Forum raises awareness on HIV in PH
PROJECT Headshot Clinic, together with The Red Whistle and AIESEC-UST, organized “Unite: Advocacy and Social Media” last November 17 at the Fuego Restaurant in Makati City.
The forum, now on its fifth year, aims to have a 0% HIV diagnosed Philippines by 2015. A photo shoot for creating digitized headshots for online profile photos was held prior to the forum.
The guest speakers include Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales, Film Director Joey Reyes, HIV and AIDS awareness advocate Wanggo Gallaga, and sexual health advocate and Journalist Ana Santos.
Ana Santos started her talk with figures on the increase in number of HIV and AIDS victims.
“It’s really increasing at an alarming rate,” Santos said while presenting the rapid rise of numbers of HIV and AIDS victims from 2007 to 2012.
She also said that 80% of the cases were among men having sexual intercourse with other men. She added more and more young people, ages 20 to 29, are getting infected.
HIV victim and advocate Wanggo Gallaga said that he has always made himself available to talk about the HIV situation in the country to help educate people, for this problem needs to be addressed.
According to Gallaga, it’s not anymore HIV awareness because people already have knowledge about the virus, considering their easy access to information nowadays.
“I have no excuse to say that I did not know that [HIV] was around, and still, I lived the life that I did and got myself infected,” said Gallaga.
Five years ago, Gallaga was diagnosed with HIV and from then on, he became an advocate educating and reminding people of its dangers.
Furthermore, he challenged everyone to not just ask about HIV but to also act on it. “I have to come and ask myself, ‘People listen and people hear, but what are they doing about it?’”
Film Director Joey Reyes started his talk with a warning of a disturbance and said, “I see all these nice and pretty men and women who actually and really believe that you are safe and the HIV epidemic is the curse of God to all the baklas in the Philippines.”
He explained that the virus is not exclusively for male homosexuals and said more and more heterosexuals are also being infected. Additionally, in the 30 years that the virus has existed, the country, despite being one of the first countries to address this problem, has treated it with apathy.
The director ended his disturbance and said, “All of you guys, all of you pretty and well-dressed heterosexual males and females are also threatened by this epidemic which is slowly encroaching the country.”
Meanwhile, the Marcos Regime Human Rights advocate Etta Rosales cited one of social media’s most evident issues: eyeballing.
She explained that the concept of eyeball-to-eyeball during her time was rallying and protesting on the streets, far different from its concept today. She blamed generation gap for this.
Rosales was once an Akbayan Representative and one of their projects was to help the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community establish their niches alongside the rest of the world.
The talks were followed by queries from the audience and these questions, the speakers believed, would help the youth understand the dangers of HIV.
Project Headshot Clinic founder Niccolo Cosme ended the forum and said, “I think initiative will always start from each and everyone of us. I think—and hope—that this will not end in this restaurant.”
The photos of the guests will be uploaded as profile pictures in aim to establish an online billboard.
By Charry Fatima D. Garcia
Photo taken by Paulo Angelo Juan