December began with the international commemoration of World AIDS Day.
AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is the final stage of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. HIV is a virus that attacks cells that ward off infections. With AIDS, the immune system becomes so impaired that a person might get life-threatening “opportunistic infections.”
“The HIV epidemic in our country has a new face and it is the face of a young person,” said National Youth Commission chief Aiza Seguerra. Some 29 Filipinos get infected by the virus each day, 19 of which are in the 15-24 age range, 25 within the 15-30 age group. Much needs to improve in the response, said John Ryan Mendoza, a former community nurse and now the HIV program coordinator of the #PreventionNOTCondemnation campaign. Poverty and ignorance can drive vulnerability, he said. Social circumstances drive some into risky behaviors like drug dependence and sex work; others just do not know HIV or how it is transmitted.
Mendoza also added stigma to the equation: “Some of my friends started dying of AIDS. I have seen up close how stigma is a death sentence—not HIV. I found the silence, denial and apathy from communities disturbing.” Another misconception is about HIV being a “gay disease,” which is the reason Roxanne Omega Doron, a member of Cebu-based LGBT organization Bisdak Pride Inc., became an advocate for HIV awareness. “HIV is a serious public health issue,” he said. “The youth should take an active part in HIV advocacy anchored on human rights.” (Dec. 10 is Human Rights Day.) Both agree that there is much to learn and unlearn about HIV. Inquirer Super gives you this guide.
Safer practices: Abstain from, or cautiously engage in, risky behaviors; stay faithful (which may be hard but doable); use condoms; make sure to use only sterile needles and medical supplies.
Access to treatments: People living with HIV should have access to antiretroviral meds; people exposed to HIV must take pre-exposure prophylaxis and other means to lower the risk.
Voluntary testing and counseling: Voluntary HIV testing must be normalized, as in, people must not be afraid to get tested, and maybe once every three months.
Empowerment: Help stop the stigma, such as attaching an image or negative label to people living with HIV.
Top misconceptions and paano sila barahin.
1) HIV and AIDS are a punishment from God for homosexuality. Nonsense. H in HIV stands for “human,” so it is not just a gay thing.
2) You can get HIV with kissing, hugging, handshakes, coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, mosquito bites. Three points. One, there are only four body fluids that can infect—blood, semen, vaginal/cervical fluids and breast milk (no mucus, saliva). Two, HIV dies in the lamok or any other nonhuman. Three, huwag kang “OA.”
3) People living with HIV should not have sex or have babies. Halaman? Just add safety features. Kalma.
4) People living with HIV should not have babies, because the baby will suffer anyway. HIV cannot attach to the sperm and egg cell. Thus, there is no HIV at conception and the future human is, technically, HIV-negative. Transmission possibly happens during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. With the right treatments, the baby can grow up HIV-negative. Again, kalma.
Watch and learn
“Angels in America” (2003)
“The Normal Heart” (2014)
“Holding the Man” (2015)
Take the test. There is no better way to know your status.
AIDS Society of the Philippines, Quezon City | 3762546, 3762541, 4100204
Batasan Social Hygiene Clinic, Batasan Hills, Quezon City | 09053576353
Bernardo Social Hygiene Clinic, Quezon City | 09164781607
Caloocan Social Hygiene Clinic, Caloocan Health Department, Mabini St., Caloocan City | 2888811 loc. 2281, 09176018331
Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Building 14, DOH Compound, Sta. Cruz, Manila | 7438301 loc. 1702
Klinika Novaliches AJ Maximo Health Center, Quirino Highway, Novaliches, Quezon City | 09426853270
Las Piñas (Daniel Fajardo) Social Hygiene Clinic, Barrio Hall, Alabang Zapote Rd., Almansa, Las Piñas City | 8006406, 8739145
Love Yourself Anglo, Unit 5, 3/F, Anglo Bldg., 715-A Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City | 09153665683
Love Yourself Uni, 2028 Taft Ave. Ext., Pasay City (above Mercury Drug Store) | 2569384
Makati City Social Hygiene Clinic, J.P. Rizal St., Poblacion, Makati City | 8701615
Mandaluyong City Social Hygiene Clinic, Maysilo Circle, Mandaluyong City | 5467799, 2115336, 09178424298
Manila Social Hygiene Clinic, San Lazaro, Sta. Cruz, Manila | 7116942, 09205779074
Marikina City Social Hygiene Clinic, Marikina City Health Center | 09178298862
Parañaque Social Hygiene Clinic, Parañaque City Hall | 09179078319
Pasay Social Hygiene Clinic, Pasay City Health Office | 5514180, 09228915674
Pasig City Social Hygiene Clinic, Caruncho Ave., San Nicolas, Pasig City | 6400111
Philippine General Hospital, Taft Avenue | 5548400
Project 7 Social Hygiene Clinic, Project 7, Quezon City | 09186184133
Saint Camillus Medical Center, 116 Amang Rodriguez Ave., Santolan, Quezon City | 6453741, 6820366