Tuesday, December 31, 2019

LOOKING BACK 2019: LoveYourself in Operation, A Yearender Special (Part 1 of 3)

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

On LoveYourself’s eighth year of service, the year 2019 has been one of its most eventful years thus far. Not only has its pool of volunteers been growing, but the organization has been expanding its reach and improving its services. Keeping with this growing opportunities, volunteers were enriched with special trainings addressing critical organizational affairs. New programs and projects were also launched as a result of the hard work and dedication of its volunteers and staff. With everything that has happened, let us remember 2019 as the year it was.

Programs and Projects

LoveYourself, as a loving community of HIV awareness advocates, is most known for its free HIV testing and treatment services. As of December 2019, LoveYourself across its community centers, Platinum Testing Service, and offsite events has done 38,549 tests, enabling clients to take charge of the sexual health with timely HIV testing, and treatment if they turned out reactive to the test. A total of 2,292 clients were bridged to treatment - a vital step in becoming undetectable. The organization also made itself present in 29 schools, and 56 companies in different industries for its Caravan, a program for offsite HIV education and testing with the help of our partners.
Volunteers and staff show the digital registration form given to any testing clients
in LoveYourself White House in Cebu City
Cognizant of the need to spread its presence and message beyond Metro Manila, LoveYourself, through the help of its partners, has been assisting 14 community based organizations across the nation to establish Champion Community Centers and ensure their sustainability. The organization has been sharing lessons learned, good practices, and campaigns with them to empower and inspire their local communities to take care of their sexual health. It also augments its operations by launching last April, its pioneering center in Cebu City called the LoveYourself White House, and by adopting last September, Cavite Positive Action Group’s community center in Bacoor City, which is now dubbed as Hero by LoveYourself. These activities enable the realization of LoveYourself’s vision to become a model community, while also serving more with the safe spaces it provides.
Dr. Van Phillip Baton of Department of Health - Region VII graced the media launch of Safe Spaces
in Cebu City this December.
As a sex positive organization, safer and satisfying sex has been one of LoveYourself’s adages when it comes to preventing HIV infection. It was one of the driving forces to innovate access to condoms and lubricants which brought about Safe Spaces PH, a geo-location app available on iOS and Android, charting sex positive and LGBTQIA friendly places where people can get condoms and lubricants for free. Anytime Fitness was a massive partner this year, dedicating selected sites to become affirming spaces for the LGBTQIA community. Most recently, Safe Spaces PH extended its reach to Metro Cebu, making the total number of depots in Luzon and the Visayas to exceed 90 at the end of November alone.
LoveYourself Program Manager John Danvic Rosadiño presented the PrEP Pilipinas program during its launch
at the Spectrum: The LoveYourself Perspective in September in Makati City.
Strengthening its resolve to provide more options for Filipinos to protect themselves against HIV, LoveYourself, through the dedication of its program manager Danvic Rosadiño and his team, has made Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) commercially available in the Philippines last June. Through the PrEP Pilipinas program, the organization empowers individuals to further take control of their sexual health with this daily pill that prevents HIV infection by more than 90%. What’s more worth celebrating is the partnership with Hi-Precision Diagnostics and MediPrime, which enables the organization to reach more people access PrEP, particularly in the provinces. As of December 2019, 800 clients are on PrEP via LoveYourself community centers and its partners. The PrEP Pilipinas program started as a demonstration project in 2017.
The pioneering Peer Specialists for Flourish Circle after their rigorous training with Ms. Sheila Tan and Bro. Noel Cabigting.
In April 2019, LoveYourself started to build a pool of volunteers for Flourish Circle, a 12-session peer support group program for people experiencing mental health concerns. Headed by volunteer Joy Daguiso, the Flourish Circle currently has five circles more than halfway through the program. Together with the founders Chris Lagman, Bro. Noel Cabigting, and Sheila Tan, Flourish Circle looks forward to creating bigger circles, enriching peer specialists skills, and making more engaging content with ambassador Alaiza Malinao.

