Monday, April 29, 2019

Padayon, Batch Kalayo: Spark the Fire of Love and Hope

By Rome Nicolas


On April 7, 2019, the LoveYourself Cebu family has welcomed the third batch of awesome volunteers who dedicated their time to learn more through the HIV 101 Training and LoveYourself Orientation in Qualfon Learning Center in Cebu IT Park.

As part of LoveYourself Cebu, members of Batch Kalayo can expect to be at the forefront of helping the community through HIV 101 training, counseling and education.

A total of 24 new members have pledged their commitment to spark the fire of loving ourselves and helping the community that needs our support. Part of the Pledge of Commitment signed by all the volunteers includes this: I will dare to be who I am so that I better know how to take care of myself, and I will share this means of taking care of myself to others as means of multiplying joy and happiness.

Batch Kalayo also attended a Counselor's Training on April 14, 2019 at SYKES Grand Ballroom in Cebu City. Participants learned how to conduct HIV counseling for clients of the LoveYourself White House.


Logo and Batch Name

All logos of the Cebu batches have a hand that signifies volunteerism and giving. This time with a burning fire reflecting the Bisaya word Kalayo.

Jan Shaltiel Estrada, Head of LoveYourself in Cebu, shared the reason behind the batch name, "We wanted to use Bisaya words in naming each batch. At first, there was Amuma, then Bitoon, and now Kalayo. The batch name means the fire from loving oneself and others and the passion to serve the community."

LoveYourself White House

Batch Kalayo aims to continue that spark as the LoveYourself White House, its first community center in Cebu, officially opens to the public this April. It had its soft launch on April 6, 2019, and had its grand launch on April 27, 2019, which will be attended by its founders, volunteers, personalities, celebrities, and people who support the cause.

LoveYourself White House is located at 40 J. Llorente St., Capitol Site, Cebu near Fuente Osmena. It opens from Wednesday to Sunday from 12 PM to 9 PM.
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Rome Nicolas is a technophile born and raised in Cebu. As the blogger behind Basta Bisaya, he is a proud Bisaya who can write in Binisaya, but is also a bit conyo when you talk to him. As a digital marketing and social media professional, you can ask him about the recent trends in the online world.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

LoveYourself Launches Cozy HIV Testing Center in Cebu

By LoveYourself Communications


CEBU’S FIRST HIV COMMUNITY CENTER: LoveYourself White House opens today (27 April) as the newest addition to LoveYourself’s growing community. The center’s press launched was graced by (L-R) LoveYourself Senior Director Christopher Lagman, LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivin Pagtakahan, LoveYourself newest brand ambassador and singer Karencitta, Department of Health-Regional 7 Regional Coordinator Dr. Van Philip Baton, and LoveYourself Cebu Head Jan Shaltiel Estrada. Also part of the panel during the Q&A is Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. program manager Marvi Trudeau, representing the long time partner of the advocacy group.  Photo by Marvin Maning

CEBU CITY – After seven years of serving the Greater Manila Area, the LoveYourself, Inc. officially launches today (27 April) its first community center in Cebu City – the LoveYourself White House.

By establishing a community center in Cebu, LoveYourself focuses its attention to the growing number of HIV cases in Central Visayas, since it already shared 9% (5,773) of the total number of persons living with HIV (PLHIV) since 1984. Throughout the country, there are already 38 HIV diagnoses a day.

To augment the efforts not only in Cebu but throughout the region, LoveYourself White House provides free and confidential HIV testing and treatment, including education, counseling and life coaching.

Interestingly, the new community center also offers a co-working space with contemporary and hip ambiance that caters to the distinctive taste of Cebuanos. The center also brews free coffee for waiting clients, while either enjoying the wifi services or the murals.

During the press launch, LoveYourself unveiled Karencitta as its newest brand ambassador in addition to Miss Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. Karencitta is a Cebuana talent who made a wave in the Philippine music industry through her songs and artistry.




SONG FOR THE HIV CAUSE: During the press launch of the LoveYourself White House on Saturday (27 April), Cebuana pop singer Karencitta announces that she has been thinking of writing a song for the HIV advocacy. The Cebuana singer is LoveYourself’s newest brand ambassador, specifically catering to the organization’s Cebu clientele. Photo by Marvin Maning


LoveYourself also invited the Department of Health-Region Vll Regional Coordinator Dr. Van Philip Baton to discuss the HIV situation in Cebu and the efforts that the government is doing to curb the epidemic.

