Even more phenomenal people are coming together to support the Philippines’ first community-led multi-site HIV testing day on May 26, 2018! Meet the three witty, charming, and passionate men who believe in the message of self-care. MA Buendia who is a vlogger, motivational speaker, and a 2017 Ripple Awardee, RV Torres who has been working as an IT consultant for over 17 years, and Jason Manggol, the president of the HIV Awareness Campaign Group on Facebook share their passions for This is Me: Brave and Free.

Joining the Campaign

MA, RV, and Jason all believe that the campaign promotes a positive outlook on the self and HIV. Their personal experiences with the people closest to them gave them a mission that can bring about a great change.

MA emphasized how important the campaign’s positive messaging in promoting self-care. “I’m very happy to be part of this campaign. It speaks about embracing who we are and being proud of ourselves. I’ve been part of my advocacy since 2015. Since then I’ve been really active in terms of spreading awareness, so being part of this I think it’s really cool so I can spread positivity and inform more people about HIV.” MA said.

For Jason, it was an easy decision when he was invited to be part of the campaign. “I have a lot of friends who live with HIV, and continue to fight, so nag-go agad ako, kasi parang di ko na kailangang pag-isipan. Kahit may lakad ako, bigyan ko lang ng konting oras lalo na para sa LGBT community.” said Jason.

This passion was shared by RV who also had someone close to him get affected by HIV. “HIV awareness is also part of my personal advocacy. I have personally witnessed the journey of someone I know who is living with HIV. From overcoming challenges of treatment to the process of acceptance, the experience has inspired me to be that person that people can count on. I hope this event would let everyone know that there’s always someone they can depend on. There is an air of ignorance in our country, and even in my friends. I want to be that voice even if its among my peers.” RV shared.

Being Brave and Free

Many would shy away from knowing their serostatus, but for MA it’s just like any medical check-up. “I’ve done this a lot of times, it’s normal like taking your blood pressure.” MA pointed out. Jason emphasized how knowing your status is actually beneficial. “It’s a win-win situation when you get to know your status. Kasi malalaman mo kung ano yung pwede mong gagawin na susunod, at mawawalan ka ng kaba dahil alam mo na yung status mo.” voiced out Jason.

For RV, we can overcome this hesitation to know more about ourselves by simply talking about HIV despite cultural constraints. “It means that you can talk about HIV in any context. To treat HIV not as a tabboo, but an aspect that needs to be discussed in community. Having the courage to know about HIV and share this knowledge with other people.” RV explained.

Overall, they share that talking about important topics such as HIV, and actually getting tested for HIV is a simple step for anyone to show their courage.

Shouting Out THIS IS ME!

Jason ultimately encourages us to know more about ourselves as a way to overcome hesitation of showing our whole selves.”Knowing your options. It’s time especially in the LGBT community to no longer be afraid. If pinangungunahan mo ng takot paano ka lalabas ng shell mo?” said Jason.

With correct knowledge we can empower not only ourselves, but others as well. “Para di ka na matakot o mahiya na ang HIV ay nasa ating community, it’s been for decades already. I hope you can be someone who can break the silence when discussing HIV. The first step is to be open to be educated by people who are knowledgeable, so you can break the silence. With that knowledge, we can better protect ourselves and pay it forward.” exclaimed RV.

As someone who has access to correct information and is empowered to share it, MA has shown us how easy it is to be proud of ourselves, including our status on his Youtube video. He shared the entire process he underwent as he dared to know more about himself.

The stage is set for you, lovers. Join us at This is Me: Brave and Free – the first community-led multi-stie HIV testing day launching on May 26, 2018. Join in the celebration of self-care by bringing your courage to community based organizations (Juan Positive Movement, HIV & AIDS Support House, Inc, Decent Image of South Signal Association, Cavite Positive Action Group, GAYON, Project H4, Kagay-an PLUS, and Olympus Society of Davao) alongside LoveYourself (LoveYourself Anglo, LoveYourself Uni, and Victoria by LoveYourself). Get to know your status with the fast, free, and confidential community based-screening process.

Go to https://bitly.com/ThisIsMe2018 to sign up and you’ll receive a confirmation notice in a few days!

Text by Carlos Diego A. Rozul