Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Dalton Claudio and Frenzy Importado, Honing the HIV Testing Experience

The volunteer duo believes the fear of HIV testing is best banished with an uplifting counseling experience, so they set out to create a better process for LoveYourself’s flagship testing event.

By Michael Jamias


Two years ago, when Dalton Claudio found out the guy he was dating was cheating on him, he did not seek revenge. Instead, he sought out the nearest HIV testing center he could trust in Manila.

“I found out about LoveYourself Platinum. That time, I was so scared of the result,” the 26-year-old IT consultant confesses, referring to the by-appointment and confidential HIV testing service provided by the non-profit organization LoveYourself.

Afraid that he had been infected with HIV and hurt by his partner’s betrayal, Dalton hesitantly stepped into a room where volunteer LoveYourself counselor Manuel greeted him with a smile. Dalton remembers the counseling conversation fondly. Manuel not only dispelled Dalton’s misconceptions surrounding HIV (no, it cannot be transmitted merely through kissing), but also allayed his worst fears that first-timers often grapple with (living with HIV is already manageable with free medicine and proper adherence to treatment). This singular HIV testing experience with LoveYourself was so helpful that it inspired Dalton to volunteer for the cause.

“LoveYourself is a community, not just an organization,” shares Dalton. “You can come to the clinic if you need any help, whether you’re getting an HIV test or if you just need someone to talk to. More than the testing and other clinic services, LoveYourself imparts things like self-worth that are crucial to a person’s life. I think that’s a big impact of what we do."

Since joining the HIV organization and learning to appreciate his potential, Dalton has spread his wings as an advocate, entrepreneur, and dancer. He became a distributor of Human Nature organic products, started volunteer work in Gawad Kalinga to help others build their own startups, and joined as a dancer in CrewPEX.


Meanwhile, in another city in Manila, Frenzy Importado was also facing HIV head on.

“I remember one time, there was this one guy, he was facing a difficult life. I saw his post on Facebook. He received a reactive result on the HIV test, but he did not have the means to go about treatment, and he already had opportunistic infections,” says the 34-year-old professional, who works in a prestigious learning organization in Makati.

“Based on what I could do, I linked him to The Project Red Ribbon (a care management foundation serving people living with HIV), and because of that, he is alive at the moment. His partner also didn’t want to get tested, but when they learned about it, the partner got tested.”

Frenzy remembers thinking it is the taboo nature of talking about HIV that prevents people from accessing services like testing and treatment. Without the stigma and fear, couples could discuss safer sex and HIV testing in the context of a loving relationship. Frenzy shares that when he took his first HIV test, he did so to check his status before entering into a relationship a few years back. “It’s important that I know my status before I commit with someone for the long term.”

He adds, “HIV should be really talked about already without instilling fear. For me, it’s always good to talk about these things in a very positive way to engage more people to get tested and treated. The approach should be really positive, otherwise the proper knowledge is not passed on.”


Joining forces for Incognito

Armed with their own experiences dealing with the fear of HIV, Dalton and Frenzy teamed up to head LoveYourself Incognito, the bi-annual HIV testing event that gathers hundreds of clients to know their status in a single location in one day. Incognito offers quicker results of 15 minutes after the blood is taken and provides increased anonymity for clients without needing to get their names during the HIV screening.

Incognito launched to a great start in the summer of 2016. More than 300 clients turned up and obtained their results, with dozens linked to life-saving HIV treatment. But for its second outing in November 2016, Dalton and Frenzy wanted to make it faster and smoother – to deliver a more satisfying experience, so clients would be encouraged to get tested again in the future.

The pair spent two months leading the creation of a new and faster process. Most clients spent less than half an hour from the moment they stepped into the venue until they received their results, which was duly noticed and appreciated.

The pair met their fair share of challenges. Dalton says there were things he wanted to do to further promote the event, but there were limitations he had to deal with. Frenzy, for his part, spent a lot of time in meetings and revising the event process, while balancing his office workload.

Despite these setbacks, Dalton and Frenzy saw fantastic feedback: The Incognito event garnered an impressive 4.9/5 average rating from the 210 clients that got tested during the event. Most clients praised the fast testing process, the smooth and clear directions during the event, and the friendly volunteer counselors that helped them every step of the way.


The takeaways

To improve the HIV testing process, Dalton channeled the mantra of his personal heroes Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg. From the billionaire investor Warren Buffet, Dalton learned the importance of simplicity. “Buffet is very rich, but his car is relatively simple. And he has a mantra that eschews complexity: ‘If it doesn’t add value or growth, don’t pursue it,’” says Dalton.