LoveYourself partner representative, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. program manager Marvi Trudeau, talks about the corporate social responsibility programs it has collaborated with the advocacy group. One of the latest achievements of the partnership is the establishment of LoveYourself White House.

LoveYourself founders Ronivin Pagtakhan and Christopher Lagman explained LoveYourself’s humble beginnings and how its young community was able to make an impact to the advocacy here and abroad. Both founders looked forward to the contribution that LoveYourself could make in Cebu in the years to come.

For Cebuanos who want to get themselves checked, LoveYourself White House is located at 40 Don Julio Llorente St., Cebu City. The center is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m. with contact number (032) 367-7016.

To know more about LoveYourself and its services, visit www.loveyourself.ph or follow and share its social media channels: Facebook- @loveyourself.ph, Twitter- @loveyourselfph, and Instagram- @loveyourself.ph.




CEBU SITUATIONER: Dr. Van Philip Baton talks about the Cebu province’s reported cases which already reached 5,179 since 1984. According to Dr. Baton, it is 92% of all cases in Region 7. Demographically, Dr. Baton said 38% of the cases in the region are people who inject drugs and 30% are men having sex with men. Photo by Marvin Maning


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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

LoveYourself To Open Home in Cebu to Combat HIV


By Raychie Lomongo



VOLUNTEERISM IN CEBU: Opening on 27 April 2019, LoveYourself White House will serve as the newest community center of LoveYourself, Inc., contributing to the global goal of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030. In photo are the volunteers of LoveYourself Cebu.

CEBU CITY – The LoveYourself, Inc., the leading community-led HIV services provider in Manila, will extend its reach to Cebu with the grand opening of its newest center – the LoveYourself White House on 27 April 2019 near the Fuente Circle.

As LoveYourself White House opens its doors, Cebuanos will have a new safe space where they can get HIV-related services for free. This includes HIV education, counseling, testing and treatment.

LoveYourself White House will also offer free internet and coffee. This concept of co-working space allows students to study and young professionals to work, while getting tested at the same time.

“LoveYourself is always trying a new concept to diversify its response relative to the needs of our clients, and Cebu has a different set-up with Manila, so we want to be more adaptive as possible,” LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan.

SERVICE COFFEE: Simon Abrahan, a LoveYourself volunteer, makes a coffee for the visiting clients for their HIV testing and other sexual health concerns. LoveYourself had a soft launch of its first-ever community center in Cebu City called LoveYourself White House on April 6. The community center is cafĂ© inspired to imbibe a safe space for all its stakeholders, while waiting for their test results.
LoveYourself White House is located at 40 Don Julio Llorente St., Cebu City. The community center’s operating schedule is from Wednesdays to Sundays from 12:00 nn to 9:00 p.m.

According to LoveYourself Cebu Head Jan Shaltiel Vincent Estrada, “After our initial approach six years ago, we finally have established this one-stop shop community center right at the heart of Cebu city, and it offers a safe space and free cup of coffee for Cebu clients.”

Latest data from the Department of Health, total reported HIV cases from Central Visayas since 1984 already reached 5,773. In February 2019 alone, the region has a total of 90 reported cases that placed it 4th with the highest incidence rate the Philippines at 9%.

LoveYourself is an organization mostly made up of volunteers who take multi-layered action on the HIV epidemic by promoting self-worth and the so-called TSC concept, which means “timely testing and treatment, safe and satisfying sex, and correct and consistent use of condom” as ways to protect one’s self from doing risky behaviors.

LoveYourself’s existing community centers are LoveYourself Anglo (Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City), LoveYourself Uni (Gil Puyat-Taft Ave., Pasay City), Victoria by LoveYourself (Libertad, Pasay City), LoveYourself Welcome (Blumentritt, Manila) and Lily by LoveYourself (San Martin De Porres, Paranaque City).

These community centers are supported by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Save the Children Foundation and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. as well as MACARE Laboratories.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Other "L" Word

By Tino Largado


Exclusive relationships, while built on love and trust, thrive in commitment and communication. If you don’t agree, well, think of the last time you’ve had to enter into an “agreement” with your partner: Agree to do weekend movie nights together; agree to take turns in emptying the trash bin; agree to never spend “monthsaries”; probably agree to limit interactions with ex-flings and past romances; and of course agree to love each other. These and all your other examples define the rules of the relationship.

