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NorMAA: Safe space for PLHIVs in Northern Mindanao

When Northern Mindanao Advocates Society (NorMA) was formed by people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Cagayan de Oro City, it aimed to provide for the care and support of PLHIV community members, especially the newly diagnosed. Its efforts continue to broaden, as it envisions a society where PLHIVs in Mindanao love and accept themselves and become productive and responsible members of the society.

NORMA1

NORMA2Northern Mindanao Aids Advocates Society (NorMAA) was formed on January 17, 2014 by people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Cagayan de Oro City through the guidance and help of Lerio Chua and Mike Mahinay of ALAGAD MINDANAO.

NorMAA was formed because of the need for care and support for the PLHIV community in the city, especially those who have been newly diagnosed.

Grey Thomas Hu, NORMAA’s founder, admitted that forming the group was a challenge.

“It was a dream for me to have a care and support base for the community – at least for the past months since my HIV diagnosis. And so I sought help from Pagbantog Kagayan, ALAGAD MINDANAO and various advocates,” Grey recalled. Having formed the organization, “now are have 30 members, and challenges are getting heavier.”

These remain manageable, however, “since I can see the commitment of these individuals involved in NorMA. We have goals, and we will strive to continue working to attain them. We will do our baby steps by strengthening our goals and staying committed to our vision.”

As an organization composed completely of PLHIVs, NorMa envisions a society where PLHIVs in Mindanao love and accept themselves and are productive and responsible members of the society. To achieve this, NorMA provides a program for care and support among PLHIVs and their affected families in Mindanao.

The specific objectives that NorMa set are: To decrease discrimination against PLHIV from Heath care providers, family and community; To decrease HIV-related stigma from the local media, workplaces, school, church and government agencies; To increase level of awareness on HIV among the people of Mindanao; To create a safe space and wellness program for PLHIV and their affected families; To increase funding support for PLHIVs from LGUs and other sources ; and To increase number of trained human resources to deal with PLHIV and their affected families.

Since it was established as a group, NorMa has actively provided care and support to its growing membership.

“So far we do our anonymous meetings, Yoga and Zumba classes, and – soon – we will interject other wellness activities like acupuncture to help better the immune system of PLHIVs.  These aside from being a care and support provider.  We are a home for our blood sisters and brothers who need help,” Grey said.

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NorMa is now preparing for the 2014 World AIDS Day with Hulagway Dos, a photoshoot for a cause ; The Project Oxygen 2.0, an art installation; and other outreach activities and trainings for PLHIVs, in partnership with ALAGAD MINDANAO.

For one to join and be a part of the group, she/he must be a confirmed PLHIV and ALAGAD MINDANAO will do a screening together with the NorMAA Executive Committee.

“We encourage PLHIV of Northern Mindanao to join us. We will have a long journey together in this new home, in the care of NorMAA,” Grey ended.

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