Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Triangle of Self Care: Chronicles of Correct and Consistent Condom Use

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
David's Change of Heart

“Stealthing” is a trick used by some men where they remove the condom during intercourse to engage in unprotected sex without the knowledge or consent of his partner. David (Not his real name), a 27-year-old salesman used to stealth all the time with the men he meets on dating apps 

He preffered bareback sex back then because he says that the “friction” feels much better. Plus the added excitement of doing it secretly was like the cherry on the top for him. 

But all this change during December last year when he first got tested after two years of engaging in non consensual unprotected sex. He says that while he was in the waiting room he panicking deep inside. 

“It took a lot of courage to get myself tested. And it really scared me at that moment because I thought of all the possible times where I could’ve been exposed. Not to mention how I tricked my partners. I just realized just how much risk I exposed myself into for pleasure!” David said. 

He then go on to say that he realized that all the pleasure that he got from his unprotected sex was not worth the paranoia. 

When he got his result he couldn’t breathe and cried out of happiness because he was non-reactive. Since then David did not only promised to regularly get tested but also to change his ways for his safety and that of his partner. 

“That experience (getting tested for the first time) was like a slap to my face because it made me realized so much and it really did change me” David said. 

For most people, practicing a healthy sexual life is brought about realizing it’s importance ourselves. David’s own experience led him to finally get tested and learned the importance of doing it regularly. He realized the high risk he was putting himself and his partners, so he chose to walk a different path that would still satisfy his cravings and put his mental and physical health on guard - with condoms.

Photo from https://www.thematlethbridge.com/sexual-health--wellness-blog/image-safe-sex-is-for-everybody
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. Safe Spaces is a project of LoveYourself with partner establishments to provide free condoms to anyone who needs them. Launched in 2017, the app-based program aims to make safer sex more accessible in judgement-free spaces. Download the Safe Spaces PH app is available on Google Play store and App Store for download. For more information, one may also visit the Safe Spaces PH website.
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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".

Monday, August 26, 2019

CineSpectra 2019 Short Film Festival Rolls Out This Week!

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul


Witness the CineSpectra 2019 Short Film Festival's ten finalists! Themed as Your Judgement, Their Life, the collection of short films feature stories of people living with HIV (PLHIV) made by budding local film directors mentored by the Directors Guild of the Philippines Inc. You can catch this free film viewing on August 26 2019 - 5:00pm and August 27, 2019 at 12:00nn and 6:30pm at Ayala Malls Trinoma Cinema 6, Quezon City, and from August 28-30, 2019 at the Cinematheque Centre Manila, Iloilo, and Davao.

Among the 97 entry submissions, the following were chosen to develop and produce the 5-minute short films showcased in the festival:
  • “A” by Roylan Modina (Manila City)
  • “Alex & Aki” by Dexter Paul De Jesus (Quezon City)
  • “Ang Gasgas Na Plaka Ni Lolo Bert” by Janina Gacosta (Mandaluyong City)
  • “Doon Sa Isang Sulok” by Alfredo Tapang, Jr. (Quezon City)
  • “Guhit” by Kyle Jumayne Francisco (Pampanga)
  • “Ikaw Din?!” by John Aaron Alsol (Bulacan)
  • “Panihapon” by Christopher Hubahib (Cebu)
  • “Quieter is Louder” by Kathleen Gonzales (Bacoor)
  • “Taym Pers, Pers Taym” by Ma. Ceazara Vidallo (Quezon City)
Having diverse representation of HIV in media is a large step toward normalizing the conversation surrounding HIV testing, prevention, and PLHIV wellness. Spearheaded by the EON Foundation, Film Development Council of the Philippines, and LoveYourself Inc. the film makers were oriented on the basics of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE)  to ensure tasteful conceptualization of the films.


CineSpectra 2019 will also hold a special free film screening of the iWant series Mga Batang Poz written by Segundo Matias Jr. and directed by Chris Martinez which follows the story of four adolescents living with HIV on August 27, 2019 4:00pm at the Ayala Malls Trinoma Cinema 6. The Cannes Film Festival 2017 Award Winning film Beats Per Minute will also be shown during the festival on August 26, 2019 1:00pm, and August 27, 2019 1:30pm at the Ayala Malls Trinoma Cinema 6.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Beat The Bugs: Outsmarting Sexually Transmitted Infections

By Francis Dimaano and Raymond Manahan

clipart clipĂ‚ art illustration free picture
Illustration of Baceria Retrieved from: https://www.needpix.com/photo/1553464/clipart-clipart-illustration-graphic-cartoon-germs-bacteria-bacterial-virus
Take self-care to the next level.