But have you two given as much thought about communicating and committing to what goes on in the bedroom? Where do the two of you stand in the subject of sex with latex? That, other than “love”, is an equally important “L” word you should agree on as a couple.

Different couples may have different takes on sex and its role in the relationship. But for those who consider it a crucial part of the dynamic, the topic of condom use is an item that must not be left out. On one hand, condom use is the simplest and easiest form of protection. On the other, the pleasure of bare skin contact may be preferred by your partner.

Whether you’ve had this conversation with your exclusive significant other, have agreed to disagree, or thinking of revisiting the topic, feel free to read on and see what it means to put the rubber on or off.

There’s DO in CONDOM…

The benefits of sex with latex can't get any more straightforward than this: condoms equal protection. The US Food and Drug Association (FDA) has noted that when used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV, as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that are transmitted through bodily fluids, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. They serve as a barrier or wall to keep blood, semen, or vaginal fluids from passing from one person to the other during intercourse.  If no condom is used, the germs can pass from the infected partner to the uninfected partner.

Deciding to stick to condom use seems easier for heterosexual couples whose main goal is to minimize the chance of conception. The protection against infection, therefore, becomes a secondary benefit. This is different, however, for pairings involving men having sex with men (MSMs). In the absence of the potential to conceive, only the risk of contracting HIV and STIs remain as a concern for consideration.

Various campaigns aimed at promoting condom use capitalize on the purpose of protection, and it has resulted to increased awareness. Even in a recent quick poll that LoveYourself (@LoveYourselfPh) has tweeted, up to 83% responded that condom use is preferred even when in an exclusive relationship, to ensure protection. The twitter poll reflects that more individuals understand that even if they do it with the same person, it's best to make sure that risk is minimized by erring on the side of caution.


…But there’s also a CON in CONDOM

Individual testaments, however, don’t align with what the poll said.Take, for example, Edward and Nic*, who have been together for over four years now. “We only do actual penetration once or twice a month. Regularly [we’re] ‘sides”, explains Edward. The term “side” refers to an individual who does not partake in anal penetration during sex. “But when we do,” adds Nic, “we prefer to do it bare,” clarifying that they prefer the pleasure of skin-to-skin contact, minus the latex.

Robin and Lester*, a couple for three years, also share the same sentiment about pleasure. As they regularly engage in penetrative sex, they simply prefer to do it without condom, regardless if new condom variants offer thinner and improved textures. When asked if they would use condoms or not Robin said, “I’ll definitely opt not to. We both prefer it that way.”

The reduced sensation from using latex is the main con most people associate with condom use. For exclusively committed couples, the chance to get rid of having to use condoms during sex is more appealing. More people agree with Edward, Nic, Robin, and Lester according to a 2014 study by Dutch researchers: Couples in committed relationships use condoms only 14% of the time. Additionally, it’s been observed that irregular condom use was more common as relationships progressed and people were together for longer periods.

This behavior stems from the commitment to exclusivity, which applies to both love and sex. When two individuals enter an exclusive relationship, it’s one of the first and most basic concepts both parties subscribe to. When it’s time for both individuals to agree on certain aspects of their relationship, most of the conversation revolves around love and sex. Yet the necessity of condom use usually remains implied rather than defined, and most of the time by this “rule”: If both persons in the relationship consider the other as their sole sexual partner, the risk of contracting infection is decreased, and both can forget the need to use condoms. This logic, while understandable, tend to dismiss the purpose that condoms serve: protection and precaution during sexual activity, regardless of exclusivity.

So, Gloves On or Off?

Condom use is a matter of choice. When making this decision, it’s best to consider which bears more weight in the dynamics of the relationship, according to Denis Cruz, Clinic Coordinator at LoveYourself Uni. Yet, while recognizing the role of pleasurable sex in keeping a relationship healthy and active, Cruz also injects a reminder that protecting your partner must never be downplayed. “Couples engage in unprotected sex because they trust their partners,” explains Cruz. “But trust shouldn't be the only foundation of a relationship. It should also include their well-being.”

“Is it really worth it exposing (one’s self and partner) to all of these possible infections?”
—Denis Cruz, Clinic Coordinator, LoveYourself Uni

When considering your partner’s well-being, Cruz emphasizes that condoms not only protect against HIV, but other sexually-transmitted infection (STIs), some of which can be passed on in as simple as a skin contact. “Is it really worth it exposing (one’s self and partner) to all of these possible infections?”

