Monday, May 20, 2019

Hot Nurses of ‘Pinas Serves with Care on June 15, 2019

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

Let the Hot Nurses of ‘Pinas make HIV screening convenient for you! On June 15, 2019 LoveYourself launches the third community-led multi-site National HIV Screening Day. Together with our partner community-based organizations around the Philippines you can get free, fast, and confidential HIV screening closer to you! What are you waiting for? Sign up, and don’t miss out.

The Hot Nurses of ‘Pinas follows up on the Hot Doctors of ‘Pinas in November 2018, that served over 800 clients nationwide. This one-day event makes HIV screening more available nationwide than ever with the help of our partner testing sites.


You no longer need to fill out lengthy forms found during regular testing days. Instead, you just give your contact information upon registration, be given a Unique Identifier Code (UIC), and our hot nurses will help you out throughout the process. An available counselor will then attend to you, and the results will be ready in 15-20 minutes.


Don’t forget to sign up, and don’t miss out on June 15, 2019!
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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.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Bag of Causes in Chic Bayongs

By Bet Domingo

During the Love Gala last May 11: Courage Amplified, DC Bayong designer Don Cristobal handed out a Love Bayong to LoveYourself Ambassador and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who willingly modeled the bags in support of the advocacy. Photo by Robin Marero.

If most people have a “bucket” for their list of everything they wanted to achieve, then fashion icon Don Cristobal (DC) thinks differently with his “DC Bayongs.”

As a subsidiary of the DC brand, the DC Bayong is a chic reinvention of the Philippine go-to market bags. Instead of fish and bahay-kubo vegetables, it entails various causes that the modern society would find worthwhile to support, including the Love Gala – Asia’s premier charity and awards event for the HIV/AIDS advocacy.

For this particular event, the DC Bayong releases its collection of the “Love Bayong,” which is embellished with uniquely curated "rose” patches that perfectly represent this year’s Love Gala theme, Courage Amplified. 

Cristobal explained that he wanted to give back to the community through the Love Bayong collection to help raise funds for the LoveYourself, Inc.’s HIV awareness activities and projects. The LoveYourself, together with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), hosts the Love Gala 2019.

According to Cristobal, the Love Bayong on Love Gala is just the beginning of a bigger partnership with the DC Bayong, since he is already planning to donate a certain amount for each bayong sold in the country and even abroad to the HIV advocacy through LoveYourself.


Aside from the HIV cause, the DC Bayong was produced primarily to promote and empower local artisans by commissioning their work of art. This top quality bayongs would also bring a higher level of pride to the local artisans. The DC Bayong is 100% handcrafted.

Another cause one could bring in donning these bayongs is sustainability. The bayongs are not just artistically crafted, but also very durable that will last for longer period of time as compared to regular bags and bayongs – mamas might be able to hand it down to the next generation. 

Cristobal said, “DC Bayong focuses its attention in developing items that are sustainable and will stand the test of time," which will address the problem of unsustainable consumerism and spendthrift fashion lifestyle. The bayongs are versatile and come in different shapes and colors, which can be an alternative to eco bags, but multiply by the hundreds in creativity, craftsmanship and care for environmental conservation efforts. In this sense, Ms. Earth Philippines 2013 Angelee Delos Reyes is one of DC Bayong’s notable ambassador.

Furthermore, Cristobal launched the DC Bayong Travel Series last April at the Helipad Show in Holiday Inn Manila Galleria to encourage more people to patronize locally made products that are sustainable and travel worthy.

Cristobal is currently the chairman of marketing & events for the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines (FDAP). In March, Cristobal officially became a LoveYourself volunteer under Batch Kauna Kai after supporting and participating in various events of the organization. He will dress the candidates of Miss LoveYourself during the organization's founding anniversary celebration this year, which is the highly anticipated gathering of volunteers, celebrating as one family in diversity, and the triumphs in the advocacy.

He will dress the candidates of Miss LoveYourself during the organization's founding anniversary celebration this year, which is the highly anticipated gathering of volunteers, celebrating as one family in diversity and the triumphs in the advocacy.

