Love in the time of HIV
MANILA, Philippines – Advocacy groups raise the alarm on the rise of HIV cases.
More than 4,400 new cases of HIV were reported in the Philippines in 2013.
An HIV positive advocate says there’s life - and love - after being diagnosed HIV positive.
David Lozada reports.
Like other young adults his age, this young man maintains a healthy lifestyle and takes good care of his body.But unlike his peers, he has the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.
Choi, not his real name, got infected in 2012. Choi says it was difficult to accept at first but he has learned to face reality.
CHOI, PERSON LIVING WITH HIV: My parents had a difficult time when I told them about my situation. They questioned themselves. They thought they had failed in their roles as parents. I had regrets at first. Now, I’m enjoying my life. I’ve given up on my regrets.
Choi is in a relationship with a guy who is HIV negative. He says the disease never got in the way.
CHOI, PERSON LIVING WITH HIV: I told my boyfriend that I was HIV positive after 3 months. He accepted me. I was so happy because he said he wasn’t afraid of the virus. Since he was an HIV advocate, he said he should be the first person to understand my situation.
Choi and his boyfriend are members of Love Yourself Incorporated, a volunteer organization that deals with HIV awareness, education, and prevention among youth and men having sex with men.
People can get free HIV testing in Love Yourself clinics. They offer counselling to people diagnosed with HIV. Love Yourself founder and president Vinn Pagtakhan says the organization aims to stop the spread of HIV. And a big part of that is sexual education.
VINN PAGTAKHAN, LOVE YOURSELF INC. PRESIDENT: Here in the Philippines, when young people talk about sex, it’s like bawal or it’s bad. People are not exposed to things that they should know at an early age and they explore without them knowing. So the tendency is that they do risky behaviors.
According to a report, around 4,500 new cases were diagnosed with HIV from January to November 2013. 95% of these cases involved males, while 28% were aged 15 to 24 years old. Males having sex with males account for 83% of sexual transmission.
Conservative groups say chastity is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV. But Love Yourself says this is no longer true for this generation. Given the current culture among the youth, advocates says HIV awareness and safe sex is key.
As for Choi, he says he learned to appreciate life and other people better.
CHOI, PERSON LIVING WITH HIV: Never ever be afraid to get HIV testing. If you found out that you are negative, you’ll be able to maintain your status and take care of yourself more. If you’re positive, it’s okay. There are people who can provide your biomedical and psychosocial needs.
Its a simple message: life doesn't end with HIV. HIV positive people need our love and understanding. As they say, hate the condition but not the person.
David Lozada, Rappler Makati. – Rappler.com
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