Friday, August 16, 2019

All Ready and Set: Batch Isetu Takes on the Advocacy as LoveYourself's Batch 23

By Robert Cimbracruz and Tino Largado

New volunteers from Batch Isetu attend the orientation held for the first time at Zendesk Philippines.
A total of 41 new volunteers officially joined LoveYourself in an orientation event held on July 20, 2019 at Zendesk Philippines, Bonifacio Global City, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

Bearing the name Isetu, this fresh wave of volunteers were welcomed by a group of volunteers led by HIV Counselor Cedric Labiano. It stands as the second batch of volunteers joining LoveYourself, and the 23rd overall in the organization’s eighth year. The day-long orientation event officially marked the start of Batch Isetu’s journey of promoting education to eradicate stigma, fostering self-love and self-care, and serving the community.

As LoveYourself remains resolute in its mission of embracing, nurturing, and promoting self-worth to create ripples of positive change in the community, enlisting the new volunteers of Batch Isetu will surely strengthen this cause. According to Labiano, "The new batch is a new hope for the organization to continue its mission." He added, "A new batch of volunteers means additional passion to help break the stigma against HIV. I hope Batch Isetu will be selfless in supporting the causes of LoveYourself."

Starts With an “I”, Ends With a “You”

LoveYourself has kept a tradition of naming volunteer batches in varying themes every year. Beginning in 2018, batch names were inspired from “love across the globe” showcasing how different languages express different iterations of love. It began with Atma Prema, (Sanskrit for “ unconditional self-love”), Upendo (Swahili  translation of “love”), and Meraki, (a Greek concept of “doing something with soul, creativity, and love.” 

This theme carries on this year, as is the case for the preceding batch Kauna Kai, a phrase from the Hausa dialect in Western Africa translating to self-love. 

From love, we’re shifting slightly to how it reflects in volunteerism. Isetu, derived from setu is an Estonian word for selfless, a quality closely associated with volunteerism. Selflessness is the ability to reach out without expecting anything in return. It marks a person's immeasurable care for the people they serve.

In enlisting as new LoveYourself volunteers, members of Batch Isetu embrace the idea of incorporating self-love into the selfless act of volunteerism: by learning how to fully value and care for oneself, the effect becomes one that radiates love to others in the community. Self-love, therefore, transforms into a selfless act of championing positive change for others who need it.
Batch Isetu logo, designed by TJ Monzon.

A New Flock Taking Flight

LoveYourself Visual Communications’ Rick James “TJ” Monzon continues on an impressive task of designing the official logo for Batch Isetu, weaving symbols and values together into an emblem the batch can carry.

Isetu is being symbolized by a Griffin. This mythical creature embodies Isetu in many ways for its boldness and bravery. Exemplifying such qualities, a Griffin is usually portrayed as a leader of a movement. Thus, Batch Isetu takes on a selfless role as a group of volunteers who are committed to lead the community with empathy and compassion for others and self.

The flight of the mighty griffin is captured in a triangle, which is descriptive of the Triangle of Self-Care we advocate at LoveYourself. At the center is a smaller, upside down triangle suggesting gravity—a symbol of humility and strength, how the batch is both inspired and tasked to remain grounded in their chosen volunteer work, yet powerful in combating challenges and hurdles.

Wilbert Berboseo, Hans Christian Go, Dom Nikolai Kalbit, (Prefect Peer) James Abel Cabio, and Greyzie Bautista huddle quickly at the end of the event.
Ready, Set, and Hyped Up to Go

The dynamic, energetic atmosphere throughout the event got the new volunteers hyped into the taking on the tasks they’re about to take as new members of the ever-growing LoveYourself family. “The orientation was fun, informative and also very moving,” shares Hans Go, one of the new volunteers. He adds, “It allowed [us] to get to know the Organization, the batch, and also each other, individually. It’s an amazing starting point for us.

Fresh faces from Batch Isetu are indeed set to volunteer at LoveYourself community centers. Like them, you can sign up here and be part of LoveYourself.