To support DC Bayong’s Love Bayong, interested individuals should contact Andee Ortega at 09981980091.

LoveYourself is the leading community-led HIV advocacy group in the country, which now operates six community centers — (1) LoveYourself Anglo in Mandaluyong City, (2) LoveYourself Uni and (3) Victoria by LoveYourself in Pasay City, (4) LoveYourself Welcome in Manila, (5) Lily by LoveYourself x DIOSSA in Paranaque City, and (6) LoveYourself White House in Cebu City. These centers provide differentiated services and care approach to address the country’s HIV situation, which include HIV education, testing and counseling, and treatment and life coaching.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

PG-15: Parental Consent Not Required

by Ronald Bugarin

(Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aidsgov/3008911718/in/photostream/)
On 20 December 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act (RA) No. 11166 otherwise known as the “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act” which repeals RA No. 8504 or the “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.” Among the revisions made in the new law is that minors aged 15 to below 18 years old can now be tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) without parental  / guardian consent.

Under Article IV, Section 29 of the new law, If the person is fifteen (15) to below eighteen (18) years of age, consent to voluntary HIV testing shall be obtained from the child without the need of consent from a parent or guardian.” It also states that “any young person aged below fifteen (15) who is pregnant or engaged in high-risk behavior shall be eligible for HIV testing and counseling with the assistance of a licensed social worker or health worker. Consent to voluntary HIV testing shall be obtained from the child without the need of consent from a parent or guardian.”

The lowering of age to allow HIV testing without parental or guardian consent is keeping with the World Health Organization (WHO) pronouncement that minors should be able to access HIV testing without any form of pressure or coercion. Given this, the willingness of a minor to undergo voluntary HIV testing should be given equal weight as that of an adult.

In such cases, health workers have a duty to assess the maturity and ability of a minor to decide. Each person getting tested should have the capacity to recognize and understand the benefits and consequences of an HIV test.  Also, the health worker should give an opportunity for the minor to discuss their willingness to undergo HIV testing alone.

More importantly, Section 29 responds to the rising cases of HIV infection among minors. According to the February 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 January 1984 to February 2019, the following are the total HIV infection among minors per age group:

Age Group
Number of Reported HIV Infection*
15 - 17 years old
328
10 - 14 years old
19
Less than 10 years old
166
*From January 1984 to February 2019 based on February 2019 HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Rep. Ron Salo, co-author of the House of Representative version of the bill, sees the enactment of the new law as the Government’s initiative to protect the young from getting infected with HIV. Rep. Salo also told the network that he believes that the young should be afforded basic protection and care from public health dangers, such as contracting HIV, for they are considered vulnerable populations.

Albert Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines in an interview with Philippine Star, views the new law as a way for minors to be more self - empowered to know their HIV status without the fear of disclosing this to their parents and guardians.  Muyot welcomed the signing of the law as the Government’s way of ensuring that all families are protecting and nurturing the health care of the young which is consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Parents’ Insights

A few parents were interviewed to get their insights about the law.


From a mother’s perspective, their children should still inform them before they get tested for HIV since they are still young to understand the repercussions of an HIV test and its possible result. Joy del Rosario, mother of two daughters aged 8 and 13 years old, believes that she still want to be informed if her kids get themselves tested for HIV.  She thinks that they are still minors, and need all the support and guidance from their responsible guardian. But she will not prevent or stop her kids from being tested.
On the other hand, the fathers who were interviewed  feel that it is better to allow HIV testing for 15 years old and 18 below without parental/guardian consent since this would help take away the awkward feeling minors might have if their parent/guardian were informed of their HIV testing and allow them to be more open to a health worker about their sexual behavior during the test. Johndale Regio, a father to a 10-year old boy, sees nothing wrong with minors getting themselves tested for HIV without parental/guardian consent. Regio pointed out that youth of today are very aggressive and exposed to sexual activity at a young age.
Nevertheless, all parents felt that there should be a solid sex education among minors so that they get the right information and make a conscious effort to protect themselves from possible HIV exposure.  But it would be best if matters of sexuality can also be discussed between the parents and the child, so that they are guided properly and lovingly. In this sense, minors who engage in such activities are guided properly on the risks that they may get into.
HIV/AIDS Stakeholders’ Meeting held last April 5, 2019 in Cebu