LoveYourself has truly grown from its humble beginnings as a sun-down center in Malate, Manila. Now it boasts seven community centers in the Philippines, and rippling these positive changes to 14 community-based organizations across the nation. It also continuously innovates and improves its operations for better service delivery and reach more people needing its help. It is evident that LoveYourself will not be slowing down anytime soon in the years to come, as it continues to campaign for the concept of self-worth - a powerful message standpoint in eradicating the HIV epidemic and the stigma attached to it.

(End of Part 1)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Grateful for the Lovers Who Standout this 2019 - The LOVE Awardees

By Reiner Grospe
Pioneering LOVE Awards hosted by Jerome Lacsa and Franz Baylon 

The LoveYourself volunteers and employees are the ones who truly keep the organization at its best. They both share the same earnestness, passion, and tenacity for our common advocacies. The love they put into their work is truly priceless. All of them are dedicated, but nine (9) hearts stood out this year, and made remarkable impacts to the organization as well as to the community we serve. 

In view of their outstanding service, LoveYourself annually recognizes its people fondly called Lovers. For this year, the recognition of “Lovers” was officially named as LoveYourself Outstanding Volunteers and Employees (LOVE) Awards. This recognition is given to volunteers and staff who continuously and consistently rendered their services with all their heart and soul, which affected the community, their colleagues and the organization in many positive ways. 

The very first LOVE Awards has 5 different categories, acknowledging outstanding work for raising Awareness, championing Education, increasing Engagement, sparking Innovation, and minding Operational Excellence. The awards were given on December 7, 2019, during the Kink: The LoveYourself Ball, which is a year end celebration and party. 

Diego Rozul
The LOVE Award for AWARENESS was given to Diego Rozul and Ria Mae Briñes. Both of them have exemplified outstanding service in creating campaigns, and communication materials to spread awareness about the organization’s causes. Their contributions have helped reached more people to take care of themselves and address the stigma attached to sexual health, mental wellness and other related topics. Other nominees for this category were Kyle Jayogue, Anton Perez, Jeanno Dinglasan, Ralph Tamayo, and Raymond Manahan. 
Ria Mae Briñes
Diego's leadership in the Editorial sub-committee has spawned meaningful stories and articles that helped optimize LoveYourself's online presence. Ria's expertise in audio-visual production augmented the communication strategies of the organization. 
Joy Daguiso
The LOVE Award for EDUCATION was given to Joy Daguiso and Leo Pura for effectively and efficiently imparting knowledge about sexual health, sexual orientation and gender identity expression (SOGIE) concepts and mental wellness issues. Other nominees for this category were Abe Isaiah Gagui, Denis Cruz, Nicole Silvestre, and Roberto Pinauin.
Leo Pura
Joy spearheaded the Flourish Circle program, which was launched this year. She is also one of the people behind the creation of LoveYourself's Self-Empowerment and Awareness Retreat (SEAR) modules. Along with Joy is another accomplished volunteer - Leo. Leo’s experiences as a life coach contributed so much in developing the SEAR module. This year, he assumed the role of LoveU Legislative Head, who facilitates the establishment of the new learning and development modules.
John Darwin Ruanto
John Darwin Ruanto and Noel Evasco received the LOVE Award for ENGAGEMENT. Both of them executed programs that helped engage members of the organization and the community. Other nominees for this category were Franz Baylon, Jamie Well Titan, Jennifer Castillo, and Ronald Bugarin.

