Pia Wurtzbach is new UNAIDS Asia-Pacific goodwill ambassador
MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is the new face of the fight against the human immunodeficieny virus/accute immuno deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS).
For her advocacy against the growing epidemic, Wurtzbach was named Goodwill Ambassador of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Asia-Pacific on Wednesday, May 3 at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). The beauty queen has a huge following among the youth and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) LGBT groups.
"Pia has been brave and honest about speaking about young people and those too often left in the margins of society – men having sex with men (MSMs), transgenders, sex workers...People who don’t have the same opportunities in life need champions who have been for them and with them," said Steve Kraus, UNAIDS Director for Asia and the Pacific.
Kraus, who officially welcomed Wurtzbach to the UN family, added that 40% of new cases recorded are on people below 25 years old. There are an estimated 29 new HIV infections reported daily. More than half of these infections – about 19 – are from the youth sector.
Wurtzbach's appointment is also expected to move the fight against HIV in the Philippines, which has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world.
"The reality is that...many of the ASEAN members states have driven down the HIV infection rates. Some have had 50 to 60% reduction of new infections...The challenges are very real," Kraus noted.
He added: "Both the government and the community and its international development partners...We are working together more and more to make sure that response to HIV is more inclusive, more rights based, and that it's rooted on evidence on what works and what doesn't work.
'Let's face reality'
Wurtzbach noted that one thing she would like to see happen in the Philippines is for the age of consent for HIV testing to be lowered.
"(This is) so that more people can get themselves tested. Right now, the age is 18. Come one, realisitically, we all start having sex much younger than that," the beauty queen said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
She added: "The law should mirror what's going on outside. Let's try not to pretend we're still living in 1900s. It's 2017. Hopefully, we'll get to see some progress very soon."
Wurtzbach first mentioned her advocacy for HIV/AIDS during her Q and A at the Miss Universe in December 2015. Since winning the crown, she has been involved with organizations abroad invovled in the advocacy and supported by the Miss Universe Organization.
"Because I was living so far away from home, I couldn't help but think of ways to help out when I come back here...I'm glad that my prayers have been answered...Now I can focus more on raising awareness for this cause here at home and not just abroad," she said.
To stop the growth of the epidemic, Wurtzbach encouraged everyone, regardless of their sexual and lifestyle preferences, to get tested.
"I'm not an expert on this. I don't have the cure...The thing is, I'm a messenger. I spread awareness. I put the ideas there for you guys to decide on what to do with the information," Wurtzbach said.
She added: "What I really want to do is make people aware that it can happen to anybody. Literally, everyone in this room can get it including me if we're not careful, if we don't know the preventive measures. Please get yourself tested."
For La Marañon, President of ADMU student government who was part of the panel, HIV/AIDS is a reality people cannot turn a blind eye to.
"It's a reality happening inside and outside the university. I think that turning a blind eye in this issue means you're turning a blind eye on the experiences of the people undergoing this. It's something that we need to talk about given the stigma involved in HIV/AIDS," Marañon said.
With Wurtzbach's involvement in the advocacy, the fight for HIV/AIDS in the Philippines just got a push.
"I will use my voice, my social media following (for this advocacy)," Wurtzbach stressed, saying that "people who are following me right now, at least when they look at me, they'll know that (I am) advocating for HIV/AIDS."
"Join me in getting tested! By 2030, AIDS will no longer be a problem here in the Philippines and around Asia." – Rappler.com