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Philippines takes a Positive step to stop AIDS

Newly launched TV drama cast, crew discuss HIV and LGBT issues with stakeholders
Naomi Fontano (left) attends a discussion on LGBT issues with Positive crew and cast members.
Photo by GANDA Filipinas

Its first home-grown TV series directly dealing with HIV/AIDS has debuted in the Philippines, raising stakeholders’ hopes that it would generate public awareness as well as sensitivity.

“Positive” is a drama aired by broadcaster TV5 about the discovery by a party hopper that he has AIDS, which leads him on a search to try and discover how he got infected.

Since it premiered on 17 Oct with the tagline ‘Let's save lives .. Media can stop AIDS’, Positive’s cast and crew have held a discussion with stakeholders to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Naomi Fontano, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates Filipinas, a non-profit organization led by transgender women in the Philippines for gender equality, said she took part in the meeting, organized by the AIDS Society of the Philippines, on Thursday along with representatives from Take the Test, an organization that seeks to provide on-site HIV tests and counseling, and Outrage magazine.

The interaction come close on the heels of community consultations at the Senate, the Philippine parliament’s upper chamber, on 25 Sept. Over 20 community-based organizations took part in it to give their inputs on a proposed anti-discrimination bill that LGBT activists hope will ensure sexual orientation and gender identity protection.

An urgent need for such legislation has been felt since the discovery of a spurt in new HIV infections, the majority of them caused by sex between males.

July saw an unprecedented number of 449 new cases in which 96 per cent were male. It indicated a 62 per cent rise compared to July 2012.

Of the new case, 412 reported they had been infected through sexual contact while needle-sharing among drug users accounted for 36 infections.

Males having sex with males accounted for the majority of the sexual transmissions – 84 per cent.

Of the infected, 57 per cent were aged between 20 and 29.

The proposed anti-discrimination bill seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, disability and HIV status.

While two MPs have filed the bill in the lower house of parliament, it is yet to be tabled in the Senate.

‘The first time a bill like this was filed was in 1999,’ Fontano told Gay Star News.

‘Fourteen years passed. Efforts to pass an anti-discrimination law have been a gargantuan task, to say the least, facing the greatest opposition from the religious right.’

She said the community consultation showed that the LGBT rights movement was finally effecting a change, no matter how slow.

‘It can move united when it really matters,’ she said.

‘It makes me hopeful as a transperson to live in a time like this when the community can take such a huge stride in its political activism.’


 

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