With this regard, Cruz goes back to LoveYourself’s Triangle of Self-Care as a practical basis when discussing condom use within the relationship: Correct and Consistent Use of Condoms (and water-based lubricants), along with Timely Testing and Treatment, help ensure that sexual partners experience Safe and Satisfying Sex.

One last thing to bear in mind, as with every decision you make as a couple, the choice whether or not to use a condom should be discussed between both parties in the relationship. Both of you should communicate your beliefs, inhibitions, concerns, and convictions to come up with an agreement you will both commit. All things considered, what’s ultimately important is that your decision on the context of latex should be one that will help make your love—and your love-making— last.

*Names have been changed for privacy
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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.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Cut or Uncut? No Problem!

By Julian Christopher

Photo by Julian Christopher
A lot of things may come to mind when people hear the word, summer. For some, it is a time to unwind and spend more quality time with their family, while some may spend it travelling to cross out items on their bucket list. But it can also be a time for a totally different adventure.

Imagine going to a local pub where you meet a guy that ticks all of your boxes. Sweet, kind, articulate-- he’s the perfect package! After spending some time talking about sweet nothings, you decided to spend the night together. Everything was going well in the beginning. His kisses were gentle and his moves were just right-- not too fast and not too slow. You could not hide your excitement, thinking it was going to be a perfect night. Then, he slipped out of his underwear, and everything went into a standstill. Your perfect guy-- is uncut!

For Filipinos, circumcision is a social norm and is considered as a rite of passage for majority of pre-pubescent males. In fact, according to a 2011 report, 93% of Filipino males are cut[1]. So, it is not common to meet uncircumcised guys here. However, meeting one is not impossible. So what do you do when you meet one? Here are a few things you might consider:

Image retrieved from: https://picryl.com/media/condom-safe-sex-aids-health-medical-f1f5c8
Condom usage

Cut or uncut, there is not a lot of difference when putting on a condom. The key is proper and consistent usage:
  1. Store it properly
  2. Talk to your partner about condom usage
  3. Check the expiration date
  4. Make sure there are no tears and defects
  5. Put a bit of water-based lubricant on the tip of the fully erect penis
  6. Slightly pinch the tip of the condom to prevent air bubbles from forming
  7. Unroll it all the way down the penis.
The only thing you do differently is that you securely pull back the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis before putting the lube on to prevent it from coming off[2].

Another thing, do not forget to use protection even if you are just doing oral sex- ever wondered why condoms have flavors? Oral sex puts you into contact with body fluids—semen, vaginal fluids, blood—any of which can contain disease-causing viruses or bacteria like gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes [3].

Circumcision and HIV

Circumcision status does not have any statistical significance when it comes to the transmission of HIV[4]. Therefore, it is still important that you and your partner get tested whether either of you is circumcised or not. Remember, it is recommended to undergo testing three months[5] after a possible exposure to account for the window period.

Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/fr/illustrations/silhouette-les-hommes-gay-amour-1482958/
Hygiene

There are a number of people that assume that uncircumcised men are unhygienic, but genital hygiene has nothing to do with a man’s circumcision status. Just like with any other part of the body, it depends on how you clean it. Yes, it is easier to clean a circumcised penis because the glans(head of the penis) is exposed[7], but that does not mean that uncut men do not make the effort to clean theirs. If you are worried about cleanliness, just make sure your partner cleans his down under before you go under, or might as well, help him out!

Pleasure

Having a circumcised or uncircumcised penis should not keep you or your partner from having a satisfying sex life. In fact, a meta-research looked at multiple studies about circumcision and its relation to sexual function. Surprisingly, it found no evidence for overall differences between circumcised and uncircumcised men in terms of sexual function or sexual pleasure[8].

Now that you know more, you’re ready to take on any cut of cock! No need to worry about his circumcision status. You can enjoy safe and satisfying sex, get timely testing and treatment, and practice the correct and consistent use of condoms, no matter the cut! Enjoy cruising this summer!

References:
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Julian is a corporate slave and a geek at night, he works as a learning and development specialist for a tech company for 8 hours a day. The rest of his day is spent on imagining having the powers of the characters of the mangas he reads.