The Triangle of Self Care doesn’t only apply to HIV. It’s first point, Timely Testing and Treatment is especially relevant to a vast range of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). LoveYourself is now paving the wider road towards a healthier sex life as it offers STI testing, consultation, and treatment services.

STI Testing

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of techniques and procedures that test multiple STIs at once. This makes sure that the treatment to be prescribed completely addresses all possible infections.

Clients who get tested for HIV at LoveYourself Anglo and Uni get tested for Hepatitis B and Syphilis as well. This is because these STIs have the same modes of transmission as HIV, and are also initially asymptomatic.

Hepatitis B is a liver infection which is also commonly transmitted through unprotected sex. Most people with Hepatitis B do not have symptoms and therefore, do not know that they already have it.

Syphilis is a type of STI which early stage is usually characterized by painless sores on or around the genital area, anus, or mouth. Because of its similarity to other STIs, a test is the best way to know if a person has syphilis.

Another type of STI tested at LoveYourself Uni is Gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea or tulo, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), is an STI that infects both males and females. When symptoms are present, it is usually characterized by a white, yellow, or green discharge from the genitalia. Gonorrhea can infect a person’s mouth, genitalia, and anus.

LoveYourself Uni offers free gonorrhea testing for males assigned at birth. People experiencing genital discharge can walk-in and get tested at this community center for free. This service is being done under the supervision of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) through the Enhanced Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Program (EGASP).

STI Consultation

Image result for germs
Bacteria illustration retrieved from:
https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/
view-image.php?image=127967&picture=germs
Self care in the context of STIs always involve a conversation with an expert. Getting the right information empowers us to make sound decisions and plans to manage our sexual health.

LoveYourself is committed to providing safe spaces for people to access the necessary information and improve their sexual health. Two of its community centers, LoveYourself Anglo and Victoria by LoveYourself, offer STI assessment services for males assigned at birth for a just and reasonable fee.

When a client tests reactive to Syphilis at LoveYourself Anglo, they are referred to the medical team for a scheduled consultation. This is where a treatment plan is established, and the medication is prescribed.

You can schedule an appointment at LoveYourself Anglo on Thursdays and Fridays, 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. by visiting us at the community center. Six slots are available on each day. The center accepts clients who tested reactive to an STI in other clinics or diagnostic centers, as well as those who suspect they have been exposed to an STI. Consultation for other STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes simplex virus are also offered here.

Victoria by LoveYourself also offers STI consultation for clients who have been diagnosed with an STI, and those who suspect they have been exposed.

Consultation fee at LoveYourself Anglo and Victoria by LoveYourself starts at PHP 300.
Victoria by LoveYourself accepts walk-in clients from Saturdays to Wednesdays between 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Dr. Ryel of LoveYourself Uni consulting on Gonorrhea testing
Treatment
STIs grow smarter as more people misuse medication. Medical researchers are now on the move to get ahead of the race against drug resistance, but we all have a role in the fight against STIs.
If a person tests positive for an STI, getting professional medical help and taking medications as prescribed not only effectively manages the infection; it also helps prevent STIs from developing resistance against existing medications and treatment.
Along with consultation and testing, treatment packages are also offered in LoveYourself community centers:
LoveYourself Anglo
For those who tested reactive to Syphilis, once medication has been prescribed, the treatment will be administered according to the schedule set during the consultation. Treatment packages are offered at this community center as well.
Treatment for clients with other STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes simplex virus is also offered, in accordance to the consultation done with the doctor.
Treatment schedules are also available on Thursdays and Fridays, from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Victoria by LoveYourself
According to the management plan established during the consultation, treatment will also be administered. Medication will be obtained by the client from an external source.
Treatment schedules are also from Saturdays to Wednesdays between 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
LoveYourself Uni
If a client turns out positive for gonorrhea infection, they are prescribed with medication, and treatment is administered once the medication is purchased from a pharmacy.
LoveYourself, through its core values, “Iniingatan, Inaalagaan, at Inaasikaso”, aims to empower people, especially MSMs, in outsmarting STIs by consulting, getting tested, and accessing treatment.
Taking care of yourself should not be too difficult. There are safe spaces you can visit to get basic information about sexually transmitted infections. Take a step in giving yourself the love you deserve. Visit one of our community centers today. Learn more by clicking here.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Embracing All Women

By Yuki Asato and Carlos Diego A. Rozul


In the 1980s, women in the Philippines had a pivotal turn in society. Countless women joined in the movement to make the Philippines a more inclusive country among the many rallies against the administration at the time.

