Dec 4, 2011

[Technicolor Musings] HIV / AIDS Awareness Groups in the Philippines

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...
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December 1 marks World AIDS Day, a time when people can unite and send a strong message of support to those who have already contracted HIV / AIDS while at the same time promoting greater awareness and more responsible practices to prevent the continued spread of the virus. For many countries, including the Philippines, December is also AIDS Awareness Month. The most well-known image associated with the HIV / AIDS advocacy movement is the red ribbon.

It's interesting to note that there seems to be a bit of an increase of HIV / AIDS advocacy groups and movements in the country - something that can be inevitably connected to the continued rise of reported cases in the country despite the global reduction in the growth rate of infections. The statistics are pretty alarming, and I don't see the need to re-state them right now. Regardless of the numbers, HIV / AIDS will always be a very serious concern for the LGBT community and all those who practice unsafe sex and the sharing of needles and other infection risks.

I've previously written about the "fear" or "stigma around getting tested for HIV / AIDS as my own little bid to start promoting HIV / AIDS awareness and responsibility, but of course there's a lot more that can be done to effectively fight this and get the community back on the right track.

With the 2011 Manila Pride March having completed yesterday, this seems as good a time as any to try and document some of the more prevalent / visible HIV / AIDS advocacy / support groups out there for those who are looking for ways to get involved in the fight against HIV / AIDS.

I suppose the best place to start is with one of the oldest groups that I could find - this being the AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP). The AIDS Society of the Philippines is an affiliate of the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific (ASAP) and the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Inc (PNGOC), and an active member of the Philippine National AIDS Council. They're a membership organization that counts many experts and professionals from different fields all working towards preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country. I suppose you could consider this group to be a more traditional type of organization that is trying to get serious work done, especially with their role in the National AIDS Council that works directly with the Office of the President.

Another prominent series of interconnected groups center around the advocacy efforts of photographer Niccolo Cosme. What started out as a new way to blend issue advocacy with advertising methodologies with the Project Headshot Clinic, this has branched into the Take the Test Project, that aims to encourage more individuals to regularly get tested for HIV / AIDS. Most recently, the Project Headshot Clinic advocacy efforts has evolved into The Red Whistle, an HIV / AIDS advocacy group that centers its efforts around the symbol of a red whistle worn around the neck. The whistle echoes the practice of a UNAIDS representative that Niccolo Cosme encountered, which was a tool to sound the alarm for disaster preparedness and prevention. You can find them on Twitter via the username TheRedWhistle.

A more recent HIV / AIDS advocacy group is The Love Yourself Project, which is also working towards driving greater awareness about HIV / AIDs and providing HIV counseling and testing services. The group has a pretty strong presence on social media and has sponsored a series of free seminars to certify volunteers as peer educators and counselors. They're probably best known for their fundraising activities including photoshoots and the sale of their signature Love Yourself shirts and singlets. You can also find them on Twitter via the username LoveYourself_VA.

Beyond the awareness and HIV / AIDS prevention groups, there are also those dedicated primarily to providing active support to those who have already contracted HIV / AIDS.

One notable group is The No Day But Today Project. While they also provide counseling support for those who are just about to take the test, they're also working on providing active support through various wellness activities primarily at their wellness center in Ermita. The group states they are faith-based but are not trying to preach or "convert" folks to a particular religion, which I feel is a laudable stand to take in this regard. At this point most of their activities are focused on weekends, but should expand in time given sufficient funding and support. You can find them on Twitter via the username be_pozph.

Another unique HIV / AIDS support group is Yoga for Life, which is trying to use yoga as a supplementary therapy for those who are confirmed to be HIV positive / living with AIDS in addition to contemporary medicine. It's certainly an interesting approach to things and I have to admit I like their focus on using Yoga as a way to promote overall fitness and wellness with programs tailored for those who are living with HIV / AIDs. They have sessions at various locations around the city and you can visit their website for more information or link to them on Twitter via the username YogaForLife_ph.

These are just a few of the groups that I could find that are trying to do their part in spreading the message of living healthily and how to avoid encouraging the spread of HIV / AIDS - I'm sure there are a lot more of them out there all trying to promote the same message. And this isn't about choosing one group over the others - you'll even see that each of these groups communicate with one another and try to help each other out.

What's really important is that we should all do our part in living responsible lives, practicing safe sex and fighting ignorance about HIV / AIDS whenever we can. If you feel you want to do more than just spread the word among your closer friends, then at least this guide should help you find a way to channel your good intentions in support of larger HIV / AIDS advocacy initiatives.
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  1. You're welcome! Just trying to spread the word. =)

  2. On behalf of the LOVERS from Love Yourself, thank you for spreading the love. With your support, we will be here to help ;)