“There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
This was emphasized by 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach when she talked about HIV testing on Wednesday during the launch of Love Gala, a charity and awards gala event that aims to honor individuals for their outstanding contributions on HIV-AIDS advocacy.
Even before Wurtzbach won the Miss Universe crown, she has been vocal about her desire to be an advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
On Wednesday, she had undergone an HIV test in a mobile clinic in the Kalayaan Hall of SM Aura in Taguig City. According to community organization, Love Yourself, this is the second time that Wurtzbach has undergone a public HIV screening, but her first in the Philippines.
“If I could invite my (relatives), my cousins, we would join hands going to the clinic to undergo testing,” she said, explaining that people should not be ashamed of going to clinics to undergo this test.
Wurtzbach said her cousin, her handler, and some of the people who work with her also had the HIV testing with her in Taguig City.
In the Philippines, experts say people are dealing with stigma, reason why many are hesitant to be tested. Data from the Department of Health (DOH) indicate a steady increase in the number of HIV cases in the country – from one case per day in 2007, cases rose to 29 per day in 2017.
Data also revealed that the number of new cases has grown among young people, including men who have sex with men, as well as among transgender people.
In May, there was a reported 1,098 newly diagnosed people living with HIV in the country.
With these growing figures, Wurtzbach unveiled the PIA Project on Wednesday. This project will focus on information dissemination on HIV, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and on promoting self worth among the youth.
Basically, the PIA Project will have five initiatives:
1. #Live2LUV campaign – This will use social media to raise awareness on HIV, AIDS and other sexual health concerns
2. PIA Video campaign – youth-themed videos which will be disseminated to local government units, senior high schools and universities
3. Love Gala – a charity and awards gala that will be held on December 1 in Taguig City. Wurtzbach is the current ambassador of the said event.
4. Multi-platform Service Delivery Referral System – a website where people can search for sexual health services provided by the government or community and private groups in their locality
5. Policy advocacy – aims to help the youth gain access to key sexual health services
At the Love Gala event on December, 10 individuals will be recognized at the Ripple Awards for their contributions in inspiring others and helping in the fight against HIV.
The following sectors may be nominated for the Ripple Awards until August 31: business, youth, academe, government, media, influencer, non-government organization, person living with HIV, medical and arts.
The organizers said nominees will be judged based on their impact to the communities.