MANILA, Philippines – Netizens and advocates came together on Friday, September 18, to break the silence on HIV/AIDS, as MovePH launched its #StayNegatHIVe campaign.
The Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2015. In March 2015, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 667 new cases, bringing the cumulative cases since 1984 up to 24,376.
Most netizens encouraged fellow Filipinos, especially the youth, to make themselves aware of the issue. Adults and teachers, however, should also be educated on the topic so they can help stop misinformation.
#StayNegatHIVe I hope more teenagers will take part on this alarming national issue and participate with the discussion seriously— MiChu (@AKAPenales) September 18, 2015
Another issue highligted is the importance of getting tested. There is no shame in getting tested, HIV/AIDS advocacy group LoveYourself said. At the same time, one’s privacy must also be respected when visiting treatment hubs.
How do you know if you are an HIV carrier? The only way to know for sure is to have yourself tested. #StayNegatHIVe …— rick (@rickrick888) September 18, 2015
Educate people more that knowing your status or getting tested is something not to be afraid of. #StayNegatHIVe— Don Jeremiah Neri (@Mr_D_tothe_J) September 18, 2015
Always know your status. Stay safe as well. Be responsible. #StayNegatHIVe— RT Hernandez (@rt_hernandez) September 18, 2015
Remember TSC – timely testing & treatment, safe & satisfying sex, and correct & consistent condom use with lube #StayNegatHIVe— Manila Gay Guy (@mgg) September 18, 2015
Fighting the stigma
The biggest battles fought in the HIV/AIDS advocacy is not the disease itself but stigma, advocates said.
For a long time, HIV/AIDS has been called the “gay cancer,” with many Filipinos believing that it is only lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals who can acquire it. This, however, has been proven false by statistics and scientific studies.
Whatever the result may be, the person needs to be loved, accepted, and supported, the netizens agreed.
We don’t drive them away. We stay close to them. They need us. #StayNegatHIVe— Eduardo Rodriguez Jr (@uderodriguezjr) September 18, 2015
At this stage of the epidemic, not everyone will #StayNegatHIVe. To end AIDS, we need to be inclusive & embrace PLHIVs in the convo.— jonas bagas (@jonasbagas) September 18, 2015
Awareness is the first step, but having a legislation and supportive government could help keep the advocacy rolling. The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) joined the conversation, urging the government to increase its allocated budget for HIV/AIDS.
The DOH National HIV/STI Prevention Program has a 2015 budget of about P500 million ($11.21 million), 60% of which will go to the treatment of patients. But the PLCPD argued that more funds are needed.
Contrary to what many Filipinos think, it is not only men who have sex with men (MSM) who are vulnerable to acquiring HIV, but anyone engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex.
HIV-positive pregnant women may also pass it down to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding. But this may be prevented through treatment, which is why it is important for women to also get tested.
Some Filipinos also still fall prey to HIV/AIDS myths like:
- You can get HIV from toilet bowls
- You can get HIV from sharing food
- You can get HIV from mosquitos
But such scenarios are not exlusive to the Philippines. HIV remains a “major global public health issue,” according to WHO. In 2014 alone, 36.9 million people living with HIV were recorded. In the same year, more than a million people worldwide died from HIV-related causes. So far, HIV has claimed over 34 million lives.
#StayNegatHIVe is the first part of MovePH’s HIV/AIDS campaign, a concerted effort between all of MovePH’s communities nationwide, LoveYourself and DM9 JaymeSyfu. We will be bringing in more groups in phase 2, especially those who cater to people living with HIV (PLHIV). –Rappler.com