Photos taken by Jemuel Titan, provided by Cedric Labiano

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Triangle of Self Care: Tales of Timely Testing and Treatment

By Jacob

The wet season has finally come and as it pours isn’t it nice to stay indoors, relax with the person we’re comfortable with and just Netflix and chill?. But it’s important to keep in mind that sex is not just about pleasure, but also health. That’s why practicing a healthy sexual lifestyle  is in your best interest as it keeps you and your partner safe. 

LoveYourself created a healthy sexual lifestyle guide called the “Triangle of Self-Care” or TSC. It’s comprised of three easy steps: (1) Timely testing and treatment, (2) Safe and satisfying sex, and (3) Correct and consistent use of condoms. It’s simple, effective, and will take you a long way in your sexual conquest.

For most it’s not easy to get themselves tested for HIV  because of the stigma attached to it. But we need to know our status so we can do what we need to move on. We can get tested again after the window period and continue safer sex options if negative, or pursue treatment and aim to be undetectable if positive.

Photo by Jacob
Noel's First Time

Noel (not his real name) is a college student who got himself tested in March and he was brave enough to share his experience in getting tested.

Just like most people, Noel was nervous when he first got tested. He even described himself as broody while waiting for his turn. But after that first time experience he says it’s like he’s grown for the better because he plans to take care of his health by regularly getting tested. 

“I want to take care of my health because I there’s so many things I want to do and I have to make sure my health is as well as my drive. That’s why I really plan on continuing getting tested ‘regularly’ to be safe” Noel promised to himself.

Getting tested every three months is best for the test to be 100% accurate. Because it’s after that period of time that the body has produced enough antibodies to be detected by the test.

In April, Noel got himself tested in LoveYourself Welcome for the second time. He came back three months after his first time getting tested in November.

“Last time I got tested my counselor and I talked about my sex life and HIV. It’s because he told me about the window period that I came back here (LoveYourself Uni)” Noel told. The job of a counselor is to educate their patients about healthy sexual life style and encourage change to the patient that is in their best interest.

Noel said that getting tested every after three months wasn’t a hassle and even said that getting tested in LoveYourself was fun because of its volunteers.

“It’s not a hassle for me at all because it’s just every three months and the test itself is quick. Another is that getting tested here (LoveYourself Welcome) is fun because of the volunteers, they’re really funny. I think it helps to lighten up the atmosphere” Noel told.

“Timely Treatment and Testing”, from the name itself doing it TIMELY is the most important thing. Which means getting tested after the window period to effectively monitor one’s sexual health health.

Matthew's Treatment Experience

TSC belives that treatment adherence and lead to prevention of HIV transmission for People Living with HIV (PLHIV). Mathew (not his real name) is in his thirties and for two years now, he’s been living with HIV. He says that he had make some changes in his lifestyle to cope with his situation.

He says in the first month of his treatment he would get sleepy whenever he would take his medication.

“It was very taxing for me especially for my job which requires me to work past midnight” Mathew said.

So he scheduled his medication where his work will not be bothered. “I would take my medications every day after work so the sleepiness will work when I get home” Mathew enthusiastically said.

Over time those side effects subsided, but Mathew still takes it at the same schedule. He’s very careful not to miss a single dose that’s why he has an alarm set up. Mathew would always take it with an empty stomach, and after two hours would eat.

For PLHIV taking their treatments is of the utmost importance to keep their immune system up. To reach an undetectable status, it is important to pursue treatment through antiretroviral treatment (ART) to prevent the advancement of the virus. ART help mitigate the spread of HIV in the body as low as possible until that person reaches an “Undetectable” stage a stage where a person can no longer transmit the virus through unprotected sexual contact and breastfeeding.  Currently, Mathew goes on with his life as if he’s just like everyone else “I still value and love myself. I still work and in pursuit of my dreams” Mathew said calmly.
Photo from
Putting It All Together

All these people went through their own journey that made them realize their own reasons to take care of themselves more than they used to. LoveYourself offers free and confidential HIV testing, pre and post test counseling, and treatment for all regardless of sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. Moreover, LoveYourself Anglo offers life coaching services for newly diagnosed PLHIV clients enrolled in its treatment program to guide them in their journey towards acceptance of self and proper health management.
Jacob is a front lines kind of man. In my advocacy and passion I've always been vocal and one to take action. As an openly gay man who is also a marvel fanatic I live by the words "Mutant and proud".

