“To be or not to be? UMak’s Answer to the Subject of HIV”
The truth is that by the days of every year, there are drastic changes that could have happened; let alone days and years to come. This has been the case for the Philippines in recent years, and addressing this reality proves to be the call of the hour. Case in point, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections in the country. Since 2010, the total number of people infected with the virus has more than doubled until 2016. Originally from 4,300 people contracted with HIV, the number swelled to 10,500 in a span of six years. As of the moment, there are about 62,000 Filipinos reportedly diagnosed with HIV.
The University of Makati answered this urgent call with a firm stance through a momentous endeavor last September 16th, 2019. Through the coordination of UMak’s Center for Gender and Development (CGAD), UMak’s Supreme Student Government, and Durex Philippines, the “HIV University Townhall” has been conducted in order to raise awareness among the Filipinos, employees and students alike. Hosted by the ever-energetic radio hosts of Magic 89.9’s “Boys Night Out”, Slick Rick, Tony Toni, and Sam YG served as the facilitators through utilizing their wits and charisma. On a more important note, they have been advocates of the cause, and they have provided significant roles in the delivery of the event’s intention.
The thrusts of the event were threefold. First is that the well-founded and comprehensive information on the topic of HIV. Secondly, this is then reinforced by the discussion on the status quo of HIV infections in the country, along with inferences towards the future. Lastly, an equally important aspect of this advocacy was duly put into light: de-stigmatization towards HIV among Filipinos. These threefold objectives have been attained through the invaluable expertise, insights, and testimonies of the invited speakers. In setting the knowledge on HIV, Dr. Edsel Salvana of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) elucidated the common misconceptions on HIV vis-à-vis Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This is then followed by “LoveYourself PH” volunteer Iosif Cadelina in his discussion on the state of HIV/AIDS in the Philippine setting, along with the encouragement of seeking advice, testing, among others. Lastly, the road towards de-stigmatization has been paved by Dr. Rica Perez of Ateneo de Manila University and Jabar Esmael with his testimony. As Dr. Perez stated, the truth of the matter is that the concept of sex is inherent in the minds of the people, consciously or subconsciously. Filipinos should reexamine their respective points of view regarding sex, wherein everyone can have a professional outlook on this concept, eliminating the uneasiness or discomfort of talking about it. This serves as the foundation for healthy and responsible sex if one decides to engage in one. Equally important is that everyone must know the extent that stigmas can precipitate, especially in the emotional and mental health of the people living with HIV (PLHIV). This encapsulated Jabar Esmael’s testimony as one of the living testament of HIV. Contracting HIV means a “seemingly eternal” and profound wound for many. Many people suffer from their own versions of wounds with corresponding versions of pain; causing another that stems from stigmas that would deepen the agony of the already suffering soul.
The event did not only equip the participants with the knowledge in tackling the issues and realities of HIV, but it also renewed their dispositions toward this matter. HIV as a subject is not exclusively physiological in its scale, it affects all the facets of people’s lives. A minute of complacency and inactivity, along with misdirected actions, is a lost opportunity of making a difference to the lives of others. All people can ever do is to keep moving forward, therefore they should maximize this limitation into opportunity. To learn from the events and from the people that came before them while assuring tomorrow for everyone must be the foundation and inspiration of every Heron. On that very day, to be a catalyst for change has become the UMakian statement.
written and submitted by: Mr. John David Ayson
photo captured by: Carl Ishkra Pagulayan