 “My biggest dream in life is to follow the footsteps of Zuckerberg. Build something that a lot of people will use and has a lot of impact on people. Something that is not just for fleeting entertainment,” he adds.

“Incognito was meant to be ground zero for experiments that would then be applied to the clinic. By improving clinic processes in Incognito, we can help more people,” Dalton shares, with a beaming look of satisfaction on his face.

Meanwhile, Frenzy is pleased that his hard work will improve the HIV testing experience for hundreds, if not thousands, of clients in the coming years. “I wanted that the HIV testing experience was more meaningful and enriching for clients. Not because it is a free HIV test, it should be done haphazardly, rather we should provide the best service for them.”

He adds, “Aside from our volunteers being warm and hospitable, our approach is what makes us different versus the others. If we provide the service, it should be a step up, with more care.

For Frenzy, the key to fighting the HIV epidemic comes down to dispelling fear, assisting each person brave enough to take the test, and making sure they receive a memorably delightful HIV testing experience.

“There are people who don’t know what to do, but if you can be a guide for them, they will be enlightened. They will no longer fear HIV or lose hope if they do get a positive result since we have treatment facilities and people willing to help. For me, it’s always good to talk about HIV/AIDS in a very optimistic way, to engage more people to get tested and treated. The approach should be really optimistic,” Frenzy concludes.




Photos: Dalton Claudio and Frenzy Importado 




LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight is a monthly feature on the cause- and service-oriented members of LoveYourself. We will be chatting with volunteers from all walks of life – all united in one cause. Keep checking every month to meet the different faces of LoveYourself.

Have you been inspired by the courage and commitment of our volunteers? Like us on Facebook and help share our message of positivity and self-worth in your own communities to help fight the spread of HIV.


Monday, January 30, 2017

STATUS -- From Naughty to Nice: A Healthy Resolution

by Giuseppe


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.


Most people start the year by making New Year’s resolutions. With all the festivities now over and the last bottle in your display cabinet empty, are you now ready to come up with your to-do and not-to-do lists for 2017?




Perhaps taking an HIV test can be included in our New Year's resolutions. You’re probably asking, “Why should I get tested for HIV, anyway?”

There are many things to look out for. One of the essential questions is, "Am I sexually active?” If your answer is “yes,” then you should definitely get tested. The primary reason most people get tested is to know their HIV status, as described in last month's The Fifth HIV Status. Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) is the only way you can be sure if you are non-reactive or reactive, positive or negative.

Engaging in risky sexual behaviors exposes us to HIV, as pointed out by LoveYourself's TSC or Triangle of Self-Care. This paradigm highlights three critical behaviors: timely testing and treatment, safe and satisfying sex, and correct and consistent use of condoms. Equipping ourselves with the know-how of safe and protected sex will lead us to a safe and satisfying sex life.

Now, what are those risky behaviors? Try answering the following questions in the naughty list with either yes or no.

  1. Are you sexually active, engaging in oral and/or penetrative sex?
  2. Have you had unprotected penetrative anal or vaginal sex without using a condom?
  3. Have you had multiple sex partners within the year?
  4. Have you had sex while you drunk or under the influence of drugs?
  5. Have you had sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or hepatitis B?
  6. Have you shared needles or other equipment to inject drugs?
  7. Have been accidentally pricked by a syringe needle?
  8. Do you have an open wound that was exposed to any body fluids (blood, vaginal and seminal fluids, and the likes)?

If you answered Yes to any of the questions above, you must consider having HIV test.

Now, here comes the nice list:

  1. Do you use condoms and water-based lubricant when engaging in penetrative anal or vaginal sex?
  2. Have you gotten yourself tested for HIV and now know your status?
  3. Are you in a mutually exclusive relationship?
  4. Do you know your sexual partner's status and are you sure of it?
  5. Do you only engage in protected sex without the influence of drugs or alcohol?

If you answered Yes to all questions above, continue these good sexual behaviors. Nonetheless, you're encouraged to have an HIV test as well.

When getting tested for HIV for the first time, you may feel anxious or maybe even scared. However, knowing your status will give you the upper hand to act on whatever the result. LoveYourself will help you every step of the way.

At LoveYourself clinics, you will be welcomed by smiling volunteers and be assisted by our capable counselors for your pre- and post-test counseling. Still worried? We guarantee that everything, from filling out the form to the giving of results, will be handled with strict confidentiality.