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

LoveYourself Partners with Anytime Fitness as a Safe Space for Filipinos

By LoveYourself Communications

MANDALUYONG CITY –LoveYourself, Inc. widens “Safe Spaces PH’s” distribution of free condoms and lubes to non-judgmental spaces in Metro Manila and nearby provinces as it partners with the country’s leading 24/7 fitness center, Anytime Fitness (AF).

LoveYourself program manager for Safe Spaces PH, Joseph Cadelina said that Anytime Fitness was chosen as a “safe space” due to its effort to help fight the stigma attached to condoms and lubricants use, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Recalling a meeting with AF’s Marketing Officer, Tony Carmona said “We want to break the usual gym stereotype of being a facility that only focuses on making your body look good. Gyms aren’t just for macho men that want to bulk and build muscles. We strive to be an inclusive & diverse gym that welcomes all people from different fitness levels, while promoting a holistic lifestyle that includes being healthy and active.”

Safe Spaces Dispenser on the Gym Floor Anytime Fitness Uptown Bonifacio
“Their focus was on health and fitness, and their openness to the maintenance of sexual health as part of a healthy individual is one of their core values. Plus, they get to help fight the stigma surrounding condoms and the HIV,” he added.

Cadelina informed that the partnership between LoveYourself Inc. and Anytime Fitness has started when the advocacy group held one of its off-site HIV education in one of the wellness center’s facilities in Mandaluyong City. The renewed partnership aims to provide free condoms and lubricants to interested clients in some select facilities of the fitness center.

The “Safe Spaces PH” kits are available at 17 branches of Anytime Fitness. For Metro Manila, it’s available at the center’s facility in Alabang Westgate, Araneta Cubao, BGC Burgos Circle, BGC High Street, Caloocan, Eastwood, Grace Mall, Madison Galleries, Roxas Blvd., Uptown Bonifacio and Vertis North.

Safe Spaces Dispenser at the Manager’s Office of Anytime Fitness Uptown Bonifacio
Overflowing lubes and condoms are also given for free at Anytime Fitness outside Manila branches, specifically in Cherry Antipolo, Lower Antipolo, Fitness Rosario, Bacoor Molino, Calamba and Tagaytay.

The Safe Spaces PH is a mobile application technology created by LoveYourself to help individuals who wish to access free condoms and lubricants as a way to protect oneself from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

More safe spaces are found in the premises of private places in select schools, spas, restaurants and other private establishments.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Pinoy PLHIV Youth Chronicles - Journey to Self-Worth

By Rael Bustamante and Ronald Bugarin

The Philippines has yet to reach the plateau when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV). The numbers are still growing and what is more alarming is the fact that there are more younger persons diagnosed with HIV.  

According to the April 2019 HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines published by the Department of Health - Epidemiology Bureau, HIV infection among the age group of 15 - 24 nearly doubled from 17% in the ten-year period of 2000-2009 as compared to the last ten-year period (2010-2019) at 29%.

From these figures, 96% of adolescents diagnosed with HIV were infected via unprotected sexual contact.  Some attribute the increase to the lack of a solid sex education system in our country as well as the conservative view of most Filipinos about sex which stigmatizes the use of contraceptive so much so that the youth of today are disempowered to choose safer sexual practices. 

We have chronicled the lives of two young PLHIVs to have a better and clearer picture on the struggles they face upon learning of their HIV status, their friends and family’s reaction to it and the effects of treatment in their young lives.  For their protection, especially on their HIV status and identity, we have changed the interviewees’ name.

