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AKLAN, Philippines – The newly crowned Queen of Aklan (QOA) pageant winner has revealed that she has contracted the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a brave disclosure which she said was her step to advocate against the stigma and discrimination suffered by people infected by the virus that leads to the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Queen of Aklan 2023 Devine Pogoy first publicly disclosed her HIV status during the pageant on December 8.
The annual event is a beauty pageant for a cause for gays and transgenders in the province. It began as a World AIDS Day Queen in 2012, according to Lora Gabuna-Antenor, QOA vice president for internal affairs. The pageant aims to promote the elimination of HIV-AIDS cases in Aklan province.
Hailing from Cebu, Pogoy told Rappler on Monday, December 11, “I really do not know how I got infected by the virus… If I had known earlier about the risks of HIV-AIDS, I might have taken better care of myself.”
She said she made the decision to come out on December 1 after meeting a 10-year-old girl from Cebu who had contracted HIV-AIDS. The girl, infected by her parents, was brought to Boracay from Cebu by the Department of Health (DOH) to share her story as a person living with HIV.
During a special segment of the pageant, held in commemoration of World AIDS Day, one of the judges asked Pogoy how she planned to contribute to eliminating the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV.
Visibly emotional, Pogoy responded, “People of Aklan, as we celebrate World AIDS Day, I am standing here in front of you, breaking my silence. This empowered woman standing here has been a PLHIV for more than six years. Look at me, alive and kicking, telling you all that I still live my life the way I want to. Friends, ladies and gentlemen, I am not standing here alone; I am standing here on behalf of the PLHIVs, my brothers and sisters who are struggling with health, depression, and anxiety. I encourage you all to go out and not be afraid of who you are and what you have because at the end of the day, you will not be judged by what you have but by what you have done.”
Representing Malay, Aklan during the pageant, the 28-year-old Pogoy bagged the crown, with Ezra Eism of Numancia as the first runner-up and Jayvee Tumaca of Ibajay, Aklan, claiming the second spot. Eight finalists competed for the coveted title this year.
Currently, Pogoy volunteers as a peer educator and motivator in HIV-AIDS prevention and control. She is the president of the Positibong Laso-Boracay and a member of the Red Lace-Boracay movement.
Organizers of the pageant expressed concern because data from the Provincial Health Office has shown that from 1999 to July 2023, 542 people tested positive for HIV-AIDS in the province. – Rappler.com