Friday, August 24, 2018

Safe Spaces PH: Because Everybody Needs One

By Jhemarie Arca
One of the core principles of LoveYourself’s Triangle of Self-Care (TSC), emphasizes the importance of Correct and Consistent Condom use. Your sexual health and wellness is a basic right, you should never feel ashamed or worried whenever you buy these essentials. You may be aware of the free condoms provided by the government and specific clinics but these areas might be too far from home. There are time you just wish that these concerns can be answered easily, like a snap of your fingertips.
It’s time you let go of these worries away because you can now have the answer with just a click away - Safe Spaces PH!
What is Safe Spaces PH?
Safe Spaces PH is a growing initiative of LoveYourself Inc. together with partnering establishments and organizations all around the metro. The project aims to provide a series of sex positive places where you can get free condoms and lubes without the worry of being judged.
Safe Spaces in Metro Manila as of August 2018
“The government offers condoms for free not just as contraceptive, but more importantly as a protection against contracting HIV and STIs. We just have to mobilize its distribution to ensure that we really target and reach the right market or people,” LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan shared.
Safe Spaces PH are everywhere within and outside of Metro Manila with a total of 41 partnering establishments and counting.
These places are distinguished by the logo displayed at the establishment’s entrance.
Getting free condoms and lubes is as easy as 1,2,3: enter, look for the dispenser, and get what you need. No requirement for human interaction, drop by and leave as you please.
Safe Spaces PH is a Click Away
Safe Spaces PH is now a mobile application that you can download via Google Play Store or and App Store. This user friendly app comes with the following features:
  • Shows a detailed map of all the Safe Spaces near you
  • Contact details of the establishment you want to visit
  • Complete schedule of the establishment you want to visit
  • Status of the condom and lubricant supply
  • Comment and rating feature to evaluate your experience and suggestions.

Join the Safe Spaces PH Community
More than the free supply of condom and lube, Safe Spaces PH values the importance of security and safety. If you know an individual, group, or establishment that is interested to join the Safe Spaces PH community, you may email
Jhemarie is simple observer who learned how to weave stories before she can actually read, Jhem discovered the beauty of storytelling at an early age along with the reality of loss, death, hope, and truth of life. Realizing stories are her fuel, she blogs, writes, and immerse herself in as much human interaction as possible knowing she'll gain and exchange stories with other people along the way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

LoveYourself "Switch"

By Tino Largado and Almzora Dzire

We at LoveYourself have always passionately striven to be a safe and affirming space, particularly for males who have sex with males (MSMs) and other members of the LGBT. Now, we are excited to launch a project that reinforces and enriches the core of who we are, this time welcoming and supporting people living with HIV (PLHIV), whether newly-diagnosed, or diagnosed for some time now, in or out of treatment. Through a project called “Switch,” we are opening our doors to PLHIVs who wish to undertake their treatment at a safe and affirming private facility of LoveYourself. Treatment services at LoveYourself, like in government-run treatment hubs, are offered free of charge.

Under “Switch,” PLHIVs enrolled will have free access to the same high quality services provided to our existing clients. Aside from our cadre of expert HIV doctors and nurses, we will also make available to new clients under “Switch” our highly-trained and experienced life coaches who will be there to regularly engage clients in non-judgmental, open, and empowering conversations. Life coaching services at LoveYourself are provided for free.

But why “Switch”?

We are rolling out project “Switch” to provide more PLHIVs easy access to high quality treatment and support, in a private and community-run facility. We believe that by opening our treatment services to more people, we can further our desire to be that safe and affirming space to the community. The LoveYourself treatment centers are accessible being just a few minutes walk from a train station, and are open on weekends to accommodate people who are busy during weekdays. For the same reason, we have also established time-efficient express services for antiretroviral drugs (ARV) dispensing.

LoveYourself is the only community organization in the Philippines that runs HIV testing and treatment facilities which are DOH-certified and Philhealth-accredited. Click here to sign up for the "Switch"
When not juggling BPO work and HIV advocacy, Tino is a self-confessed TV addict and Broadway musical fanatic. He thinks he’s an old soul, perhaps a sitcom actor in his past life, trapped in a selfie-obsessed man-boy suit.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Circle of Love 7: Seven is Never Enough

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

Hundreds of LoveYourself volunteers reunited this August 11, 2018 at Hotel H2O to celebrate seven years of continual victories in the HIV advocacy. Since LoveYourself’s establishment in 2011, the organization has many successes to be proud of. Volunteers took time to reflect upon their collective efforts to reach the goals they set out for themselves.

I remember the day when we held our first HIV testing activity, and we weren’t even allowed by doctors from the Health Department to counsel by ourselves. They said we weren’t ready [despite the fact that we were more than prepared for it]” shared LoveYourself Executive Director, Vinn Pagtakhan

Pagtakhan kicked off the night with a heartwarming speech once again emphasizing that the volunteers are the heart of the organization. Amidst the harsh rainfall, Pagtakhan raised the spirits of his one thousand stronghold of volunteers to rally on towards normalization of HIV testing and living with HIV. This event is meant to revitalize the morale of the volunteers by taking a break from operational concerns for one night.

