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Catriona Gray’s open letter on International Women’s Day: Get tested for HIV/AIDS

Rappler.com

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Catriona Gray’s open letter on International Women’s Day: Get tested for HIV/AIDS
'HIV is just a status: it doesn’t define you as a woman, more so as a person,' says Catriona

MANILA, Philippines – On International Women’s Day, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray called on women to get tested for HIV/AIDS, to break barriers, and fight the epidemic.

In an open letter posted on the Love Yourself website, she reminded that HIV/AIDS does not choose age, gender, or lifestyle. 

Love Yourself, which educates people on HIV/AIDS awareness and testing, is one of the charities Catriona has been supporting prior to her being crowned Miss Universe. (IN PHOTOS: Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, Love Yourself, Smile Train)

In the data from the World Health Organization, 51% of women from around the world or about 17.4 million are people living with HIV. In the Philippines, 599 HIV cases involving Filipinas have been reported in 2018.

But, the message I want to share today is not one of fear. In writing this, I want to create a safe space of learning, acceptance and empowerment – for all women on the front of HIV/AIDS,” she said.

She said in her letter that she lost a friend at a young age to an AIDS related condition and could not bear losing another person again. (READ: Catriona Gray, JC Santos share journey as HIV/AIDS awareness spokespersons)

“Now writing this, age 25 myself, I can’t imagine having my life, or a life of someone close to me taken by this health condition. It’s heart breaking. To the women reading this, I do not want your life to be taken or defined by HIV/AIDS. To change and uplift the world for women and all people, we need to be around to make change happen. So say that we’re in this together. Let’s protect and love ourselves.”

She then encouraged not only women but also others to take the step by getting tested and make this a routine.

“Whatever the outcome may be, I want to emphasize that HIV is just a status: it doesn’t define you as a woman, more so as a person.

“Apart from the fact that you can protect yourself from contracting HIV with the available methods, you should know that HIV is a manageable condition. If you are HIV negative, keep that status by practicing a safe and healthy lifestyle and by continuing with your HIV testing; and if you are diagnosed HIV positive, you can avail of free counselling and HIV treatment given by your government and/or even non-government organizations who are active in this cause, and of course, further take care of yourself. You have to remember that there is life after HIV if you regularly take the appropriate medicines. You can still live a normal, happy and active life,” she said.

SUPPORT. Catriona during her visit at Love yourself. Photo by Ria Brines/Love Yourself

The Filipino-Aussie beauty queen continued by saying that when asked what’s the best thing about being a woman in 2019, she replied it was about coming together and building communities, which breaks barriers. She also added that support from other countries is needed to fight the epidemic.

“Let’s do our part. I’m optimistic that if we raise our voices together, we can create change, because every one of us is affected by HIV. Let the power of women create the ripples of positive change in our larger community and transpire all over the universe.”

She ended the letter by asking everyone to continue to educate themselves and the people around them and to uplift spirits of people who need support.

” (L)et me share you the words of one of the most inspiring ladies on this advocacy – Elizabeth Taylor once said, ‘It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.’ Let’s continue to educate ourselves, our communities and one another, as we move forward to champion this cause.

“As we endeavor a new beginning together this Women’s Month, I hope that my fellow Filipinos, Catrionians and supporters from all corners of the universe could help me spread more awareness, not just about HIV, but to all the causes that concern all women. Together, let’s uplift their spirits – for whatever journey they choose to pursue.” – Rappler.com

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