In Photo: Rael having an interview with Chris
Chris, a 17 year old Culinary Arts student currently enrolled for treatment at Victoria by LoveYourself believes that he got infected because he was unprepared for his first sexual encounter and agreed to it hastily atnd aggressively.  He got himself tested since his unprotected encounter made him overthink things and put undue stress on him. This eventually affected his studies so to finally appease his mind, he decided to have himself tested for HIV.   He was hoping that he was spared from being infected as the first 2 initial test came out nonreactive.  On his third test at LoveYourself Uni, he came face to face with the reality of being a young PLHIV.

Enzo, a 24 year old young professional who is having his treatment at LoveYourself Anglo was diagnosed at the age of 21.  He just graduated from college when he was diagnosed. He feels that when he gives his entire self to someone else, he will be accepted for who he is filling the huge hole inside him. In his pursuit of validation, his encounters with various sexual partners were mostly unprotected since he was allergic to latex condoms.  Like Chris, Enzo initially tested nonreactive until his window period ended finally caught up with him.

Dealing with the News 

Chris narrated that when he learned  of his status, his mind went blank. “During that night, ako yung last na dumating dun sa testing area. I wasn’t shocked, hindi ako gulat. Kasi ayun, sa sobrang pag-iisip ko naisip ko na yung possibilities at mga pwedeng mangyari. (During that night, I was the last one to arrive at the testing area. I wasn’t shocked because of my overthinking, I was able to figure out the possibilities and the things that could happen)” At that time, thoughts about his future rushed in, if he can still pursue a career which demands the strictest of safety and sanitation protocols despite the fact that he was a PLHIV.  He also feared the stigma his status might have if his family and friends learned about it.  

For Enzo, he felt like his world crumbled when he was informed of his status.  He didn’t know how to react, he just recalled being teary eyed and silent. At that time he thought of taking his life so that he won’t suffer the consequences of being HIV positive since he was preoccupied with the stigma that comes with his HIV status. However, his mother occupied his mind at that time. She became his motivation to keep on going. He wanted to make her proud but given that he was just a fresh graduate at that time, he became wary of his future and if he would be able to get a career with his HIV status.


Coping with HIV 

One thing Chris and Enzo learned in coping with HIV is that they had to contend with it on their own and having someone to confide with their situation helped them with their psychological and emotional struggles. That is why they both confided with their friends first upon learning their HIV status since they felt the need to release their emotional burden. For Chris, his friends became his support system in a way that whenever he feels melancholic about his current situation, he is able to talk about it to them -- he is able to flush it out of his system. He said that there was an instance that he would just stare blankly on something and then out of nowhere felt sad. He has his friends behind his back to release these negative thoughts. Enzo found comfort in his friends since someone constantly checks on him from time to time.  He recalls:  “When I first got diagnosed, sinabi ko agad iyon sa closest friends ko. It helped a lot sa akin na may nakakaalam since may nagchecheck at nangangamusta sa akin. (When I first got diagnosed, I told about it to my closest friends. It helped having someone who knows about my status since there are people who checks up on me)” He felt that he is loved and cared for.

As to disclosing their status to their family, Chris still struggles to open up about his HIV status because he is afraid of disappointing his parents and that he does not want to bring forth another problem to them. He believes that the current struggles he has with his parents were rooted from the moment he came out to them which he believes that he is just being tolerated and has yet to be accepted.  Chris narrated: “We don’t talk about it pero alam mo yun, sabi nga ng iba, tolerated lang but not totally accepted. (We don’t talk about it [me being gay] but it feels like, as what others would say, you’re just tolerated but not totally accepted)” It took six months before Enzo finally mustered enough courage to disclose his status to his Mom.  Since he just graduated, Enzo had to disclose his status to his Mom to get financial assistance for his treatment.  He is really thankful that his Mom understood his situation and accepted and cared for him with unconditional love and support.