The highlight of the night was the Miss. LoveYourself Pageant where select volunteers from each batch went head to head in a battle of wit and beauty for the coveted title. Inspired by the Miss International, Miss World, and Miss Universe pageants that many follow, the top three finalists were awarded custom crowns made by The Improvised Crowns that mirrored the iconic styles of each pageant circuit.

Special guests graced the halls as judges for the pageant. Ms. Vanessa Singson, Mr. John Herrera, Mr. Don Cristobal, Dr. Lloyd Brendan Norella, and Ms. Ana Ramsey were the esteemed panel of judges that determined the ultimate Ms. LoveYourself Universe 2018 queens.

Indeed the night showered everyone with love with some volunteers even sharing amazing performances during the intermission times. The fighting spirit lives on for years to come.

Circle of Love 7 is presented by Save the Children, Victoria Court, Okamoto, Ever Bilena Cosmetics, DSTNQT Quality Trends Co., Adult Toys Store, BAICAPTURE, Bliss Four, La Jenunesse Aesthetics and Lifestyle Center, The Improvised Crowns, iSkin Aesthetics, Mama Sita’s, Belo Men, Slenda, Metro Juan, Nectar, Jungle Circuit Party, Vita Coco, Hoja de Laurel, Phibrows Manila by Ms. Rowena Pino, KH Aesthetics by Mr. Kristian Haden, Amistad Spa, MP School of Make Up Artistry, Cazuela Spanish Colonial Cuisine, DC Fashion Studio, and the Office of the Vice Mayor of Mandaluyong.
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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Queens Advocacy: Pursuing Passions

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

When Catriona Gray landed in the top 5 and bagged the Beauty with a Purpose award in Miss World 2016, she was recognized for her passionate work in Paraiso Bright Beginnings Project. Since then she has gone on to not only win the Miss Universe-Philippines crown to represent the country later in December, but has also added the HIV advocacy as one of her top passion projects.

Catriona Gray talking to select volunteers
Photo by: Catriona Gray
When a friend of mine passed away from AIDS-related complications. It really caught me off guard because he never told anyone about it. There was this ‘hush’ over his condition and he suffered in silence. That's really what drove me to do something to be able to help others not reach the same fate.” ~Catriona Gray, Miss Universe - Philippines

In July 2017, Catriona expanded her advocacy work when she supported internal events in LoveYourself and sharing her knowledge and experience to continually inspire volunteers. The HIV advocacy has been close to her heart ever since her friend passed away from AIDS-related complications. She wanted to move forward and make a change the public's perception of HIV.

Catriona Gray co-hosting Love Gala 2017
I'm honoured to lend my voice to the cause (literally) but I hope that in my participation, all of those around me my circle of friends and family and those who follow me - can become aware too. I'm a part of the ripple effect and that makes me feel empowered and proud.” ~Gray

Catriona joined in celebrating World AIDS Day at the Love Gala on December 1, 2017. As one of the co-hosts for the event, she was honored to participate in Asia’s Premier Charity and Awards Gala and bore witness to the first Ripple Awards.

Cationa Gray supporting Fit to Love
By removing the stigma, we can fight HIV & AIDS and not the people suffering from it. No one should die because of collective ignorance. We are capable of change, or learning and educating. We are all human and we all love.” ~Gray

On March 2018, Catriona continued to support LoveYourself’s projects towards empowering self-love. At the photoshoot campaign Fit To Love, she emphasized that everyone has the innate ability to show and receive love no matter one’s HIV status. During the Philippines’ first community-led multi-site HIV testing day in May 2018, Catriona surprised volunteers as she joined the registration committee in welcoming participants.

Signing of the the Paris Declaration to Fast Track Cities: Ending the AIDS Epidemic
Photo by: Carlos Diego A. Rozul
“It took losing a good friend of mine at the age of 26. It just didn’t seem fair that at that age, you haven’t even been given the chance to go about your life, to pursue your dream, to pursue your career that your life is just snatched away from you by something that could have been prevented.” ~Gray

This August 9, 2018, Taguig City in partnership with UNAIDS, LoveYourself, and The Red Whistle signed the Paris Declaration to Fast-Track Cities: Ending the AIDS Epidemic. Catriona together with actor JC Santos bared witness to the event and is in full support of achieving the 90-90-90 vision. The project aims that by 2020, 90% of Filipinos in Taguig City will know their HIV status, 90% of those who test reactive enroll into antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of those in treatment achieve a suppressed viral load.

