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.