Ahead of World AIDS Day this week, some of the Philippines’ hottest online personalities are encouraging the LGBT community to test for HIV.
Influencers in the capital, Manila, have launched the ‘Taking It’ challenge. They’ve pledged to test for HIV and nominated three friends to do so too.
Importantly, 90 percent of these infections are among men who have sex with men.
Launched by Bangkok-based Asia Pacific HIV community network APCOM and funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, organizers hope ‘Taking It’ will spread to thousands of young gay men in the region.
Let’s meet some of the Philippine stars doing their bit to tackle HIV in the country.
‘Ripples of positive change’
Commercial model and publishing specialist, Michael John Diaz, joined the campaign to empower the community.
‘By nurturing our self-worth, we inspire others to do the same and create ripples of positive change’ he told Gay Star News.
Diaz posted a video message explaining how HIV testing is important, but also safe and confidential.
He said he was overwhelmed by the response. Many friends have posted their own friends and tagged more and more people.
It is inspiring to see that there are people from different walks of life, different beliefs and perception, all helping for the same cause’ he said.
Diaz praised efforts by the government, community organizations, and international NGOs in bringing new infections under control.
Stigma still ‘lurks’, however, he said. ‘A joint effort is therefore needed to survive. Everyone should take part in fighting this battle’
‘We may not save everyone but everyone can save someone. Together, we can fight HIV.’
‘Do’s and don’ts‘
‘Everyone should know the do’s and don’ts when it comes to sexual intercourse’, said Vinzon Leojay Booc.
The 25-year-old vlogger and impersonator performs as Lady Gagita and Katy Perya.
She said that since her post, many followers had pledged to get tested.
‘By doing the campaign on social media and by means of doing small things, people are now more aware of the phenomenon’ she told Gay Star News.
Booc said more needs to be done to protect LGBTI individuals and people living with HIV.
‘There is still a stigma on the HIV scene especially the straight people. They think that the disease came from gay people.’
She urged the government to enact the long-awaited SOGIE Equality Bill.
Losing a friend
Sebastian Castro became a YouTube sensation after releasing online music-hit Bubble. It garnered five million views on YouTube.
Castro came out publicly shortly after that.
He told Gay Star News he wanted to launch the Taking It challenge after losing a friend due to complications with HIV.
‘Unfortunately, that’s not an unusual story in the Philippines’ he said.
He said stigma against gay an bisexual men in the predominantly-Catholic country got in the way of testing.
For his taking it campaign, therefore, he wrapped himself in rainbow flags.
So far, 5,000 people have liked or shared the post, including high profile actress Mara Lopez.
At just 19 years old, Aldwin Chester T. Amolat, took up the challenge to spread awareness among people his age.
In his video, the marketing student and social media star revealed how many people in his age group were living with HIV.
‘The responses were actually exceptional, more and more people are actually getting interested with the discussion about this particular issue which is significantly relevant to my country’ he told Gay Star News.
Amolat is committed to tackling the stigma around HIV and testing.
‘I think educating the people about it and spreading awareness would be of good help when it comes to resolving this “antagonist” stigma.’ he said.