John Darwin is known for his efficiency in managing the priority programs of LoveYourself that help facilitate the operations and ensure PhilHealth accreditation of the organization. As for Noel, the volunteers and the community were engaged in meaningful ways, because of his efforts in attracting partners and sponsors for various events and initiatives of the organization. His efforts also opened up new opportunities to engage more stakeholders. 
Noel Evasco
LOVE Award for INNOVATION was handed to Joy Daguiso and Shude Navarro for creating new programs and processes that innovate and improve the organization's service delivery. Other nominees for this category were Frederick Lasmarinas and Kyle Jayogue.
Shude Navarro
Joy received her second LOVE award for her dedication to provide the best service for the Flourish Circle program. This pioneering program has redefined LoveYourself’s campaign to promote mental health and wellness, by providing a safe and affirming space where people can feel listened to, supported, and accepted - a first for the advocacy group. Shude, on the other hand, introduced paperless monitoring and transaction for the clients in LoveYourself Welcome, by maximizing the use of an online application. This improved customer experience has empowered his clients to prioritize their health, by adhering to HIV treatment, prophylaxis for HIV related illnesses, and many more. 
Neithan Cebrano
Lastly, the LOVE Award for OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE is given to those who have exemplified outstanding service pertaining to general operations, may it be through administrative works, education, testing and counseling or treatment and life coaching. The award was conferred to Neithan Cebrano and Ronald Bugarin. Other nominees for this category were Jastin Dizon, Raymond Martin Manahan, and Reydante Banag.
Ronald Bugarin
Neithan went beyond to what his educational background suggests he could do. With his help, LoveYourself was able to offer various services that reach more clients. He spearheads the discreet treatment service for people living with HIV (PLHIV) clients. Aside from being an active counselor, Ronald also helped in creating the HIV 102 informational materials for the initiation of antiretroviral drugs, and the treatment booklet for PLHIV clients. He also led one of the national HIV testing day of the organization that reached hundreds of individuals know their status.

LoveYourself extends its utmost gratitude to all the volunteers and staff for their outstanding work this year. As we always say, “You are the heart and soul of the advocacy, and no amount of contribution is small, for these acts spark a light of hope to the people we help.” 

May the LOVE Awards inspire you further to take on that extra mile in creating ripples of positive change in the community. 

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat Lovers! 

Onward to 2020!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Celebrating 2019 at Kink: The LoveYourself Ball

By Carlos Diego A. Rozul

LoveYourself has had a jam packed year this 2019. Spearheading new projects, events, and campaigns, its stronghold of volunteers have been hard at work to spread love and create ripples of positive change in the Philippines. On December 7, 2019, volunteers gathered to look back on the year that was with merriment and recognition at Kink: The LoveYourself Ball.

This 2019, LoveYourself has expanded its reach starting with the launch of LoveYourself White House in Cebu, the organization's first community center outside of Metro Manila. Together with its Cebu team, LoveYourself is helping fellow community based organizations nationwide grow in their localities. Most notable was the launch of the Oro Pia Community Center by Kagay-an PLUS.

LoveYourself also launched its response to the mental health service gap in the Philippines called Flourish Circle. As a community-driven initiative, it aims to use peer support as a framework to mediate depressive, anxious, and suicidal thoughts through a 12 session program.

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor
Photo by Philip Villaluz
Beyond the days of its operations, events and campaigns have been hallmarks of the organization to keep the HIV advocacy in public consciousness. With fundraising and awareness efforts like ETUF Fashion Auction, and the second Love Gala: Courage Amplified - Asia's Premier Charity and Awards Gala, LoveYourself continues to make itself known. 

Hot Nurses of Pinas and KYS (Know Your Status) and Play were also  monumental campaigns for the organization, working with community based organizations nationwide for National HIV Testing Day.

The landscape of the HIV advocacy was also forever changed with the introduction of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) this year. A daily pill that protects from HIV infection among people with a nonreactive HIV status. LoveYourself's partnership with Hi-Precision Diagnostics also made it available to those who cannot access LoveYourself Community centers.

Image may contain: 5 people, including ROnald Bugarin, people smiling, people standing, shoes and indoor
Photo by Ronald Bugarin
All of these wonderful things wouldn't not have been possible without its passionate volunteers. At Kink, outstanding volunteers and staff were recognized for their efforts in the advocacy with the Love Award.