Dealing with Treatment

Chris and Enzo both knew the importance of treatment and how it can make their lives normal and achieve what they dream for in life. They have physically and mentally prepared themselves their treatment might entail.  Chris mentioned: “Ang naisip ko lang noon is that it is required, it’s necessary na parang importante siya for me. Kasi, marami akong gustong gawin sa buhay and for me to do that, I need to do this. (The first thing that came to my mind is that it [getting treated for HIV] is required and that it is important for me. I want to do lots of things in my life and for me to be able to do that, I need to do this.)”  Chris was lucky to have a Counselor and Life Coach to guide him throughout the whole treatment process. Unfortunately for Enzo he got diagnosed in a testing site where there is no Counselor to help him.  He enrolled himself to treatment on his own with the assistance and guidance of his Mom. 

Chris was also lucky that his allowance was sufficient to cover for the baseline laboratory tests, required prophylaxis and contribution to Philhealth which are needed to start with his treatment.  He is grateful that he has been able to save enough to cover for all the needed expenses prior to treatment. Enzo on the other hand, was forced to disclose his status to his Mom since he cannot afford the expenses for his treatment.


Lessons Learned

Chris and Enzo sometimes wish that they can go back in time to when they were still nonreactive. On a positive note, their being reactive meant meeting amazing people whom they are grateful for helping them get through the most challenging aspect of their young lives. 

Chris and Enzo wants the youth of today to learn from their experience as a young PLHIV about loving yourself, self-worth and being contented. As Chris puts it: “Don’t depend on someone’s affection to find your happiness. Kasi yung happiness mahahanap mo naman sa friends mo, sa sarili mo. (Because happiness can be found in your friends, even to yourself) Life isn’t a race, enjoy every moment and focus on what is important.” 

The lessons learned from the experiences of Chris and Enzo are one of survival and self-worth. They learned that being accepted by others does not have come to a point of risking one’s safety. This is the challenge they pose to the youth of today, to find their self-worth and learn to decide the best way for them to live their best lives, whether that be through safer sex or treatment.

When PLHIV can’t afford the treatment cost, LoveYourself Treatment Centers refer them to charitable institutions like Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Authority (PCSO), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or to the nearest Health Care Center of Local Government Units which usually offer free laboratory tests and prophylaxis.  They also refer them to PLHIV support groups like Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI) which extends not only financial assistance but offer free board and lodging for PLHIVs who were abandoned by their family and friends because of their status.

For more information on LoveYourself’s free HIV testing, counseling and life coaching services especially for those who are HIV reactive, please click this link
Rael is a panda bear who loves giving hugs and making people laugh. He can be a little naive and eccentric but nonetheless, he will be your favorite chinito flavor 🐼
Ron is a true blooded Banker who does events and hosting on the side. He has volunteered for LoveYourself because of his former partner was diagnosed as PLHIV.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Year so Far at the Circle of Love 8: Illumin8

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

This July marks the 8th anniversary of LoveYourself’s amazing dedication to the HIV advocacy. On July 6, 2019, volunteers throughout the years has reunited once again to reconnect and re-orient themselves in what’s to come for the second half of 2019.

LoveYourself’s lead for PrEPPY & Research, Danvic Rosadiño highlighted the volunteers’ ability to dare, care, and share in his presentation on the organization’s achievements thus far. Without the relentless commitment of the volunteers to the organization’s core values, LoveYourself would not be able to serve 16,844 clients through its six community centers, and connect 914 PLHIVs to treatment and care as of June 2019. Through its various committees, LoveYourself is proud to continue its innovative approach to lessen the stigma surrounding HIV and testing. Through Caravan, Safe Spaces PH, Love Gala, and its partnerships with 12 CBOs nationwide, the organization is able to share its message of self-care to the entire Philippines.

Danvic Rosadino presenting the achievement of LoveYourself in the first half of 2019
Photo by: Edgar Bagasol Jr.
With 22 batches of volunteers, LoveYourself has been more powerful than ever. In the coming months, the organization will be able to better protect, empower, flourish, and play. Now that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is available at LoveYourself, clients can now access an additional layer of protection from HIV. Miss Universe sisters Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray are putting their Undetectable Equals Untransmittable Campaign into full swing, strengthening the public’s belief that treatment is available and effective. The events team is also gearing up for a special event on World AIDS Day December 1 in partnership with other HIV advocacy groups.