Hurdles in Implementation

As of this writing, the implementing rules and regulations of the new law have yet to be released. However, there are ongoing discussions among stakeholders, especially with organizations involved in the HIV and AIDS prevention on the implementation of the amended law. All concerned sectors and institutions should work double time as there is an immediate need to implement the law, since more minors are getting exposed to HIV at a faster rate.

Among other things, a comprehensive sex and sexuality education in schools is crucial in addressing the HIV and AIDS crisis in the country.  It is important to include concrete steps that a minor can take in order to protect themselves from possible HIV and STI infection, and prevention of unplanned pregnancy.  Increasing access to sexual health information can help remove the stigma about HIV and the relative misconceptions about the virus.   

In the absence of a formal sex education in schools, parents and guardians play a crucial role in educating their children about sex and the prevention of STIs including HIV. Parents and guardians should be equipped and able to provide their children the correct and reliable information about sex. Another important note is that sex and its related topics should be openly discussed among families that’s free of any judgement or bias.

LoveYourself offers free HIV testing and counseling services in its clinics. For more information, click here.
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Ron is a true blooded Banker who does events and hosting on the side. He has volunteered at LoveYourself because of his former partner was diagnosed as PLHIV

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Batch Kauna Kai Soars to New Heights as Loveyourself’s 22nd Batch of Volunteers

By Mark Angello C. Ganon

On March 16, 2019, LoveYourself welcomed 74 incoming volunteers in a batch orientation at the People’s Hall at SM Aura Premier at Taguig City. Named Kauna Kai, these dynamic individuals were oriented by fellow volunteers headed by Joy Daguiso, LoveYourself HIV counselor. The batch orientation, which was a whole-day event, served as Batch Kauna Kai’s stepping stone as they embark on the advocacy in raising awareness on HIV and AIDS, which continues to be a major global public health issue.

74 aspiring volunteers make up Batch Kauna Kai, LoveYourself’s 22nd batch of volunteers

BEHIND THE NAME : LOVE AS A DRIVING FORCE

Since 2011, LoveYourself has welcomed its volunteers in batches. These are identified with distinct terms that are relevant to the organization and its advocacy. It ranged from motivational words like Ascend, Ignite and, Vanguard to native terms like Magayon (beauty), Bigkis (bond) and Bahandi (treasure). For 2018, the batch names were picked from the theme “love across the globe”. It started with Atma Prema, which is the Sanskrit equivalent of unconditional self-love, followed by Upendo, the Swahili translation of love, and Meraki, a Greek principle of “doing something with soul, creativity, and love.”

Chris Lagman, LoveYourself, Inc. Senior Director, had an inspirational talk with Batch Kauna Kai volunteers during the whole day orientation at the People’s Hall at the SM Aura Premier
Sticking to the previous theme of “love across the globe”, a phrase from the Hausa language was chosen to brand the first batch for 2019. Hausa, a Chadic language from the Afro-Asiatic language family, is widely used as a word of trade in Western Africa. From its rich vocabulary are the words kauna and kai, which means love and self respectively. Together, these words form the phrase kauna kai, a direct translation of one of life’s major driving forces: self-love.

Believing that one is valuable and worthy is the main principle of self-love. When a person starts to perceive himself worthy to achieve happiness, and to be given respect and dignity, this becomes a very powerful premise on how one sees life. This powerful impetus will enable individuals with self-worth to reach out to others and form a community that is empowered and goal-driven. Bearing a name that equates to such a very compelling concept, Batch Kauna Kai volunteers will be taking on this important challenge of being stewards of self-love, and to be ripples of positive change in the community.

