself can be reached through its official website at www.loveyourself.ph, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveyourself.ph/ and on Twitter at @LoveYourselfPh and Instagram at @loveyourself.ph.

Monday, November 07, 2016

LoveYourself Incognito 2.0, Fast and Confidential Screening, Set on November 27

LoveYourself Incognito, the country's first community-based HIV screening for men that asks for no names, uses no forms, and is highly confidential, is once again set for a comeback as Incognito 2.0 on November 27, Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Victoria Court Malate.

LoveYourself first held Incognito last May 29, and it turned out to be the the most trusted screening event of its kind by the HIV awareness advocacy organization, recording a total of 1,300 sign-ups and 300 clients screened.

Incognito, with its strictly confidential and quick screening process, is part of LoveYourself's efforts to reach out to the key-affected population that still suffers from the stigma of getting themselves tested for HIV - because they do not want their identities exposed. The process is patterned after similar successful screenings in Thailand and the United States.

Register here for your free and anonymous HIV screening.

LoveYourself assures that even with a quicker screening process, Incognito will give out results that are as reliable as past whole-day testing events since the same rapid test kits in LoveYourself clinics will be used. The 3rd generation rapid test has 100% accuracy for non-reactive clients.  

No names need to be given and no forms need to be signed for the screening. Clients will only provide a Unique Identifier Code (UIC) and contact information when registering. Only when a client gets a reactive result in the rapid test will his full information be required for the Paperless Personal Information Sheet (DOH-NEC form). This is necessary to confirm the client's status and so that he can be referred to treatment facilities.

In addition, clients will only need to wait for 15-20 minutes after blood extraction to get their results - that is if their result is non-reactive. Like mentioned earlier, when a client does not get a non-reactive result during the screening process, he will have to undergo the normal HIV testing process for confirmation, which could take two hours.

During the waiting period, clients will be briefed about the screening process and HIV information materials will be distributed. Snacks will also be served.

In summary, there are three steps that one must remember in getting tested at LoveYourself’s Incognito 2.0 mass testing event:

1.     Be Anonymous: Upon your arrival at Victoria Court Malate, you will get a number and unique identifier code.
2.     Take the Test: you will undergo a rapid screening with blood extracted by a simple prick on your finger using disposable one-time-use sanitary needles.
3.     Have the Results: while waiting for the results, your counsellor will discuss with you safer sex practices to lower your risk of HIV infection and your results. It only takes 15 minutes to know the results after blood extraction.

Those interested may register at go.loveyourself.ph/incognito.