Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Free HIV Screening, Pageant Set for World AIDS Day
In line with the celebration of World AIDS Day on December 1, the advocacy group LoveYourself, Inc. will be holding back-to-back events in a massive awareness campaign to help curb the rising cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the country.
LoveYourself will be conducting a free and confidential HIV screening on November 29 to raise awareness about sexual health, particularly about knowing one’s HIV status. The event, dubbed as “Ito ang Tamang Panahon” in reference to the hugely popular celebrity couple Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza, is the group’s second free HIV Screening Day for this year and will be conducted in Victoria Court, North EDSA in Caloocan City.
“There’s no better time to know your HIV status than now,” said Ronivin Pagtakhan, founder and executive director of LoveYourself, adding that regular testing goes a long way in combating the spread of the virus. Pagtakhan also invited everyone to sign-up and register at go.loveyourself.ph/TamangPanahon.
Aside from free HIV testing, LoveYourself will also be holding the first Mr. and Ms. Fratpad, a pageant for “ambassadors of self-worth” aimed at spreading HIV/AIDS awareness in the country through clans and groups of young Ms. Winners of Mr. and Ms. Fratpad will be crowned in a culmination night on November 28 at the Kaban ng Hiyas Hall, 3/F Mandaluyong City Hall, which will include performances from renowned acts, such as, the Philippine All-Stars and Leah Patricio, among others.
The candidates will also be featured in an upcoming magazine that is being developed by LoveYourself in partnership with the HIVOS program. HIVOS is an international organization that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues, such as, discrimination, inequality, abuse of power, and unsustainable use of world’s resources. The magazine, which will be distributed in LGBT-friendly bars and organizations in the Philippines and across Asia, will also tackle sexual health.
“Mitigating HIV all starts with self-worth,” notes Pagtakhan, who says that the group advocates not only against the spread of HIV, but the misinformation, stigma and discrimination often associated with it. “It’s a continuous effort, and we hope to engage everyone through these activities,” he adds.
In September of this year alone, the Department of Health reported 692 cases of new HIV infections, which is comparatively higher than the figure in August with 598 cases. An average of 22 Filipinos daily now get infected with the virus, which, when left untreated, severely weakens the immune system and leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS, a condition where the body is no longer able to fight off various diseases and infections.
In response, the 500-strong volunteer group continues to run two free HIV testing clinics in Metro Manila, the LoveYourself Anglo along Shaw Boulevard and the LoveYourself Hub in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicines (RITM) Satellite Clinic in Malate. The group also offers free sexual health education, counseling services and various project-based activities for HIV/AIDS awareness.