Smiles captured during a fun-filled and engaging session during the Batch Kauna Kai orientation
BEHIND THE BATCH LOGO : A BURNING, UNDYING PASSION

With noteworthy batch names, the responsibility of creating a logo that will bear as much relevance as the batch name was tasked to Rick James “TJ” Monzon of LoveYourself Visual Communications. The logo was initially conceptualized to entrail a sun inside an equilateral triangle as the background, to symbolize warmth and fortitude. The color scheme used for the logo centered on the basic shades of red and orange to also exude the warmth of fire.

Batch Kauna Kai logo created by TJ Monzon
Rising up from the center of the logo is a mythical creature that Batch Kauna Kai volunteers will imbibe as their spirit animal: the mighty Phoenix. A legendary bird that has long been associated with fire, strength, and rebirth, the phoenix represents the volunteers and the traits they possess. As a bird of fire, it embodies the responsibility of providing warmth and light to others. As a fowl of rebirth, the phoenix teaches us that amidst challenges that we may encounter in our fight against HIV, one must never let anyone or anything douse the flames of passion that we have for the advocacy. Hand in hand, the batch name and logo represent self-love and an undying passion.

“Defend”, one of the many words used in the Verb Wars, an ice breaker during the Batch Kauna Kai orientation
Alongside the growing numbers of HIV cases is the increasing numbers of hearts and minds who work together to address this pressing global concern. LoveYourself continues to strive to be a community of volunteers whose aim is to not just create ripples of positive change, but to be the waves that nurture the value of loving one’s self as a way to engage and empower the community.

Feeling inspired? Join us in the advocacy by clicking here.
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Gello is an infection control nurse who is utterly useless before his 2nd cup of coffee. Unbeknownst to most, he’s a closeted otaku and has a deep obsession with eggs. Despite being 30, he still secretly waits for the owl that will finally deliver his acceptance letter at Hogwarts.

LoveYourself Community Centers New Schedule

The LoveYourself Community Centers have been well-known for their warm service to all clients getting tested. As an organization, LoveYourself keeps up with maintaining the quality of its operations from counselling and decking to communications and projects.

In response to the overwhelming number of clients the community centers have received recently, the schedule of operations have been adjusted to better serve its clients. You can now get tested at LoveYourself Anglo and LoveYourself Uni from Wednesdays to Saturdays 12nn to 8pm, and Sundays 9am to 2pm; LoveYourself Welcome on Tuesday to Friday 2pm to 10pm, and Saturdays 9am to 5pmVictoria by LoveYourself  from Saturday to Wednesday 12nn to 8pm; LoveYourself White House from Wednesday to Sunday 12nn to 8pm; while Lily by LoveYourself remains to serve Tuesday to Sunday 12nn to 9pm. More details on how to get to our community centers can be seen here.




Rest assured, LoveYourself will do its best to adapt to the changing needs of its clients. We are here to listen, you can reach out to us via email at info@loveyourself.ph.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Strides in HIV Policy through Lawmakers

By Geldof Resuello

Image from pexels.com
As the 2019 Philippine general election draws near, we Filipinos should recognize the gravity of every vote cast towards the betterment of our country. Each vote embodies the trust we endow our chosen candidates in uplifting our woes and championing our advocacies.

Legislation by the senate play a crucial role in the concretization of policies and advocacy. Truly, the elected senate have been influential in combating HIV in the Philippines. In the ongoing battle against HIV in the country, let us revisit strides in HIV policies.

Growing Pains of HIV Policy

The Philippines earned praises in the 1990’s for the passage of Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, which served as the country’s legal framework for the fight against HIV.


Philippines’ Senate Session Hall
(Source: Manila Bulletin)
RA 8504 reconstituted the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), which is a multi-sectoral body brought about in 1992 through Executive Order No. 39 by then President Fidel V. Ramos. The policies were made in response to the increasing number of Filipinos infected with HIV, but largely focused on heterosexual sex workers.

