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.
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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.”
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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.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Pia Wurtzbach to Walk the Cebu Runway for the HIV Advocacy

By LoveYourself Communications

CEBU CITY - Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach will walk the runway as she headlines the LoveYourself Cebu's ETUF: Cebu’s Premier Fashion Auction for HIV/AIDS Advocacy on 6 July 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at the Events Space in Cebu City.
Together with Wurtzbach, who will don the fashion of Cebuano designers and stylists, are Queen Universe 2019 Bee Urgello, social media darling DeeDee Villegas, social media sensation Alem Garcia, and international Cebuana singer-songwriter and LoveYourself ambassador Karencitta.
A portion of the proceeds from all gowns to be auctioned off in ETUF will go to LoveYourself's HIV causes in Cebu. ETUF tickets prices starts at P500 for general admission, and P1,500 for VIP. Avail of the tickets here: bit.ly/LoveYourselfETUF or contact LoveYourself White House at 0927-873-7575 or (032) 367-7016.
“ETUF is a Cebuano gay lingo for white, which symbolizes one's pure heart to help the HIV advocacy like our ambassadors, supporters, and of course the volunteers who dedicate their time and efforts to help the Cebu community. By continuously doing so and inspiring others, the runway for the HIV and AIDS will be cut short sooner,” says Raychie Lomongo, Head of Events for LoveYourself Cebu.
This fundraising event is co-sponsored by The Events Space.
According to LoveYourself Cebu head Jan Shaltiel Vincent Estrada, "ETUF is not your typical fashion show for it will be a celebration of the ingenuity of Cebu artists and talents, while advocating for greater causes for the Cebuano community."
To know more about LoveYourself's services, visit www.loveyourself.ph or follow LoveYourself Cebu's social media properties: Facebook - LoveYourself Cebu and Twitter - @LoveYourselfCEB.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Your First Time with The Hot Nurses of Pinas: Starting a Habit

By Tofi Alonte

Recall that moment when you did something for the first time. Some people would have sweaty palms and parched throat but still be game and giddy in anticipation. Others would try to keep a cool facade despite the looming anxiety inside their chest.

In this year's Hot Nurses of Pinas on National HIV Testing day we invite you to experience HIV testing for the first time. This coming June 15, 2019, together with our partner CBOs, the gorgeous nurses we have scouted will guarantee that your first time testing experience will be safe, sweet, and swift. Still need convincing? Well let our hot nurses share their first time experiences with you!

Moving On As a Routine

The Hot Nurses bring optimism in the fight against HIV and the stigma attached to it. They are passionate to influence others to know their status that results to having peace of mind. Take it from Nurses Jaycee and Jerome who both agree that timely testing is the first step towards moving on from the stigma.


"I think, being aware means being able to take care of yourself and a person who knows how to take care of himself is hot" says Nurse Omie who is a staunch believer of regular HIV testing as a self-care routine. Jerome also believes that being aware means being able to take care of yourself and easily moving on from doubts that may be caused by the uncertainties of not knowing your status. Even if Jerome is a non-practicing nurse, he still conducts SOGIE and HIV 101 sessions through the LGBTQ group that he leads. In this age where information can easily be accessed, Jerome believes that being hot is also tantamount to being informed.

Nurse Jaycee's moving on story started with him being scared about HIV because he was not as informed as he is today.


"Nung bata pa ko, may nanakot kasi sakin nun, naka-sex ko siya tapos tinanong niya 'ko about HIV. Sobrang takot ako nun pero eventually nagkalakas ako ng loob [to get tested] " (When I was younger, I had a sexual encounter with someone who asked me about HIV. I was terrified, but I eventually mustered the courage to get tested)

Nurse Jaycee managed to overcome his fear through testing. He took the first step to educate himself about HIV and, in the process, he has also informed other people about it. Jaycee moved on by taking a courageous step towards awareness through testing.

Firsts can be uneasy but our hot nurses are here to make knowing your status easier. They were once afraid of testing, but after knowing that it's safe and confidential, they've discovered the courage to undergo testing and now they have moved on and have even become the faces of promoting timely testing.


The First Step

Meet the faces of this year's National HIV Testing Day on June 15, 2019. We promise you they’ll be gentle during testing and knowing your status will be one of the memorable firsts that you'll share with your friends. Don’t forget to sign up here to be a part of this summer's National HIV Testing Day.

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Tofi is working as a Training Supervisor in one of the country's biggest BPO companies. During his free time, he roams the city to rescue old books, pet stray cats, and collect forgotten narratives. 

