Friday, February 12, 2016

LoveYourself Uni: A Place Rooted in Love and a Sense of Community

Wazzup Pilipinas!

LoveYourself is all set to open its brand new clinic and community center, called LoveYourself Uni, on February 13. The clinic’s name denotes unity and inclusiveness with all members of the community, and at the same time be closely associated with the “University”, as a reference to the youth.

LoveYourself Uni is an upscale of the now closed LoveYourself Hub along San Marcelino Street in Malate, Manila. Also taking into consideration accessibility, the clinic is located just right beside Buendia LRT-1 station. Apart from functioning as a testing center, the space was designed to impart a vibrant and hospitable atmosphere as it aims to be a community center.

A Date Rooted in Love

Save the date as LoveYourself Uni’s inauguration coincides with many other auspicious dates and even a special holiday. The opening ceremonies come after the Lunar New Year which was on February 8. This reminds us of the Chinese sticky rice cakes, Filipinos fondly called as “tikoy". The stickiness of tikoy signifies the ties that bind the family and friends together and remember those who matter the most. And it is this cohesion that brings to mind what LoveYourself strives for as an organization and, more importantly, as a community for the society it belongs.

The inaugural also falls on the eve of Valentine’s Day, which brings to mind that the community represented by LoveYourself is rooted in love. The community of volunteers advocating and working together to bring HIV awareness and inculcating the value of self-worth to its clients and partners demonstrates the very same virtue upon which the day of hearts is being celebrated around the world - selfless love and care.

A Calming Oasis for Your Tranquility

LoveYourself co-founder Chris Lagman worked closely together with interior designer Simoun Almoro to bring to life interiors that invoke the dynamism of youth by creating a laid-back and cozy atmosphere that altogether conjures new perceptions on the realities of HIV testing. Chris and Simoun came up with the idea of a vibrantly colored mural to enliven the subtle and solid colors of the floor and walls. Breaking the monotony, they thought of a mural featuring geometric shapes, primarily triangles.

Artists and LoveYourself volunteers, Vince Condicion and Brian Barretto, brought the sketch of geometric shapes into life by filling it in with colors. They were assisted by other LoveYourself volunteers, who altruistically helped out to finish the mural, working on weekends up to the wee hours of the day. This outpouring support from every volunteer is a testament to the community that LoveYourself represents. The labor of love gave birth to a cafe-like setting consisting of couches with grasslike upholstery, decorative hanging lamps, wooden floors, and a mural awash in vivid colors that all work together to suggest a sense of warmth and homeliness.

The upbeat interiors of LoveYourself Uni are a departure from the usual setting of clinics or treatment centers with bare, if not non-existent, interiors that aimed to provide minimal functionality. The interiors are also meant to make clients feel at ease, alleviate worries, and provide a sense of comfort.

A Community with greater purpose

LoveYourself Executive Director Vinn Pagtakhan said that the organization is prompted to reinforce its efforts to curb the “explosive epidemic of HIV infections among males who have sex with males (MSMs).” Citing a study conducted in LoveYourself Hub in Malate from 2012 - 2015 revealed an incidence density of HIV as high as 9.5 incidences per 100 person-years, particularly among those aged 15-22 years old. On the other hand, Bangkok, Thailand, which also suffers from an explosive epidemic, has an incidence density among MSMs of 5.9 incidences per 100 person-years as reported in 2013.

Following these data, Vinn goes on to say that intervention must be focused on MSM college students. Hitting this target group is the main objective behind LoveYourself Uni’s upgrade, increased convenience, and youthful vibe. This is why LoveYourself Uni’s mural of collage of triangles was given the name “The Triangles of Self-Care (TSC)” by Vinn and Chris. TSC is a three-point HIV prevention model and tool that imparts the practice of timely testing and treatment (T), safe and satisfying sex (S), and correct and consistent use of condoms with water-based lubricant (C).

LoveYourself Uni will commence regular operations on Wednesday, February 17. Confidential testing, counseling and peer education services are to be offered for free, as it has been for all its clinic every since. Also, the clinic, just like LoveYourself Anglo, will also be hosting the NEX+ CHAP+ER Program of LoveYourself, a treatment program for people living with HIV (PLHIV).

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