Ripple Awardee Elena Felix continues to inspire the community even after winning the recognition in 2017. “Tuloy pa rin ang mga gawain sa community after ng Ripple Awards”, ‘Nay Elena said when asked how things have been since she won the prestigious award.. “Sa tingin ko ay nagdulot ito ng inspiration sa mga new advocates para mag involve sa advocacy.”
‘Nay Elena’s story of trials and triumphs, fear and faith, pain and perseverance is beyond inspiring. We have learned about how her HIV status changed not only her life, but her family and the people around her. She took on every hurdle and hindrance thrown at her and turned it into an opportunity to fight, forge on, and eventually form a community of individuals who share the same experience and challenges.
The landscape of HIV in the Philippines can’t change overnight, but ‘Nay Elena served as the catalyst, the ripple that sent waves and set things in motion to make things better for people living with HIV (PLHIV), keeping them from experiencing the harsh misconceptions and unfair treatment and stigma she encountered firsthand.
“Sa tingin ko ay nagawa ko naman ang mga bagay (sa) abot ng aking kakayanan at kagustuhan,” ‘Nay Elena humbly reflects. She is one of the organizers of the Association of Positive Women Advocates Inc., where she mentors a new breed of leaders for women living with HIV. “Ako ay nalulugod kapag may isang tao o pamilya na nsgpapasalamat sa aking mga naitulong. Ganun din naman ang mga ibat ibang ahensya or organisasyon na laging may tiwala sa aking maiaambag.”
Notwithstanding the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘Nay Elena keeps herself busy with activities and movements aimed at pushing for amendments in the AIDS Bill, in collaboration with the Network to Stop Aids Philippines. “Marami pang dapat gawin sa HIV, ang implementasyon ng RA11166 ay dapat hindi naisasantabi. May mga sektor ng lipunan (na) hindi naabot ng mga tamang impormasyon tungkol sa HIV, kaya mataas pa din ang stigma”.
Her HIV advocacy remains anchored to the one thing that has inspired and fueled her all this time: motherhood. She has always drawn courage from the unwavering love of her children, and her fight has always been about ensuring PLHIVs don’t get discriminated against in their own families and that mothers, in particular, get the love, care, and support they deserve. “Isa sa aking pangarap ay nawa wala nang sanggol na maiinfect ng HIV mula sa kanyang magulang,’ she hopes. Until then, she won’t stop educating and pursuing policies.
As the Ripple Awards returns this year, ‘Nay Elena believes there are a lot like her out there who deserve to be recognized. “Ang katangian ng isang deserving sa award ay walang sawa sa pagtulong sa community at walang hangad na kapalit.” Even as her award is well-deserved, ‘Nay Elena says, “Ako noon ay hindi nag-expect ng kahit anong award. It just happened na may nakakakita o nakaka-appreciate ng aking mga ambag sa advocacy.”
Elena Felix is testament to one person’s journey from misinformation to inspiration. She gives a face to women living with HIV in the Philippines, and there’s no sign of her stopping anytime soon. “Hangga’t may mga naaapektuhan ng HIV ay patuloy ang ating mga gawain, mula sa pagbalangkas ng mga polisiya, plano at programa tungkol dito, hindi tayo dapat tumigil.”
The 3rd Ripple Awards aim to honor five amazing individuals who, like ‘Nay Elena, bear stories in the HIV advocacy that have become the crux of change in service, policy, and research. With their unique brand of kindness, brilliance, and bravery, they have uplifted lives of communities affected by HIV. To nominate, visit bit.ly/RIPPLEAWARDS. The deadline for nominations will be on October 29, 2021.