Love Award for Awareness
Ria Brines and Diego Rozul

Love Award for Education
Joy Daguiso and Leo Pura

Love Award for Engagement
Jhay Dee and Noel Evasco

Love Award for Innovation
Joy Daguiso and Shude Navarro

Love Award for Operations
Neithan Ceran and Ronald Bugarin 

Kink: The LoveYourself Ball 2019 could not have been a success without our partners Victoria Court, Sip Okada (Cove Manila), The Wrkspce, Hairdressers Against AIDS by L'Oreal, TRAEVENTS, and Lauvette. Kink was copresented by Unilever, Anytime Fitness (Royal Plaza Mandaluyong), Bliss, and Usana (True Health Foundation). The organizing team would also like to thank the sponsors: Sunsilk Dove, Surf, Vaseline, Aya Care, Canva, RedDoorz, PREP, Fashion & Beyond Nail Spa Salon, Kratos Pomade PH.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I Want to Know What Lube Is: Finding the Perfect Lube

By LoveYourself Communications

Correct and Consistent Use of Condoms and Lubes is one of the essential elements of LoveYourself’s signature Triangle of Self Care. The appropriate choice and use of lubricants or lubes play a significant role in HIV prevention and more! A little drop here, a few more drops there can totally amplify your sex life. A tube of this affordable and practical jelly wonder can transform the game and elevate your sensual and passionate lovemaking to a whole new level. Its versatility can only be matched by your kinkiness and creativity during the intimate moments, positions, and roles in bed. Just as there are different ways to use lube, there are also different kinds of lube to choose from, but some kinds might not be so appropriate or effective for certain sexual activities.

How Lube Can Amp Up Sex

Contrary to popular belief, lube can also be used in a bunch of different ways in sex, not just vaginal or anal penetration. Before choosing which lube is perfect for you, it’s good to think about what sexual activities you’re going to do.

You can use it for steamy foreplay or a sexy massage to warm up with your partner before the main event. A few squirts of lube on your palms or your partner’s erogenous zones, paired up with electrifying caresses can totally heat up the game.

When the partner is away, the lube comes out to play! Lube can be your next MVP when it comes to masturbation. The skin around the penis is thin and sensitive, and friction between your hand and your precious joystick from all the stroking can cause burns — ouch! Using lube can make playing more comfortable, and last longer (maybe even help you beat your high score *wink wink*).

If you think condoms ruin sex, then you might have not discovered lube yet. A few drops of lube inside and outside the condom can unlock a whole new level of sensation. Yup, condoms come lubricated, but additional lube can up the sensitivity. Nothing gets sexier than safe and pleasurable sex! Keep in mind that condoms tend to be brittle when they come in contact with certain materials, such as oil. Which means that oil-based lube is a no-no for this one.

Slide in the backdoor easier with lube. Since there’s not enough moisture in there, lube makes a great teammate for anal sex. Additional lubrication will also help avoid injury and tears during play, but can still keep all the action and sensation that you enjoy.

No Lube? Get Lube!

What do you do when you’re in the moment, so excited, and suddenly realized that you’re all out of your favorite lube? You reach out for whatever you have around the house. Depending on how intimate you're going to be, know how these common household items can impact how you have safer sex.

Coconut/Olive/Almond Oil. Anything with oil (including oil-based lube) isn’t good for condoms because they can make condoms brittle and break. Even though they smell good and slide smoothly, they can totally strip off your protection, so it’s better to stay away from them.

Baby Oil. Massage? Sure. Sex? Definitely NO. It’s also an oil-based item, so it will surely ruin condoms, too. If you read the label on the bottle, it states that it’s for external use only, and there’s a reason behind that.

Petroleum Jelly. This is often used to moisturize and soften dry skin. People tend to use it as improvised lube because it doesn’t get sticky or dry out, which makes it one of the popular go-to options. Since it lasts quite long, it can begin inviting bacteria into your body and cause imbalances in the body chemistry. It’s also not good for your condoms because the oil can weaken the latex material.

Body Lotion. Most body lotions contain fragrances and chemicals that can be too harsh for delicate body parts, and might lead to irritation.

Whipped Cream. Whipped cream during sex can sound sexy and kinky, but it can lead to a sticky situation. All the sugar inside it can throw off the anus’ natural environment — and might even cause irritation or infection.

Spit. We’re not surprised by this one. It’s fairly common for people to use spit as lube when they don’t have any. Although it can get the (hand) job done, it’s not enough for anal sex. The backdoor doesn’t produce lubrication, so you’ll need something more slippery than just spit. 