Before the women's movement, queer women felt ignored. Lesbian concerns were being tucked under women's and feminist studies, which were heterosexual in nature at the time. Even during the gay movement, lesbian women were seen only as female versions of homosexual men. Discontented by being silent, the lesbian community wanted their voices to be heard among the fight against the dictatorship. Eventually, the underground women's organization MAKIBAKA released a position paper that included sexual orientation as part of the gender equality movement.

The inclusion of the queer women in the conversation about equal rights for women spurred a cascade of change. Later in the 1990s, gender and sexuality was a major concern in the women's movement leading to the formation of several political groups that centered around the matter.
Disney Aguila, Trans Deaf

Today, ensuring that the Philippines is a safe place for all women is still among the country's top priorities. With the Safe Streets, Workplaces, and Public Spaces Act of 2017 signed into law, gender-based harassment is now punishable. With the development in the Philippine society, we are now moving towards pursuing the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Bill to become a law.

However there are times that public restrooms, train stations, and even pubs and bars have become a battleground for members of the LGBTQ community. What happened to Ms. Gretchen Diez, and is still happening to other members of the trans community was not only heartbreaking but harrowing. These are the moments that empower our community to come together and stand for what is fair and just.

We need to create a safe Philippines where all of its citizens and residents -whatever their sex or  SOGIE. This can start with a safe space to perform human bodily functions.

Inclusivity is not simply accepting one sect of society into the mainstream. It extends to acknowledging that different factors intersect and affect access to services and facilities that were made for everyone. It involves listening to marginalized communities and working towards equal rights and quality of services.

References
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Yuki describes himself as a social media connoisseur, gym rat, and a geek.
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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Triangle of Self Care: Safe and Satisfying Sex Stories

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.

Photo by Jacob
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.


Side Fun with Carlos

Carlos (not his real name) is in his forties and says that in most of his adult life he’s been sexually active. Using different gay dating apps, meeting guys in bars or through friends, participating in orgies, etc. Carlos says he’s experienced it all.

But even so, Carlos makes an effort in knowing different risks in engaging in sex, and has his own strategy to avoid such risks. 

“I stay informed with current news about HIV in the Philippines and I also read a lot about practicing a healthy sex life” Carlos said.

Being informed and having knowledge about safe sex has made Carlos find his ways to avoid the risks of sex. He says his strategy is that most of the time he would just be a “Side” when it’s just regular horny night. 

“When it’s just a regular horny night and I go to Grindr, I would just be looking for blowjobs, mutual masturbation, or video calls. Typical “side” activities. I save penetrative sex for when I’m really craving for it. But even then I do it safe” Carlos said.

He says he’s not a side out of fear of HIV but rather it’s just his way of practicing a healthy sex life. He said since he knows that most health risks in sex comes from unprotected anal sex so he searched for other ways to satisfy him, and for Carlos, side activities do the job well.

At times where Carlos would engage in anal sex, with someone he really likes, a romantic partner, or when he participates in an orgy Carlos would always use condoms.

“When I do anal sex I don’t think there’s any other way for us gay men to protect our health but through condoms. That’s why when I do anal sex, condoms are my best friend that hopefully don’t let me down” Carlos said.

This second step of the TSC, knowledge helps a person choose their own strategy on how to have safer sex that satisfy their sexual needs. It’s about being aware of the potential risks of sex such as HIV or other STI’s and how to reduce risk of its transmission.

Photo from https://www.thematlethbridge.com/sexual-health--wellness-blog/image-safe-sex-is-for-everybody
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. Carlos loved himself more by choosing the way he had sex, and empowered himself to speaking about it to his partner. 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.
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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".

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 https://www.thematlethbridge.com/sexual-health--wellness-blog/image-safe-sex-is-for-everybody
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.
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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".