What's next after getting tested and knowing your status?

If you turned out to be non-reactive, get tested again three months from the day you engaged in unprotected sex and refrain from engaging in it again.

If negative, avoid risky sexual behaviors that may get you infected with HIV. Always practice safe and protected sex. Get tested regularly if you're sexually active.

If found reactive, your blood sample will undergo confirmatory testing at the DOH SACCL (STD and AIDS Central Cooperative Laboratory). Like those who turn out non-reactive and negative, you are encouraged to practice the Triangle of Self-Care.

If positive, you will be advised to undergo baseline blood tests, encouraged to practice a healthy lifestyle, and directed for treatment.

You can know your status at the LoveYourself clinics. We'll be more than happy to see you. LoveYourself Anglo and Uni are open Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 12 noon to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to to 2 p.m.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

LoveYourself Stages Play Highlighting the HIV/AIDS Crisis and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)

By Kris Tangco


Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are one of the groups vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS crisis the Philippines is facing. Addressing the plight of OFWs by highlighting and bringing awareness to their struggles, HIV awareness and advocacy group LoveYourself, in partnership with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) will be staging Care Divas, a play about the lives of five transgender OFWs.




Background on OFWs

The Filipino diaspora has brought an estimated total of 10.4 million ethnic Filipinos to seek opportunities abroad, roughly 2.3 million of which are OFWs[1]. As of 2015, OFW remittances sent home by Filipinos abroad amounted to almost 30 billion US Dollars[2], representing around more than 10% of the national economy. The Philippines is one of the world’s largest suppliers of human labor - in fact, the country is a pioneer in organized labor migration[3].

Deployment of Filipinos abroad started during the Martial Law years when legislation formally adopted a recruitment and placement program for sending Filipino workers for overseas work with the goal of “protecting the good name of the Philippines abroad[4].” The number of OFWs has steadily increased over the years, and now, the country trails behind giants, India and China, in the number of workers deployed overseas.

HIV/AIDS and OFWs

Migration enables Filipinos having difficulties finding sustainable local employment to find better opportunities and uplift their families’ economic conditions. However, along with the economic advantages that migration brings are various issues, including human rights issues and conditions that make migrant workers vulnerable to diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

As of October 2016, the number of OFWs who are people living with HIV (PLHIV) has reached 4,535, representing 12% of the total number of recorded HIV cases in the country. Males comprised majority of cases at 85%, 57% of which were MSMs.

The vulnerability of OFWs to HIV/AIDS is seen to largely follow the correlation between the spread of the virus and mobility[5]. At the same time, the issue of HIV/AIDS among OFWs is a contentious one, as they comprise the sector who undergo mandatory HIV/AIDS testing as a health requirement for employment. The problem of HIV/AIDS among OFWs is therefore twofold - workers become vulnerable to infection due to situations they may face from working overseas, and pre-employment HIV/AIDS testing is ethically questionable and can be used as a tool for discrimination[6].

Reasons for Vulnerability

Action for Health Initiatives, Inc. (ACHIEVE) , a non-stock, non-profit organization engaged in the development and implementation of programs addressing issues related to migration, health, gender, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS, released a study assessing the vulnerability of OFWs to HIV/AIDS[7]. A number of predisposing factors were identified, including a problematic level of knowledge on HIV/AIDS. Most respondents have heard of what HIV/AIDS is but misconceptions abound on how it is transmitted, including the notion that it is curable and only affects certain sectors of the population such as foreigners and LGBTs. This notion gives a lot of OFWs an attitude of invincibility - they develop the presumption that it is highly unlikely that they will acquire the infection as only certain sectors can be affected by the disease[8].

Low condom use is also a problem, with only 20% of male respondents using condoms. Feelings of loneliness, homesickness and social isolation[9] brought about by being in a foreign country, away from their families and friends, intensifies the need for belongingness, increasing the propensity among migrant workers to pursue romantic relationships or engaging in paid or unpaid sex. Furthermore, mandatory testing, more than ethically wrong, also contributes to vulnerabilities of migrant workers by misleading them to feel invincible if they test negative. This is especially true for those who have been tested repeatedly in the course of their overseas work[10].

Further adding to complications, some countries discriminatorily deport migrant workers who test positive for HIV/AIDS. This may lead workers to avoid getting tested, making it more difficult for them to access information and services. Migrants end up not knowing what their HIV status is, and as a result, may unknowingly transmit the infection to others. Access to health care may also not be universally provided to migrant workers in some countries. Undocumented migrant workers may also avoid using medical facilities for fear of being detected and arrested. The lack of access to health care also contributes to their vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS[11].