Twenty years into circulation, its effectiveness in addressing the virus has raised numerous clamors from different sectors. RA 8504 was not enough to contain the epidemic and adapt to its changing state. Having sex workers as the key affected populations (KAP), the provisions do not necessarily apply to the emerging KAP, such as men having sex with men (MSM) and the youth. Certainly, there have been slippages that need to be addressed by drafting new or amending current legislation

Struggles in Implementation

PNAC serves as the central policy-making body that handles the HIV epidemic in the country. In effect, it is mandated to produce a comprehensive national HIV plan called the AIDS Medium-Term Plan (AMTP), which is currently on its sixth iteration. While AMTP is good in paper, poor implementation has resulted in disjointed funding of prevention programs.

There are initiatives that can potentially reduce the rate of HIV infection in the country, however conflicts with existing policies prevent their implementation. An example is Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which prohibits the availability of needle and syringe programs (NSPs) for people who inject drugs (PWIDs) despite strong evidence of its effectiveness in reducing HIV infection based on studies.

Currently, the government does not require compulsory age and development-appropriate sex education programs, which are mandated both by the Reproductive Health Law and RA 8504. This is also fueled by strong opposition by the Catholic Church for sex education “promotes sin”.


Senator Risa Hontiveros lauded the signing of Philippine HIV/ AIDS law
(Source: Manila Bulletin)
Addressing the Current Pressing Epidemic

Recently, the country called for the repeal of RA 8504 that resulted to the passage of Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 (RA11166), which is deemed as a strengthened and more comprehensive policy for the prevention, treatment, care and support for HIV and AIDS.

The law is a reconciliation of House Bill 6617, principally authored by Representative Kaka Bag-ao (Lone District of Dinagat Islands) and Senate Bill 1390, authored and sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros and Senator JV Ejercito.

PNAC is reconstituted and streamlined to ensure effective implementation of the country’s response to the spread of HIV and AIDS among the population. To do this, a multi-sectoral approach encompassing different sectors such as the local communities and civil society organizations were included in the provision. In turn, the new law hopes to help in expanding access to evidence-based HIV prevention strategies and free HIV treatment coverage to all PLHIVs, which currently remains low.

In terms of funding, the new law states that long-run implementation shall still be included in the annual General Appropriations Act. In addition, the incidence of HIV and AIDS will now be considered by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Finance, and the Department of Health in determining the annual appropriations.

Perhaps one of the key features of the new law is the removal of parental consent for minors aged between 15 and 18 for HIV testing. This would break the barrier on knowing a minor’s HIV status and therefore getting early treatment, if they turn out to be positive. In turn, this is expected to hopefully address the alarming increase in HIV cases among their age group.

The law also strengthens policies in fighting all kinds of discrimination affecting PLHIVs through mandating regular HIV and AIDS education in the workplace, and providing penalties to people who will discriminate against PLHIVs. Discriminatory acts include rejection of application, termination of employment, having discriminatory hiring policies, among others, based on one’s perceived or suspected HIV status.

The law also prohibits bullying in all forms and platforms, including social media. Students are also protected from refusal of admission, expulsion, or harsh disciplinary actions by any learning institution based on HIV status. These provisions would help in fighting the stigma on HIV and in encouraging potentially inflicted individuals who are afraid to get tested for HIV in the first place.

In relation to discrimination, no PLHIV shall be denied or deprived of private health insurance under an HMO and life insurance companies, and claims if someone dies of AIDS-related complications.

Image from unsplash.com
Call for Action

While this new law can be considered as a step forward towards the fight against HIV and the stigma associated to it, it is still up to all of us to press for our rights and of others to ensure that these are properly observed and implemented. There is still a lot to cover in relation to our cause. The needs are changing as we learn more about the HIV situation and we need lawmakers to constantly create policies that would adapt to our current needs.

This serves as a call for everyone to express their support to the cause of fighting the spread of HIV and the stigma surrounding it by voting for candidates who are fighting with us. We have to ensure that the people who would eventually take the seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives represent us and our battles.

Our votes represent our voices. Let us make it count.
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Geldof is an academic whose background is in mathematics and information technology. When he's not teaching, he spends his time volunteering for LoveYourself or engaging in artistic activities like watching film and theater plays.