Friday, June 07, 2019

Flourish Circle Sprouts a Growing Initiative

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

The Global Burden of Disease study in 2015 reported an equivalent of 6.3 million cases of Filipinos diagnosed with a depressive and anxiety disorder. For years, the Philippines has advocated to integrate mental health in its healthcare policies. With the enactment of RA 11036 also known as the Philippine Mental Health Law in 2018, Filipinos now have the basic right to psychological wellness.

LoveYourself joins the movement towards responding to the mental health needs of Filipinos with Flourish Circle."There is a palpable call for help and we will respond, and respond with the very best that we have - our passionate volunteers, lessons learned from past programs, and expert partners." explained Chris Lagman, LoveYourself Senior Director.

Flourish Circle Peer Support Specialists and Proponents
Photo by Dan Guevara
Flourish Circle is an initiative started by a community of peers that aim to provide a safe and affirming space where people can feel listened to, supported, and accepted. Guided by the principles of Internal Family Systems and Mindfulness, the Flourish Circle has trained its first set of Peer Support Specialists who will heed the call for accessible psychosocial support for people undergoing depressive, anxious, and suicidal ideated states.

“I know of so many people who want to help but don’t know how. And so we came up with a community based solution because we need a platform to connect people who need help and people who want to help.” Sheila Tan said, as one of the proponents of Flourish Circle.

The Peer Support Specialists started off as people who shared the same vision as the initiative's founders. With the willingness to be trained, they underwent multiple learning and skills-building sessions, ultimately passing the program's skills and knowledge-based competencies benchmarking.

Flourish Circle Logo
Logo by Kent Tangcalagan
About the Logo

The Flourish Circle logo features a lotus flower with two open hands enclosing an ellipsis, encapsulated in a circle. According to ancient Egyptian mythology, the lotus flower is a symbol of rebirth. Its life cycle starts from the dark murky waters where a beautiful flower when the sun has risen. This parallels a person’s journey to overcome the darkness in their life and arise revitalized to continue life.

The two open hands symbolize the peer specialists offering their genuine support. The ellipsis between the hands represent that life can continue even when you’re at a loss. It also stand for people experiencing the states of mind that the Flourish aims to care for. All of these are bound in a circle that expresses a sense of community among its peer support specialists and Flourish Circle members.

Taking Steps

“No one can do it alone. We all need a space where we can be held respectfully and lovingly, where healing is accessible, possible, and where depression is something we have, but not who we are.” Bro. Noel Cabigting shared as one of the proponents of Flourish Circle.

Truly, we are not the only ones who can look out for ourselves. When we are surrounded by a community that is present, supportive, and affirming, we can grow as ourselves.

Participants of the Flourish Circle will be screened using a standardized and evidence supported self-assessment tool to determine appropriateness of the program for the needs of the participant. They must also be able to commit to 12 sessions in the course of several months, and is comfortable sharing in small groups.

We flourish by trying everyday. Today, we can reach out to someone. Join Flourish Circle, a safe space to share your story. http://bit.ly/FlourishCircle.
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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.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Your First Time with The Hot Nurses of Pinas: Inspired to Advocate

By Tofi Alonte

Recall that moment when you did something for the first time. Some people would have sweaty palms and parched throat but still be game and giddy in anticipation. Others would try to keep a cool facade despite the looming anxiety inside their chest.

In this year's Hot Nurses of Pinas on National HIV Testing day we invite you to experience HIV testing for the first time. This coming June 15, 2019, together with our partner CBOs, the gorgeous nurses we have scouted will guarantee that your first time testing experience will be safe, sweet, and swift. Still need convincing? Well let our hot nurses share their first time experiences with you!


First Inspirations

Our lineup of Hot Nurses are not anymore new to the advocacy. Some of them have been part of the movement before becoming faces of the HIV prevention and awareness campaign. Nurses Mark, Clay, and Mikee have all taken part in spreading awareness through people who have inspired them to make a change.

"Actually, si Sir Vinn, yung founder nyo, clinical instructor ko nung college" says Nurse Clay with gratitude as he attributed his involvement in the advocacy to LoveYourself Executive Director Vinn Pagtakhan. After meeting other advocates from LoveYourself, Clay used social media to share correct information about HIV to prevent the spread of stigma.

"Through social media, there are videos that I can share on Facebook. At least my friends will be more aware and they can learn more about HIV. By doing that mawawala yung takot or yung stigma na magpatest sila" added Nurse Clay who believes that knowing your status through regular testing and keeping yourself informed is always the best way to address doubts and confusion about HIV.