LoveYourself and Care Divas

Written by award-winning playwright Liza Magtoto, the play is a humorous and heartbreaking drama about five transgender OFWs in Israel who work as caregivers in the morning and morph into drag queen performers at night. While struggling to make ends meet overseas, the characters also struggle to search for freedom, acceptance, and love[12].

Performance is scheduled on February 5, Sunday, 3:00 p.m. at the PETA Theater Center along Eymard Drive in New Manila, Quezon City. Tickets are now available. Please send in your inquiries to caredivas@loveyourself.ph or check out the Facebook event page.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

JOB OPENING: Audio & Video Consultant, Scriptwriter, Photographer, and Shoot Coordinator for Regional City Based HIV Testing Campaign: TestXXX



APCOM has been engaged in responding to the urgent needs of MSM in Asia and the Pacific at both a policy and programmatic level. At a multi-stakeholder consultation on “Ending AIDS in Asia- Re-strategizing the MSM response” held 21-22 January 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand, UNAIDS RST-AP was tasked to coordinate a regional ‘Call to Action’. As a result, UNAIDS, UNDP and APCOM collaborated on a special MSM feature in the HIV in Asia Pacific: UNAIDS Report 2013 calling on partners to better “focus, invest, empower and mobilize” to provide innovative, tailored programming and effective responses to at- risk communities.

To ensure sustained action in response to the ‘Call to Action’, In 2013 APCOM received seed funding from UNAIDS and further assistance for Population Services International (PSI) Thailand to implement a pilot project for Regional City-Based HIV Testing Campaign: TestXXX, called TestBKK. APCOM would also like to roll this out to other cities in the region such as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Jakarta in Indonesia and Manila in the Philippines.

LoveYourself Inc. partnership with APCOM, is looking for (1) Audio & Video Consultant, (1) Scriptwriter, (1) Photographer, and (1) Shoot Coordinator who will developed/produced Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on HIV screening awareness, and prevention for Regional City Based HIV Testing Campaign: Test MNL.

Audio & Video Consultant

KEY QUALIFICATIONS
  • Post and/or Undergraduate degree of Communication, Journalism, Film, Theater or any similar discipline.
  • At least 2 years proven track record on developing and implementing effective video ad campaigns.
  • Must have an extensive experience in film production and creative industry, especially in filming, directing, location scouting, costume design and actors coaching.
  • Has extensive experience in developing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials for LGBT and HIV awareness.
  • Has the appropriate production equipment or can source out the needed video production equipment and materials to ensure production of quality videos.
  • Has the ability to develop a costing plan for visual ad campaign production.
  • Has enough qualified manpower to be involved in producing and finalizing the visual ad campaign materials.
  • Preferably based in Metro Manila.

Ad Campaign Scriptwriter

  • Must have an extensive experience in creative writing in film, television, and/or advertisement.
  • Post and/or Undergraduate degree of Communication, Journalism, Film, Theater, Creative Writing or any similar discipline.
  • At least 2 (two) years of proven track record of developing and designing effective script for video ad campaigns.
  • Has extensive experience in developing Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials for LGBT and HIV awareness.
  • Key skills includes creativity and the the ability to communicate a story to an audience, determination, persistence and self-motivation.
  • Preferably based in Metro Manila.

Photographer

  • Must have a Bachelor’s degree in any field.
  • Must have an extensive experience in photography, has an excellent portfolio of projects done for different campaigns.
  • At least 2 years of proven track record of developing and implementing effective photo ad campaign.
  • Key skills includes the artistic ability to create photographs that conveys the messages of the campaign, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, photo-editing skills, and photography shooting equipment.
  • Has the appropriate production equipment or can source out the needed photo shoot production equipment and materials to ensure production of quality visual ad campaign materials.
  • Preferably based in Metro Manila.

Shoot Coordinator

  • Must have a Bachelor’s degree in any field.
  • At least 2 years of proven track record of developing and implementing effective photo ad campaign.
  • Must have an extensive experience in commercial or editorial photography.
  • Understanding of photo production and photo studio workflows.
  • Experience and flexibility in accommodating frequently changing schedules.
  • Superior organizational skills and are very attentive to detail.
  • Strong inter-personal and customer service skills.
  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively.
  • Preferably based in Metro Manila.

FAIR HIRING POLICY

LoveYourself Inc. is an equal opportunity employer and highly encourages applicants from the gay, bisexual, and transgender community who have experience in non-profit and community development work.

