According to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, an average of 20 people are infected with human immunodeficiency virus or HIV in the Philippines per day. HIV is a disease that can affect anyone. It’s still one of the most serious health challenges the world is facing today. HIV doesn’t automatically equate to AIDS, but if left untreated can escalate and cause other complications. With this in mind, PSFI has continued to make strides in delivering reliable public health information and make HIV testing services and resources accessible as part of its commitment to providing good health and wellbeing for all Filipinos.
At a time where HIV is still stigmatized and conversations around sex are still taboo, strong partnerships and engagements are needed to spread knowledge and encourage members of the community to be part of the conversation. To help communicate facts about HIV, safe sex practices, and useful resources, PSFI PROTECTS launched projects in partnership with groups and organizations who can spread love and information effectively through their own platforms. A great example of this is #AwraSafely.
#AwraSafely weaves together government and non-government organizations such as PSFI PROTECTS to promote awareness of HIV and available services for PLHIV in the country. More than just an HIV awareness campaign, #AwraSafely provides a fun and safe space for people of all genders to learn more and understand different nuances of sex with the help of volunteers, special guests, and health experts.
In August, #AwraSafely launched ‘Kwentuhang Quarantigang 2’. The livestream sessions introduced both experts and influential queer personalities to talk about their experiences and share their opinions to the viewers. The livestream sessions tackled safe sex and how it relates to one’s wellbeing especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, it provided information on HIV prevention, testing, and treatment.
Kwentuhang Quarantigang 2 was a light-hearted and fun engagement. Aside from the necessary information, it provided a comforting space for LGBTQ+ people to talk and discuss matters related to sex and wellbeing. All sessions were livestreamed on AwraSafely’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/awrasafely.
In September, the campaign held a special event together with Lazada called ‘LazAwraSafely with Online Beshies’. Online Beshies are trained individuals to help the online community to answer their queries on sexual and reproductive health-related concerns, particularly on HIV and AIDS. It promoted HIV services and testing, as well as Lazada’s 9.9 sale. For the event, #AwraSafely encouraged viewers and clients to send in questions on reproductive health and wellness which were answered by Online Beshies in real time during the livestream. LazAwraSafely with Online Beshies featured several guests over 8 hours as well as challenges and giveaways for those who participated in the activities.
In observance of the Mental Health Awareness Month, #AwraSafely launched the ‘#YouMatterBeshie for Equality’ campaign. Throughout the entire month of October, #AwraSafely had livestream events which tackled the personal, social, mental, political, and cultural factors that affect the broader HIV response in the country. For this campaign, they once again invited various health experts and influential personalities to share their knowledge and engage with the community. The event highlighted barriers and discrepancies in mental health awareness and services in the Philippines.
#YouMatterBeshie for Equality also partnered with Lazada’s 10.10 sale, which meant freebies and giveaways for people who participated in activities and challenges. True to #AwraSafely’s brand, the event was fun and educational, capturing the hearts of many viewers.
PSFI PROTECTS or Philippines Response in Optimizing Testing, Empowered Communities, Treatment, and Sustainability is a program based on the Global Fund’s HIV Grant that was awarded to PSFI in January 2021. Since then, PROTECTS has been actively helping the PLHIV community and working closely with organizations to help spread information on the HIV epidemic, as well as encourage testing and treatment.
PSFI PROTECTS envisions a Philippines with zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. Through programs that educate the public on matters involving HIV, the country is moving towards a brighter and healthier future, challenging the stigma surrounding HIV and reinforcing the message that there is no place for discrimination or hate in the Philippines.