When dealing with sexual activities and your precious parts, it’s best to be careful with the products and items you use. There may be a lot of ingredients to watch out for, but it’s really not that hard to find something safe that can also let you gain massive pleasure!

The Ease of Water-Based Lube

Water-based lube is the most versatile player out of all the lube, and can play well in almost any sexual activity you can think of. Whether you use it for masturbation, foreplay, anal sex, or with sex toys, they’re great to use because water-based lube such as EZ Lubricating Jelly is made with safe ingredients — good to use for people with sensitive skin!

It’s also easy to spot water-based lube like EZ Lubricating Jelly because they can easily be found in leading drugstores and convenience stores. Grab yourself some water-based lube now, and let EZ Lubricating Jelly amp up the game because with EZ Lubricating Jelly, everybody can slide into more pleasure

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Art of Negotiating Condom Use

LoveYourself Communications

Loving oneself involves knowing where you stand. As an empowered individual, you can always say no to risky sexual behavior, such as going bareback or going raw. “Bareback” in the old days meant riding horses without a saddle. Nowadays, the term is more commonly used to refer to raw or unprotected anal intercourse.

A common belief among men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) is that bareback sex brings extra pleasure, but it also poses the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as HIV. Getting or not getting an STI is a game of chance you partake in every time you engage in unprotected sex. 

Here are some tips to consider when your partner, talks you around going raw.

1. The initial talk
Good communication is beneficial to any and all relationships, especially intimate ones.
Before getting into bed with your partner, talk to them about what you like to do, what makes you feel good and your limits. Let them tell you the same. Knowing  each other’s needs and limits will make the experience more fulfilling. Reach an agreement so you don’t get unpleasant surprises along the way. 
You can also get tested together first, if time permits.

2. When they say “It feels better raw”
If you’re about to do it and your partner still tries to escape using protection with words like “condoms reduce pleasure” or “it’s not as intimate as raw”, look them in the eye and tell him that it won’t feel as great for you. What’s more intimate than enjoying pleasure and knowing that both of you are safe?
There’s pleasure even in safety. It’s as simple as applying a few drops of water-based lube on the head of your penis before rolling on the condom, and applying just enough outside of it. Besides, condoms today have features that help enhance pleasure – some have special additives and textures, while some are made ultra thin to imitate skin-to-skin contact.

3.  “I’m clean, you can trust me.” or so they say
Your partner may be confident about his sexual health – he may tell you that he’s “clean” and “safe”, but he may be honestly wrong or just lying through his teeth. When having unprotected sex, both parties are at risk. So if they don’t care about what you can transmit to them, then he won’t even give a second thought about what he can give to you.
These tidbits are not meant to scare your partner away; they’re meant to inform or remind him of the potentially dire consequences of unprotected sex. That’s showing care for yourself and for him. 

4. Bottomline: Safer sex or no sex? 
Saying “no” with not enough certainty may result in nothing. Be vulnerable enough to express how condom use makes you feel, and how you want your partner to feel the same way you do when using protection. If they appeal to your primal sense of passion in a bid to sway your decision, counter that by appealing to reason – Again, make him understand that using protection is not selfish, but an act of caring as you’re not just protecting yourself but the both of you.
If he still insists to the point of forcing you to go raw, throw him the question – “Safer sex or no sex?
It might sound blunt and unfeeling to your partner, but at the end of the day, your utmost consideration is the well-being of the people involved. 
Besides, sex won’t be as enjoyable and intimate if you have doubts or worries on your mind. These thoughts may make you stop halfway through, leaving you both unsatisfied.
Choosing to use a condom can be difficult when your partner tries to convince you otherwise with his smooth words, thrilling touches and dreamy eyes, but remember that you are responsible for your sexual health and you are the master of your body. Plus that fact that you now have all the means to artfully craft messages to say no to raw sex. That fact should be enough to bring you back to the reality that using a condom properly and consistently is the number one rule. Always remember – “Sex is better if you package your wiener.
Have you tried PREMIERE Condoms? They have eight different variants that can make your intimate moments much more exciting. You can purchase PREMIERE Condoms at your go-to convenience stores or buy them on your favorite online shopping sites.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A Night of Glamour and Advocacy at Cove Manila

By LoveYourself Communications

LoveYourself has been a strong ally of the LGBTQ+ community. From providing safe spaces for queer folk to get tested, to providing the country’s first community-led transgender health services. 