Special friends of the organization, Ana Ramsey and Enzo Almario also serranaded the volunteers with their breathtaking voices while Julio Medina made us swoon with his saxophone skills. The night was truly memorable with the roaring cheers for fellow volunteers giving it their all on stage. With energetic dance performances, sickening looks, and soulful ballads, the volunteers were able to enjoy and celebrate the night.

Zenly Diansuy, a LoveYourself volunteer performing for her peers
Photo by: Edgar Bagasol Jr.
Circle of Love 8: Illuminate was presented by Kitchen Treasure, Coca-Cola, Crowne Plaza, Moonleaf, Fashion and Beyond, Nail Spa, Ganda Negosyo, Camber by Hetero, VIctoria Court, Durex, L’Oreal, DSTNQT, Teddy Manuel, Skin Rejuve, Sip, Don Cristobal, Usana, Bliss, Traevents, and Absolut Vodka
Carlos Diego is an HIV counselor and the Head of Editorial for LoveYourself. Outside of volunteering, he is a clinical audiologist and a registered psychometrician. He aims to facilitate a deeper meaning to health by discussing the importance of aural, sexual, and mental health.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Proud Miss Universe Queens: We are All #PartOfOurWorld

By Ross Manicad

Image may contain: textLoveYourself marched together with the 70 thousand people who attended the Metro Manila Pride March on June 29, 2019 at the Marikina Sports Center. Among the organizations supporting the march, LoveYourself and its volunteers walked for equal opportunity for not only LGBTQ+ community, but for people living with HIV as well. Together we made a grand spectacle to invite everyone who witnessed the march to be #PartOfOurWorld in the HIV advocacy.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurzbach, LoveYourself Ambassador and ally of the community shared the following testament in celebration for the 25th anniversary of Asia's first Pride Month:

We are celebrating Pride Month, in order to uplift the spirit, and inspire love and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ Community. Let's cultivate a world that sees the inner soul of a person rather than the differences in their outer skin. Let's empower, and encourage one another to be brave and free for who they really are. That's why we at LoveYourself want to show you that we are all part of our world.

Miss Universe 2018 and LoveYourself ambassador Catriona Gray emphasized the inclusivity and equality as important values that we must carry even beyond Pride Month. We make the world a better place when we are all part of each other's world.

LoveYourself has made embracing and nurturing one's self-worth as its mission for its volunteers and clients. In the pursuit of creating ripples of positive change in society, LoveYourself aims to lead by example. In behalf of over one thousand volunteers we would like to share a few words about pride month.

Today is a good day to be yourself; to love yourself and share that love to others. It is a historic day as we celebrate 25 years since we first marched for inclusion, unity, and equality for the Philippines' LGBTQ community. 

In 1994, our brothers and sisters marched to commemorate the silver anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots and to push for gay rights on the political agenda in the post-Martial Law Philippines. We became the first country in Asia and the Pacific to take a stand with Pride Marches around the world. In 2019, we have a great opportunity to continue what they started and write a bolder history for our community.

Photo by Kevin Bumagat
One compelling issue that we have power over is the country's HIV epidemic. Fortunately, more community-based organizations are leading initiatives to spread information and encourage citizen action so more people can get tested and be aware of their status. These grassroot organizations and their exemplary volunteers are crucial in generating data across the country which we and the government use to implement effective campaigns to address and combat HIV/AIDS. A recently notable progress our country made is the passage of the new law enabling access for HIV/AIDS health services to more Filipinos, even as young as 15 years old. 

Through our collective effort, the HIV advocacy has made great strides. There are mainstream personalities that are heavily involved in the cause for they see the inherent beauty of humanity and of our community. At the forefront of this are our staunch advocates and allies, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. Their fearless and charismatic use of the global pageant stage are helping to normalize HIV conversation, raise awareness, push for testing, and even influence how our leaders view our needs.

