Sunday, May 06, 2018

BEAR-ing it All for Visibility at This is Me: Brave and Free

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

More and more people are joining in to support the campaign as the Philippines’ first community-led multi-site HIV testing day draws near. Three bold men are stepping up towards a big change for the community. Ian Carandang who owns a dessert shop and makes ice cream for a living, Den Viagedor who works in a BPO in Taguig, and Dennis Roda who works as a corporate trainer as well as an LGBT rights advocate came together in supporting This is Me: Brave and Free on May 26, 2018.

Joining the Campaign

Den in particular joined the campaign as his first step in taking action in the HIV advocacy  “I think it’s great that the Filipino community is adapting to this kind of campaign. I really want to represent the (bear) community for HIV because personally I have someone close in my life na nagkaroon ng HIV.” Den shared.

Given the conservative culture of many Filipinos, Ian voices out how topics such as HIV need to be normalized. “These types of campaigns where it raises the awareness and makes it part of normal conversation is so important. Especially the phrase “This is Me” it’s something that all people can relate to.” Ian exclaimed. Openly discussing these topics can make for a more accepting environment. Dennis emphasized how being able to express our whole selves in all environments can make us one of the best assets we can be wherever we are. “Everyone should take the responsibility of having a voice, making sure that we can stand up for what’s right for both yourself and for others.” said Dennis.

Overall, Ian, Den, and Dennis joined the campaign as they believe in its the importance by bringing a message of inclusivity, visibility, awareness, and empowerment in HIV testing among the LGBT community.

Being Brave and Free

The three share how the moments leading up to knowing your status can be an anxious experience, and emphasize how it can be overcome. “I think it’s very empowering to be able to own your own health and your own being, choosing to know more about yourself and about your status. Feeling disempowered to do that actually takes away your ability to become the healthiest version of yourself” Dennis said.

Ian gives a sense of urgency in knowing your status so we can quickly move towards a more peaceful state of mind. “The thing is that you have to own it whether you find out that you’re positive or negative - you move forward and shouldn’t be ashamed. Part of it is being open about it; if someone asks me about my HIV status I would gladly discuss it although it is a personal choice.” Ian says. Den emphasized this point even more as he said, “Kahit na alam mong wala ka namang ginagawa. It’s good that you get tested and know your status so you know how to better take care of yourself.”

Shouting out THIS IS ME!

The group had similar ideas on how they can encourage someone to get tested and be proud of how they are. Most of which revolved around authenticity. “I’m just open about myself. I don’t hide anything, this is who I am - what you see is what you get. If anyone asks me, I would answer any questions because I am not ashamed.” said Ian.

For Dennis, the path to  wholeness is a journey especially in the bear community. “Already, the bear community is underrepresented. To be able to step out of the shadows and actually get a test can be a scary thing, but it’s also one of the most important things you can do for yourself. For the most part, own yourself, own who you are. When you take that step slowly you can become your most complete.” Dennis shared.

Their message of authenticity is a testament to the experience of many of us who are coming to terms with ourselves One of the steps towards this can be daring to know our self, and exploring facets of our life that we may have otherwise ignored.


The stage is set for you, lovers. Join us at This is Me: Brave and Free - the first community-led multi-stie HIV testing day launching on May 26, 2018. Join in the celebration of self-care by bringing your courage to community based organizations (Juan Positive Movement, HIV & AIDS Support House, Inc, Decent Image of South Signal Association, Cavite Positive Action Group, GAYON, Project H4, Kagay-an PLUS, and Olympus Society of Davao) alongside LoveYourself (LoveYourself Anglo, LoveYourself Uni, and Victoria by LoveYourself). Get to know your status with the fast, free, and confidential community based-screening process.

Go to https://bitly.com/ThisIsMe2018 to sign up and you’ll receive a confirmation notice in a few days!
_________________________________________________________________
Carlos Diego is an HIV counselor and the Head of Editorial for LoveYourself. Outside of volunteering, he is a clinical audiology student and a registered psychometrician. He aims to facilitate a deeper meaning to health by discussing the importance of aural, sexual, and mental health.