Sunday, August 13, 2017

Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala on HIV Advocacy Unveiled

Long before Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach exponentially raised HIV and AIDS awareness in the country, many Filipino individuals have been working hard to change the landscape of the HIV and AIDS advocacy in the country.

Ten (10) of them will be recognized this World AIDS Day on 1 December during the first-ever “Love Gala.”

The Love Gala, as unveiled Wednesday (9 August), is the Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala event, which will honor outstanding individuals and their immeasurable contributions at “The Ripple Awards.”

The organization believes that “a single person's act of love can start a wave that can save millions of people.”

The Ripple Awards nomination period is open until 31 August 2017.

Visit the Love Gala page: to nominate someone who has created ripples of positive change that greatly influenced the domestic and global movement towards the HIV and AIDS advocacy.

Potential nominees can be a representative from the following sectors:

           Business (HIV policy in the workplace, companies, programs for business)
           Youth (program for the youth sector, youth-initiated)
           Academe (educational institutions, school organizations, program for schools)
           Government (legislators, LGUs, government organizations)
           Media & Advertising (digital, media organizations, media programs)
           Influencer (individual)
           NGOs (NGO-led programs)
           PLHIV (support groups, individual)
           Medical (hospitals, doctors, clinics, medical practitioner)
           Arts (films, stage play, artworks, artists)

Additionally, the gala is a collaboration of private and public institutions and youth-oriented organizations to augment the efforts in mainstreaming the HIV and AIDS advocacy to a larger audience.

Institutions and organizations coming together for Love Gala are the following: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Black Maria Productions, Decent Image of South Signal Association (DIOSSA), Dentsu, Pinoy Plus Association Incorporated, Positibong Marino Philippines, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), Taguig City Government, Team Mag, The Red Whistle, The LoveYourself Incorporated, and the US Embassy. 

Behind this extensive collaboration of Filipino organizations is Better Together.

Better Together, an initiative founded by Dr. Antoine Bondaz and Mr. Kenneth Kwok for the purpose of empowering future generations in Asia and beyond, is a founding member of the Love Gala.

Uniting for a single cause, the gala will also feature a concert headlined by artists who are also HIV and AIDS awareness advocates, and a mini auction that will raise funds to further HIV and AIDS education.

With the Philippines peaking its HIV infection incidence, “We have to firmly stand together in fighting this pandemic, not only for the Philippines, but for the rest of Asia and beyond,” the organization concluded.

Miss Universe 2015 as Ambassador of Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala

Miss Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, made the heart sign with her hands after being named on Wednesday (9 August) as the first-ever ambassador of “Love Gala.”

In giving her time wholeheartedly to the HIV advocacy, Wurtzbach announced her personal project called Project Progressive Information Awareness (PIA) campaign, or simply dubbed Project PIA, which bears the Love Gala.

Love Gala is Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala event, which will serve as a donation mechanism to support the HIV and AIDS advocacy, and will honor ten (10) outstanding individuals at “The Ripple Awards” for their exceptional contributions in raising the level of HIV and AIDS awareness in the country.

“We hope to see an increase in HIV awareness, spread love for people living with HIV, and make HIV testing among Filipinos a normal part of their health and wellness routine,” said Ms Wurtzbach. “I believe we can strengthen our bonds and achieve our shared goal of ending AIDS in the Philippines, Asia-Pacific and the Universe.”

The first Love Gala will be held at the official city partner of Taguig on 1 December alongside the celebration of the World AIDS Day.

It will also feature a fashion show by top Philippine designers, a star-studded mini-concert, and a special auction.

Meanwhile for the “Ripple Awards,” the Love Gala organization will only be accepting nominations until 31 August 2017.

To nominate, click the link: Nominees will be screened based on their initiatives to create ripples of positive change that greatly influence the domestic and global HIV and AIDS advocacy.

The gala is a collaboration of private and public institutions and youth-oriented organizations, which was espoused by the Better Together Organization. It also aims to augment the efforts to normalize the HIV and AIDS advocacy to a larger audience.

“I believe we can strengthen our bonds and achieve our shared goal of ending AIDS in the Philippines, Asia-Pacific and the Universe,” says Ms Wurtzbach.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

New cases of HIV in the Philippines hit record high with 1,098 in May 2017

By Nel Lee Hadlocon

An alarming increase of HIV cases, with now an average of 35 per day, has been reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) in May 2017. This is 48 percent higher compared with same time last year and is the highest recorded number of cases since 1984.

Sexual contact continues as the top mode of transmission.

Nine hundred eighteen (918) reported cases were men having sex with men. Five hundred fifty-eight (558) of these cases were through homosexual contact. Bisexual contact accounted for 360 of the total number of cases, heterosexual contact for 150, and sharing of infected needles among injecting drug users for 27.

Thirty (30) percent of these cases were from the 15 to 24 age group, while more than half were from the 25-34 year age group.

Photo by Carlos Diego A. Rozul

Many individuals find it difficult to get themselves tested. Existing laws in the country require individuals age 18 and below to secure parental consent prior to getting an HIV test. This becomes a barrier  for younger people to know their status.

In an article published by Human Rights Watch last December 2016, lack of effective sex education on and off the school, late intervention, and social stigma are among the challenges we face in this fight against the HIV epidemic.

Education and early detection and intervention are the best weapons to combat the epidemic.

Sex education in the country is under scrutiny and is oftentimes faced with firm opposition from different conservative groups. Last 2006, the Department of Health (DOH) attempted to implement a pilot sexuality education program, which received immediate strong opposition from conservative lawmakers, with the influence of the Catholic Church, on the grounds of ‘promoting sin.’ The Comprehensive Sexuality Education is part of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law that aims to provide a curriculum, as early as Grade 1, to be delivered by qualified and fully trained teachers.

Existing sex education is limited to the explanation of the human reproductive system that primarily focuses on the science of reproduction, physical care and hygiene, correct values, and the norms of interpersonal relations to avoid premarital sex and teenage pregnancy.

DOH proposed to give away free condoms to senior high school students, and the Department of Education (DepEd) disapproved the initiative stating that it needs parental consent. Human Rights Watch asked people with HIV, from 18 to 35 years old, and found out they experience unease when buying condoms. No-cost contraceptives and other family planning services are free and available at social hygiene clinics, but many Filipinos do not visit these places for fear of the stigma attached to them.

Up to this day, majority of Filipinos consider sex education or sexual health as taboo, a topic most parents dread to talk about with their children. Based on the latest HARP report, 325 cases were among the youth aged 15 to 24 years and 95 percent were male. With the lack of sex education, adolescents look for answers elsewhere, and they often end up having unprotected sexual encounters.

The National Youth Commission (NYC), headed by Aiza Seguerra, is strengthening their anti-HIV campaign through open discussions with parents and teachers on HIV and sex education. The NYC appealed to lawmakers to amend Republic Act 8504 and lower the age of consent for HIV testing. Miss Universe 2015, HIV and AIDS awareness advocate, and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific Pia Wurtzbach has also appealed the same.

Currently, liberal lawmakers are moving toward the review, revision, and expansion of existing laws to keep up with the changing trends and alarming rise of HIV cases. Representative Rene L. Relampagos co-authored House Bill Number 53 that seeks to establish the Philippine National AIDS Council as an attached body to DOH, a body that will act as a policy making, planning, and coordinating body of the Philippine and National HIV and AIDS program, empowered to develop a national multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS strategic plan, among other functions, to address the epidemic.

LoveYourself offers free HIV testing and counseling services in its clinics. For more information, click here.