Using the positive influence of our two Miss Universe titlists, Pia and Catriona recently headlined "U=U" or Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. As LoveYourself's newest campaign, it promotes greater understanding that treatment for persons living with HIV is available and effective to achieve an undetectable status. It makes them unable to transmit the virus to their loved ones and live completely normal lives. 

Another good news to celebrate is the availability of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis or PreP in LoveYourself Anglo and soon, in other community centers. This helps more Filipinos be confident in maintaining their non-reactive status and minimizing the risk of contracting HIV.

Truly, we are now seeing the fruits of our collected effort and hard work. These ripples of positive change need to continue for the next generation. If the growing number of Metro Manila Pride Parade participants is any indication, then we are on the right track. We are getting closer to a world---a universe rather---where love trumps hate and equality overshadows division. 

Today is a good day to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, or anything else we identify as. Today is a good day to make everyone know that they belong--that we are all part of one world. And that together, we can continue to create change in our communities.
Ross is a full-time communicator. On his days off, he serves as a volunteer for HIV advocacy, and activities related to arts and culture. He joined LoveYourself to help normalize conversations surrounding the epidemic.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Sizzling Success – Hot Nurses of Pinas

By Tino Largado

The heat turned up a notch on June 15, 2019 as LoveYourself partnered once again with several community-based organizations (CBOs) all over the country for the Hot Nurses of ‘Pinas National HIV Testing Day.

The nationwide event catered to a total of 678 clients, as tallied by the Monitoring and Evaluation team. For LoveYourself alone, 343 were accommodated across its different community centers, and even an off-site venue at SM Aura.

Starting with the This Is Me: Brave and Free campaign in May 2018, this event marks LoveYourself’s third time to reach out to fellow CBOs in other provinces to expand its reach and initiate nationwide testing days. The concept behind having hot nurses promote HIV testing and education stemmed from the Hot Doctors of Pinas last November—having our medical practitioners inspire and encourage individuals to get tested and be aware of their HIV status.

Event Lead Ronald Bugarin can proudly say Hot Nurses of Pinas had a relatively smooth run, from his observations visiting the different LoveYourself sites, to the feedback received from the volunteers who participated.

Event Lead Ronald Bugarin (center), with CBO leads Tyrone Cudeldiego (left) and Kit Loma (right) during one of the site visits. Photo by Tyrone Cudeldiego
“It’s attributed mainly to the dry runs conducted weeks prior to the event. It helped the volunteers be more aware of the process.” He also explained how each dry run ironed out kinks in the process and anticipated scenarios, allowing committee leads to address concerns.

For LoveYourself community centers alone, close to 150 volunteers came together to make sure the process goes as seamless as planned, performing various tasks from registration, HIV 101, counseling and life coaching, logistics, traffic, and monitoring and evaluation. Volunteers also assisted the guest nurses who performed the actual pricking, as well as conducted HIV 101 talks to properly educate the clients about HIV and PrEP

Life Coach Lead Jemuel Titan poses with one of the Hot Nurses, Christian Garcia. Photo by Jemuel Titan
As the clients were accommodated and taken care of during the event, the hot nurses themselves felt fulfilled and thankful for the experience that allowed them to participate in this important advocacy. Christian Garcia, one of the hot nurses from LoveYourself Anglo, “To be a part of an event that is completely immersive and awe-inspiring, and to be with individuals who selflessly devote their time with total strangers in educating, counseling and just being one with the community is very humbling and very profound at the same time.”

Garcia added, “The fact that there are people devoted to the advocacy makes the process of knowing your status so much easier. Ultimately, at the end of the day, all we want is someone who will understand us and will guide us through the process of knowing our status without any fear of judgement.”

The Hot Nurses of Pinas is just one of the LoveYourself’s several initiatives to advocate HIV awareness through education, testing, counseling and treatment. Outside of the event, these services are offered to clients who visit any of the community centers listed here.

For the volunteers, Bugarin has nothing but “humble gratitude and appreciation, for all the hard work and sacrifices they have given for this event. The success of the event is attributed largely to them because of their commitment to the advocacy.”
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.