LoveYourself: An HIV Prevention Advocacy
I was invited to a LoveYourself concert and art exhibit last month which I unfortunately was not able to attend. I asked my friend, LoveYourself volunteer Joseph Cadelina, what the organization was all about and learned that their primary advocacy was HIV prevention. In this week’s blog, I interviewed my friend Joseph to glean more information about their said advocacy. The saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” may be trite but it’s a kernel of wisdom that everyone should heed nonetheless.
1) Can you tell me a bit about the organization’s beginnings? What was the initial objective when LoveYourself was created?
It was July of 2011 when a group of friends headed by Vinn Pagtakhan (who won the Nurse of the Year award that year on Twitter) thought of creating an organization focusing on the HIV prevention and awareness.
2) Who are the founders of LoveYourself? Who are the main admins of the group now?
Vinn Pagtakhan, who was then joined soon after by Chris Lagman of the popular blog Manila Gay Guy plus some of the Fabcasters, with Ian Alquiros, a noted photographer, Von Arroyo, and a few others. The organization is headed by Vinn as the Executive Director.
3) What are some of the initiatives that Love Yourself has done to promote its HIV/AIDS prevention advocacy?
In LoveYourself, most of our efforts are on the day-to-day testings with both our clinics/community centers. We offer free HIV testing and testing for other STIs, namely Hepa B and Syphilis. We have a strong Communications Team that handles both internal and external communications and campaigns in the trimedia platform. Social media mileage covers most of our mileage and reach. LoveU – the leadership and development arm of the org – focuses on volunteers, the very soul of the group. The Events and Fundraising Team, on the other hand, creates internal and external events not only focusing on HIV but on the things that the community would be interested in.
4) Are your HIV tests free? Can everyone avail of it, regardless of orientation? Does one need to undergo a special preparation prior to taking the test?
Thanks to the support of the government, the tests are free. RA 8504 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, or race of individuals who at a legal age would want to have their HIV test done. As mandated by law, HIV testing is voluntary. Minors will need a consent from their guardian.
One important factor in the protocol is the Pre-test Counseling where a person will be assessed by a trained and certified counselor of DOH and RITM. Clients would be given HIV 101 during this process. They will also need to sign the waiver allowing the facility to get their blood sample and that the client would be given information and counseling. No other special preparations apart from that except for emotional readiness of the client prior to coming to the clinics.
5) How is your organization sustained? Does LoveYourself rely solely on the generosity of anonymous supporters or does it have regular donors?
LoveYourself has been in partnership with RITM, DOH, ISEAN HIVOS, PNGOC, and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, among other stakeholders.
6) What can you say about HIV/AIDS situation in the Philippines now?
The latest statistics show that our situation here is constantly on the rise. Some scholars even compared this to the first outbreak in New York in the 1980s. There are two things to consider why is this happening. One is the effectivity of HIV Testing campaigns: more people have come out and have themselves tested with the presence of more HIV testing clinics around the country. The other is the failure of the government and the organizations focusing on the HIV prevention strategies to address the key affected populations including MSM’s, transgender women, and children.
7) What challenges have you encountered in this advocacy?
One setback I have is the dwindling number of active volunteers who have the passion to serve and the spirit to keep on serving for the advocacy. At some point, people will become disenchanted to the many internal and external issues facing every organization. As for me, as long as I do not have a hidden agenda as to why I joined, and as long as it is just purely about helping out, then I believe that the advocacy must matter above all things.
8) For those who want to help your cause, where can they go and what number can they call?
We have a website, www.loveyourself.ph, where people can check our campaigns and latest updates. They can also volunteer by filling up the signup sheet on the website. Online donations can also be done on the website; soon we will be launching online our line up of merchandise. On Twitter, you can tag @loveyourselfph, on Facebook, look for fb.com/loveyourself.ph, and on Instagram, check instagram.com/loveyourself.ph.
9) For those who want to avail of your free HIV/AIDS testing, where can they go and what number can they call?
Phone: 0917.628.8743 and 0998.563.7307
Address: 2028 Taft Avenue Extension (close to LRT-1 Gil Puyat on the northbound lane of Taft Avenue; on the 2nd floor of the same building as Mercury Drug Store), Pasay City
Love Yourself Anglo
Phone: 0915.366.5683, 0917.628.8743 (hotline), and 0998.563.7307
Address: Unit 5, 3rd Floor, Anglo Building, #715-A Shaw Boulevard, 1552 Mandaluyong
10) What’s the one thing you advise Pinoys and Pinays about HIV prevention?
Everyone has an HIV status. For you to know yours, get tested. Dare to be yourself. Actively care for yourself and others and share the happiness you felt within.
Thanks very much for the interview, Joseph! Taking care of yourself helps one lead full and meaningful lives.
To my readers, do share this information to those who you think might need it. Health is wealth. 🙂 Cheers!
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I interviewed my friend Joseph Cadelina for this post. I am not affiliated with the said organization. Read my blog’s full disclosure and disclaimer here.
Video and photo from LoveYourself.