When one takes the opportunity to pursue their passions, it’s amazing what one can really do. Would you follow suit? Click here to sign up as one of LoveYourelf’s stronghold of volunteers.
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.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Matching Safety With Satisfaction: Choosing Condoms

By Jeffrey Venzuela
Have you ever heard people say , “Since sex became easier to get, love has become harder to find”? In these modern times, finding dates can be fast and easy with the use of dating apps. A few taps here and a few swipes there, you'll find a match. Whether you’re looking for love or a casual hook-up. It's inevitable that you'll meet guys who don’t want the same things as you do. Yes, it may lead to disappointment. They may even end up breaking your heart. But you can't always protect yourself from that. What you can protect yourself from is contracting HIV and other STIs.
One action you can take to prevent any additional hurt is to do timely testing and treatment.Having the initiative to know your status every three months after a possible exposure can be part of your self-care regimen. And there are even more when you live in the Triangle of Self-Care. There’s practicing safe and satisfying sex, exploring what satisfies you while still maintaining your safety. And completing the triangle is correct and consistent use of condoms and lube.
However, not everyone manages to uphold the Triangle of Self-Care. In 2015, the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH) investigated condom use among males who have sex with males (MSMs). Results show that some men do not use condoms due to the perception that it can decrease pleasure, that without them, the sensations are heightened and better. Some even implied that the use of condom can be painful and putting it on takes them away from the heat of the moment. Some participants even admit that the desire for pleasure overtakes the need for protection.
New Condom Options!
This shows how there is a misconception that the use of condoms automatically decrease sexual pleasure. Sex can still be satisfying with a condom on. It’s just a matter of finding the right one that works for you and your partner. It’s 2018 and technology is continuously improving the products we use, and that includes condoms. Okamoto, a Japanese company and global brand, have dedicated themselves to innovating condoms, prioritizing thinness and softness as much as they do safety.
“To help you let go and truly enjoy sex without compromising quality and safety,” that is Okamotos goal. They developed a material they call Sheerlon, which they claim is thinner and stronger than any condom out in the market. Keeping with its namesake, the latex is 0.03 millimeters thin from top to bottom. It feels as if you’re not wearing anything at all! They are also colorless. Combined with its thinness, the condoms are almost transparent. Another thing that makes these bad boys stand out is that they are odorless. Okamoto have managed to remove that rubber smell usually found in latex condoms.
Their latex condoms come in three variants: 003 Platinum, 003 Real Fit, and 003 Aloe.
003 Platinum
The 003 Platinum comes with an “easy rolling” technology for easy usage. Putting it on a condom has never been smoother. It surely won’t mess with your flow.
003 Real fit
The 003 Real Fit aims to bring maximum sensation as it is designed to adhere to the penis’s natural shape. It has no receptacle tip so no need to remind to pinch the tip. Just roll it onto the penis and you’d notice how it fits just right, especially on the head.
003 Aloe
What makes 003 Aloe stand out is it comes pre-coated with a water-based lubricant enriched with Aloe Vera. The plant extract, famous for its use in skincare, brings in a different kind of moisture, avoiding dryness and irritation of you and your partner’s skin.
Condom Use
Of course, these innovative condoms alone will not do the job for you. There are certain habits you need to follow to enhance your sexual experience without compromising your safety.
  1. Avoid using your teeth to tear open the condom wrappers. There’s a chance that you’ll bite the condom within the wrapper as well, ripping it as you tear the wrapper open. If you must use your teeth (slippery lubed hands and all), make sure you squeeze the side of the packaging to push the condom aside.
  2. Always use appropriate lubricants before and after putting on a condom. Coating the penis with lube enhances the sensation for the person wearing the condom. Also keep in mind that latex condoms work best with water-based or silicone-based lubricants. Oil-based products will increase the chances of your condom breaking.
  3. Pinch the tip. This makes sure that there’s no air bubble at the receptacle end of the condom. The presence of air inside the condom during sex may build up pressure and cause the condom to break.
  4. Make sure to change condoms when changing positions, or partners. The mouth, vagina, and the anus are orifices involved during sex. It is important to change condoms when penetrating one after the other. You don’t want to introduce the microbes from the anus to the vagina or to the mouth.  
  5. Avoid using two condoms at the same time (double bagging). While a lot of people believe this is one way to ensure safety, it’s actually the opposite. The friction between the two synthetic materials may cause breakage, exposing you and your partner to risk.
  6. Do not reuse condoms. A worn condom, no matter how vanilla your sex was or how much lube you have used, has already been subjected to friction. Using at again has a higher chance of it tearing.
  7. Be consistent. Condoms should be worn all throughout whenever there’s penetration involved. That also includes oral sex. The presence of even the smallest cuts or sores (singaw) in the mouth can be a portal of infection.

Love may be worth the risk but making love surely doesn’t have to be. Just as we protect our hearts, we can also take measure in protecting our sexual health. There are a lot of options for condoms today, not just by brand, but also by design, flavor, size, and thickness. There are also varieties of lubricants out there. Start your personal journey of mastering the balance between safe and satisfying and correct and consistent use of condoms. Remember, when it comes to sex, safety is sexy.

Okamoto is available at Lazada, 7-Eleven, Watsons, Family Mart, Robinsons Supermarket, PCX and Nice & Nawty

Images by Gab Calderone
Jeffrey is a pleasure-seeking guy who loves eating out and drinking with friends. He can't sing but has an eclectic taste in music. Current obsessions: Bleachers and First Aid Kit. He plays Suikoden 2 and for nostalgia and watches One Tree Hill for comfort. Jeffrey goes to Taco Bell because he's not on an all-carb diet.