The organization is proud to have been supported by GLAMM 2 at Cove Manila in Okada Manila - the biggest indoor beach club and nightclub in Southeast Asia. Gays, Lesbians, And Many More or simply GLAMM is the grandest LGBTQ+ party of its kind in Cove Manila! This Saturday night party last October 19 showcased loads of guest performers, and party-goers who made fun all night, bearing the spirit of advocacy, pride and unity.

Several drag queens conquered the stage that night including, Lady Gagita, MC Black, Gigi, Dee Dee Holliday, Queen Viñas and Bench Hipolito as the event was hosted by Peabo Orilla. DJs Everyday People, Jeb Tizon, Mike Lavet and Paulo Castro threw bouncing music, ledge dancers made the dance floor even hotter, and Okada Manila Entertainment Group made jaws drop while showcasing their superb talent. 

The night wouldn’t have been completely glamorous without Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados gracing the venue with their royalty and advocacies!

GLAMM II event was yet another celebration of unity, strength and of freedom, not only for LGBTQ+ members, but also for every individual who aims to acknowledge and honor his individuality. This spectacular party for a cause was supported by San Miguel Light, Inquirer.Net, Inquirer Pop and LoveYourself, Inc. - where a percentage of sales were donated to its operations and campaigns.

As LoveYourself furthers its reach to all gender identities, expressions, and sexualities, Cove Manila looks forward to making itself an LGBTQ+ safe haven again to host more GLAMM celebrations in 2020.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Celebrities 'Color Run' for HIV on Dec.1

By LoveYourself Communications

Celebrities and LoveYourself, Inc. support the Parañaque City government and the Department of Health for a color run on December 1 held at the ASEANA City for the commemoration of the World AIDS Day (WAD).

Anchoring on the theme of WAD 2019 - “Communities Make the Difference,” the Spectrum: Color Run for HIV will be graced by Miss Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, HIV celebrity advocates Dionne Monsanto, Kitkat, Miss World Philippines 2018 Katarina Rodriguez, and Miss Universe Philippines 2014 MJ Lastimosa. Despite her nearing international pageant, Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados also showed her passion to rally for the cause.

Celebrities turned public servants, Jomari Yllana, Vandolph Quizon and Roselle Nava, together with their fellow Parañaque City officials, fully support the HIV cause, especially that the National Capital Region has a continuous rise of HIV infection.

Based on the DOH’s report, there is a total of 1,111 newly confirmed cases of HIV cases in July alone. 51% of the cases were aged 25-34 years old, followed by 31% of ages between 15-24.

The Spectrum: Color Run for HIV encourages communities to make a difference on World AIDS Day by joining through 1 kilometer walk for only PhP450.00 or 5 kilometer run for only PhP550.00. The race kit includes a singlet, a race bib, a finisher’s medal, and a loot bag full of freebies.

Proceeds of the color run will help fund the medical expenses of people living with HIV in Parañaque City.

For online registration, interested individuals can go to bit.ly/SPECTRUMColorRun. On-site registration is available at Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Toby’s Sports in Bonifacio Global City, Toby’s Arena in SM the Block, Toby’s Arena in SM Mall of Asia, Toby’s Arena in Glorietta 2, and Parañaque Social Hygiene Clinic. 

Communities coming together for this color run event for the HIV advocacy are UNAIDS, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Save the Children, the Red Whistle, Project Red Ribbon, ADS Healthcare Foundation - Philippines, LoveYourself Inc., AIDS Society of the Philippines, South Cross, Philippine NGO Council for Population Health and Welfare Inc., and Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. The event is also supported by Maynilad, Runnr, Leslies' Clover Chips, Minute Burger, Durex, Solaire Resorts and Casino, Okada Manila, and Green Cross Lewis and Pearl.