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE

Interested applicants should submit an expression of interest (EOI) letter for the position they desired together with the applicant’s CV/resume, via e-mail to vinn@loveyourself.ph and cc: la@loveyourself.ph and icade@loveyourself.ph on or before January 22, 2017 (Sunday), 5:00 pm (PH time), addressed to Mr. Ronivin G. Pagtakhan Executive Director of LoveYourself Inc. technical review of documents will be done and the most qualified applicant will be contracted by LoveYourself Inc.

Monday, January 16, 2017

CARE DIVAS Makes a Comeback: A Fundraising Show for LoveYourself


By Carlos Diego A. Rozul and Christian Watson Vergara



LoveYourself Inc., in partnership with the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), will host the 3:00 p.m. show of the 2011 hit comedy musical Care Divas on February 5, 2017, Sunday, at the PETA Theater Center in New Manila, Quezon City to raise funds for LoveYourself’s continued services and projects.

The multi-awarded musical tells the tale of five transgender Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Israel who work as caregivers by day and fierce drag performers by night. The story goes beyond the struggles of our fellow Filipinos abroad as it tackles the search for acceptance in a faraway country.

Care Divas bagged seven trophies from the 2011 Gawad Buhay! Awards, including Outstanding Musical Production, Outstanding Ensemble Performance, Outstanding Male Lead in a Musical, Outstanding Musical Direction, Outstanding Original Libretto, Outstanding Stage Direction, and Outstanding Choreography for a Play or Musical.

This comeback retains all the elements that made Care Divas great, like the candid and witty lines written by the award-winning playwright Liza Magtoto, and the catchy musical scores of Vincent de Jesus. However, this is not the same show from six years ago. For PETA’s 50th anniversary, Care Divas is now brought to you by an all-new cast, which includes PETA’s tenacious theater artists: Melvin Lee, Vince De Jesus, Ron Alfonso, Dudz TeraƱa, Eko Baquial, Jason Barcial, Buddy Caramat, Gio Gahol, Joan Bugcat, Eric Dela Cruz, Joseph Madriaga, and Gold Villar, and guest artists Ophir Burton, Ricci Chan, Red Concepcion, Jef Flores, Paul Holme, Sherry Lara, Thou Reyes, Leo Rialp, and Myke Salomon.

“This partnership with PETA is also a great way of tapping the arts as a means to educate the public not just with the plight of OFWs but with the struggles of the LGBT community including the stigma on HIV and social limitations,” LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivinn G. Pagtakhan said.

Latest statistics from the Department of Health revealed that from January 1984 to November 2016, a total of 4,586 OFWs were reported to have contracted HIV, with a high incidence rate reported in males. “It’s very crucial that regular timely testing and treatment should be part of the wellness routine of every person despite of gender not just in the Philippines, but also those working abroad,” Pagtakhan emphasized.

While the hit-musical will run from February 3 to  March 19, only the 3:00 p.m. show on February 5 is dedicated to LoveYourself, a community of volunteers that aims to spread awareness and education with regards to HIV, self-worth, volunteerism, and everything in between. Initially a testing facility for HIV geared toward the young MSM community, LoveYourself has expanded its reach to all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions.

Pagtakhan relayed that “all proceeds of the show will support the organization’s clinic operations and activities as it pushes for HIV awareness and caters to the needs of people living with HIV.”

Recently, LoveYourself Inc. launched the Victoria Health and Wellness Center (VHWC) at Taft Avenue, the first transgender health clinic and testing center in the country, which will also benefit from the fundraising show.

If the compelling narrative, actors, production, and cause aren’t enough to convince you to watch the Care Divas February 5, 3:00 pm show, then maybe it being part of PETA’s 50th anniversary will. A brilliant MA thesis by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez in 1967 envisioned a National Theater Movement in the Philippines. Now, 50 years later, PETA is celebrating its golden anniversary. PETA offers everyone a chance to be part of this huge milestone by kicking off their golden year with one of their most highly acclaimed musicals. This is an invitation to witness an amazing and meaningful show for a cause.

For the February 5, 3:00 p.m. show ticket reservations, you may contact the show coordinators through this email address: caredivas@loveyourself.ph or these mobile numbers: 0917-840-0943, 0917-795-3398, 0915-127-5931 and 0977-386-178.  Tickets are at P1,800 (VIP), P1,500 (Orchestra Center), P1,200 (Orchestra Sides), P1,500 (Balcony Center), and P800 (Balcony Sides).