Nurse Mark, on the other hand, has been involved as former head of LoveYourself Operations. He mentioned that his involvement in the campaign is his way of paying it forward within the organization: "I think by providing health teaching to clients, giving information regarding HIV infection, the transmission itself is a good way to inspire and encourage people na magpatest. As a healthcare practitioner this is what I have been doing to help the advocacy."


Nurse Mikee also has close friends from LoveYourself so he has already witnessed the organization's impact in curbing the HIV epidemic in the country. He has encouraged some of his patients who were diagnosed with HIV to undergo treatment because it's free. Just like Clay and Mark, he takes the time to educate his acquaintances about HIV, how to prevent it, and how to minimizethe stigma surrounding it. Joining this year's campaign has made Mikee immersed in LoveYourself's community activities and it has also allowed him to have a more extensive reach in educating people about HIV.

As advocates prior to joining the campaign, our hot nurses are ready to prove that their knowledge and awareness of the HIV advocacy goes beyond gorgeous form. Their passion to spread awareness and fight the HIV stigma stems from people who have made ripples of positive change in their community.


The First Step

Meet the faces of this year's National HIV Testing Day on June 15, 2019. We promise you they’ll be gentle during testing and knowing your status will be one of the memorable firsts that you'll share with your friends. Don’t forget to sign up here to be a part of this summer's National HIV Testing Day.

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Tofi is working as a Training Supervisor in one of the country's biggest BPO companies. During his free time, he roams the city to rescue old books, pet stray cats, and collect forgotten narratives. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Your First Time with The Hot Nurses of Pinas: Facing Reality

By Tofi Alonte

Recall that moment when you did something for the first time. Some people would have sweaty palms and parched throat but still be game and giddy in anticipation. Others would try to keep a cool facade despite the looming anxiety inside their chest.

In this year's Hot Nurses of Pinas on National HIV Testing day we invite you to experience HIV testing for the first time. This coming June 15, 2019, together with our partner CBOs, the gorgeous nurses we have scouted will guarantee that your first time testing experience will be safe, sweet, and swift. Still need convincing? Well let our hot nurses share their first time experiences with you!


First Heartbreaks

Our hot nurses do not only believe in the importance of HIV awareness. They also have personal narratives to share that shaped them into the advocates that they've become. Take Nurse Joker for example. In his 9 years of experience as a government hospital nurse, he has witnessed people from different walks of life being diagnosed as people living with HIV (PLHIVs).

"For less than a year I have been working in the operating room, I have witnessed patients being diagnosed. Sadly the individuals being diagnosed are getting younger, some of them are minors." explained Nurse Joker.

In Joker’s line of work he has been witnessing people from different walks of life getting infected by HIV. What to many are numbers on a report are actual people to him and seeing how the stigma prevents people from accessing help breaks Joker’s heart. The government and its partner NGOs are relentless in their efforts to prevent HIV and its stigma so this still gives Joker some hope amidst the heartbreak.


For Nurse Tenshi from the Philippine Heart Center, he experienced seeing people who have been diagnosed HIV positive while undergoing TB treatment.

"Usually I encounter a lot of young people undergoing Tuberculosis (TB) treatment who are also diagnosed with HIV" says Nurse Tenshi who has extensive experience in caring for patients with TB-HIV co-infection. In his line of work, Nurse Tenshi helps people to be adherent to their treatment regimen. Though it is still heartbreaking to see people living with HIV develop TB, Tenshi is determined in what he is doing as a nurse creates ripples of positive change within his patients by propagating hope through treatment. He also believes that creating a social milieu that is free from prejudice is the key towards an effective campaign against discrimination of patients with TB-HIV coinfection.

As nurses, Tenshi and Joker both have experienced heartbreaks as they care for people living with HIV in the country. Their epiphany that along with the exponential growth of HIV cases in our country is the miscommunication of information by lay people and some health practitioners about  living with HIV. Witnessing the realities of the stigma affecting access to healthcare, and the increasing demographic affected by the virus are the heartbreaking moments that our nurses had to face every day motivating them to join the campaign to promote HIV testing and spread correct information.


The First Step

Meet the faces of this year's National HIV Testing Day on June 15, 2019. We promise you they’ll be gentle during testing and knowing your status will be one of the memorable firsts that you'll share with your friends. Don’t forget to sign up here to be a part of this summer's National HIV Testing Day.

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Tofi is working as a Training Supervisor in one of the country's biggest BPO companies. During his free time, he roams the city to rescue old books, pet stray cats, and collect forgotten narratives.