'We will win this': Advocates call to end HIV, AIDS stigma
MANILA, Philippines – Advocates called to end the stigma on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) as House of Representatives passed the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy bill on Monday, December 4.
With a vote of 188-0, the proposed House Bill No. 6617 passed the 3rd and final reading. The measure aims to prevent spread of HIV and AIDS.
Advocates and those living with the virus brought to Twitter their stories in a bid to end discrimination in the country, as many of those of who are positive with HIV chose to remain anonymous. (INFOGRAPHIC: How is HIV transmitted?)
I’m Jay Santiago, and I recently publicly came out as HIV+ after nearly a decade.— Jay Santiago (@geeuh) December 4, 2017
We can end the spread of HIV if we eradicate ignorance and fear.
We need better support systems and comprehensive policies for HIV care and education for all.#StoptheStigma! #HIVPolicyNow!
Hi, I am Raffy. Lost a number of friends because of HIV. One committed suicide because of discrimination. Let’s make our country a better place to live for people living with HIV. Let’s fight especially for those who can’t. #HIVPolicyNow— raffy magno (@raffymagno) December 4, 2017
I am the bestfriend of a person living with HIV. I am one with the call for the passage of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act. Stop the stigma! #HIVPolicyNow! ❤️— bespren ng pusit (@SquidBFF) December 4, 2017
Recently I got a message from a person who was about to start his contract as a seafarer. He was asked to resign immediately after he found out he was HIV positive. #HIVPolicyNow— Mark Lacsamana (@emkey) December 4, 2017
To our dear brothers and sister who live with HIV, know that there are those who are and who will protect and advocate for you and your rights!
Yakap na mahigpit! Special hugs to my patients!— Alter Abrenica (@ACVersa) November 28, 2017
Nandito ako, kami para sa inyo.
Meanwhile, advocates also extended their support on Twitter:
In a statement, the Liberal Party also pushed for the right to health for everyone.
"No one should be left behind, especially the youth, not only in the fight against HIV [and] AIDS, but in access to health care and in ensuring a healthy environment for all," the statement. (READ: Orgies and Tinder: Millennials are having sex, some with a deadly price)
Let's talk about HIV, AIDS
Friday, December 1, was World AIDS day. In the Philippines, LoveYourself, a community of volunteers, organized a charity event to celebrate the day and to support organizations that pursue life-saving initiatives.
Advocates urged people to further discuss issues about HIV and AIDS to remove the misconceptions about the virus and to prevent it from spreading.
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach called on the public to make HIV testing as part of their health and wellness routine. (READ: StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS)
"Let us work together to normalize HIV testing, so that it’s viewed just like a regular medical check up. Because knowing our own HIV status is the first step in our battle to end AIDS," said Wurtzbach.
LoveYourself also honored individuals who made impact in spreading HIV and AIDS awareness and helping fight the stigma in their respective communities.
Among those who were recognized as "Ripple Awardees" were Senator Risa Hontiveros, Health department spokesperson Eric Tayag, Victoria Court managing director Angelina Mead King, designer Fautine Angeles, blogger M.A. Buendia, and advocates Sherwin Baniqued, Jebsen Go Gamido, Doctor Katerina Leyritana, Elena Felix, and Roberto Figuracion.
"The HIV epidemic can be won through greater awareness and education, and these Ripple Awards winners have used their voices and influence to spread the right messages to the people who need to hear them," said Ronivin Pagtakhan, LoveYourself executive director.
Days before the World AIDS day, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and some media outlets were criticized for disclosing the HIV status of one of the suspects in a drug bust operation. (READ: [DASH of SAS] Better police handling, media coverage of drugs and HIV needed)
According to the Department of Health, cases of HIV in the Philippines is the "fastest growing" epidemic among Asia Pacific countries.
DOH reported that more Filipinos acquired the virus from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016. The figure is estimated to hit 142,000 by 2022 and 313,000 by 2030.– Rappler.com