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".

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

LoveYourself Partners with Anytime Fitness as a Safe Space for Filipinos

By LoveYourself Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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