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Pagbantog HIV: Putting back the spotlight on HIV and AIDS

Cagayan de Oro-based Pagbantog-Kagayan came up with Pagbantog HIV, a World AIDS Day celebration, as an effort to encourage Kagay-anons to open their minds to the issue of HIV and AIDS.

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By Maia Fortich-Poblete

The movies And the Band Played On and It’s My Party introduced me to HIV and AIDS. Both movies were shown in the 90s, long after Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) were first discovered. I was still in high school when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized AIDS and its cause (HIV) in 1981.

Like many others, I did not understand what HIV and AIDS were all about. All I knew was that one could get infected by having sex with different partners, particularly with partners of the same sex. I was afraid of people with HIV and AIDS, but I was sure I was safe because I wasn’t like them. My young mind could not go beyond that understanding. But after watching the movie, everything changed. My whole perception of HIV and AIDS changed. I began to respect and admire persons living with HIV (PLHIV).

THE STIGMA

Society treats people infected with HIV as outcasts. They’re treated with disgust and looked down on. Our society crucifies PLHIV. This is the stigma that every person living with HIV has to face every single day. As a result, many of them hide, run away, and never leave the house. Many of them decide to simply fade away. Many feel useless, unloved, and unimportant.

But persons living with HIV are humans like us. They have emotions like us. They deserve to laugh and enjoy life like us. They deserve respect, especially because what they are going through is not easy. Because we do not understand their suffering and their pain.

All the stigma tied to HIV and AIDS is a result of ignorance. A lot of people believe that by merely hugging or shaking the hands of a person with HIV, he will already be infected. Many stubbornly choose to believe that persons living with HIV are dirty and should, therefore, be shunned by society. All these because of ignorance.

Once people become aware of what HIV and AIDS are really about, the stigma will die down. It won’t dissipate easily like raindrops, but people will begin to understand. And, slowly but surely, PLHIV will no longer need to hide behind their shadows.

PAGBANTOG HIV

This is the reason why the group Pagbantog-Kagayan came up with Pagbantog HIV, a World AIDS Day celebration. The group, which was formed right after the bombing that rocked CDO last August, decided it was high time that Kagay-anons were encouraged to open their minds to the issue of HIV and AIDS. Several activities were drawn up and partnerships were formed.

So, together with ABS-CBN and Limketkai Center, Pagbantog HIV was unveiled. The celebration actually started a day earlier- on November 30 – as an HIV Forum, with students as participants, was held at the 2nd floor of Limketkai Mall. Speakers Michael Ray and Atty. Sam Tan shared their knowledge about HIV and AIDS and the Philippine AIDS Law to the eager-to-learn and extra participative audience.

Early the next morning, on December 1st, participants from different sectors of society (including members of the LGBT community) trooped to the Capitol Grounds for the HIV March. The march ended at Limketkai Center, where awards and certificates of participation were given out to the participants.

Later in the day, around 11:00 AM, the Hulagway Photo Exhibit was unveiled. Hulagway is a gathering of some of Cagayan de Oro’s best photographers, artists, and professionals. Ed Abella, Jessie Villegas, Glenn Palacio, and Bo Ju; along with the hair-and-make up team of Dandy Roa, shot portraits of Kagay-anons who share the group’s passion for HIV/AIDS awareness. Each photo was designed to highlight the importance of HIV and AIDS awareness. You’d know once you look in the eyes or the minute you notice all the red ribbons. The photos captured the attention of the crowd, which was exactly what the group wanted: to make some noise – any kind of noise.

The photo exhibit was followed by a yoga session facilitated by Yoga Kagayan, The Art of Living, and Body Basics. This was for the launching of The Project Oxygen, a support group for persons living with HIV. Headed by Stephen Christian Quilacio, the group gathers together not only PLHIV, but also activists and supporters of HIV and AIDS awareness. The Project Oxygen is affiliated with The Art of Living and Pagbantog-Kagayan.

Around 2pm, the Pagbantog HIV concert started – and lasted throughout the afternoon until the early evening. CDO’s finest artists rendered their services for free as they sang, danced, and shared stories that paint real pictures of HIV/AIDS. The singers sang about hope, something that every PLHIV needs. There were also messages of friendship, acceptance, and love.

Five artists delivered monologues that pictured different situations PLHIV goes through. One monologue showed an unsuspecting pregnant wife whose husband was recently diagnosed with HIV. The husband does not know how to tell the wife and his mother. A gay beautician spoke about how a friend – a PLHIV – felt when he lost friends after finding out he was infected with HIV. A good looking model talks about his HIV-infected partner; how he fears his partner might give up and let him go. Finally, there’s the health worker who has nine years of rich experiences filled with many colorful and painful stories of HIV and AIDS.

All these stories wove the music, songs, and dances into one big advocacy: that HIV is not just anything. It is something we should all know about. It is something we should all be aware of – so that there will be no more fear and no more stigma.

THE FUTURE

Unta, nine years from now, wala na’y HIV (Nine years from now, I hope there’ll be no more HIV).” This is the health worker’s last line in her monologue. Her wish and hope. It is Pagbantog-Kagayan and The Project Oxygen’s hope, too. This is why there will be more Pagbantog HIVs and World AIDS Day celebrations in Cagayan de Oro.

Next year will be a bigger one; with more activities, more participants, and definitely more noise. For this is the only way to awaken the people to the reality of HIV and AIDS.

NEWSMAKERS

Bisexual adults less likely to enjoy health benefits of education

Education has long been linked to health – the more schooling people have, the healthier they are likely to be. But a study found that the health benefits of a good education are less evident among well-educated bisexual adults.

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Education has long been linked to health – the more schooling people have, the healthier they are likely to be. But a new study from Rice University sociologists found that the health benefits of a good education are less evident among well-educated bisexual adults.

“Education and health: The joint role of gender and sexual identity” examines health among straight, bisexual, gay and lesbian adults with various educational backgrounds. Authors Zhe Zhang, a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice, Bridget Gorman, a professor of sociology at Rice, and Alexa Solazzo, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, were particularly interested in bisexual adults, since they may experience distinctive health vulnerabilities.

The researchers found that while having at least a bachelor’s degree was linked to better health among bisexual adults, they received less benefit than heterosexual and gay or lesbian adults with similar education. This effect was especially true for bisexual women.

“The health benefits of education are well established – so much so that anything we do to promote and improve public education should really be viewed as health policy,” Gorman said. “It’s that impactful on health and well-being. That our analysis showed less health benefit associated with education among bisexual adults compared to heterosexual, gay and lesbian adults is concerning.”

While the researchers could not pinpoint the exact cause, they theorized the problem might be social stigma and additional anxiety among women due to gender discrimination, Zhang said.

“Discrimination of any kind can take a heavy toll on health,” Zhang said. “While we cannot say with certainty that is what is happening in this study, it’s a very real possibility.”

The authors based their study on data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which included a sample of more than 1.2 million adults living in 44 U.S. states and territories from 2011-2017. They hope the study will raise awareness of the issue and help health professionals provide better care.

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Same-gender couples interact better than heterosexual couples

In terms of the quality of interactions with their partners, the study found same-gendered relationships had better-quality interactions than found in different-gendered relationships.

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Same-gender couples have higher-quality interactions with one another than heterosexual couples.

This is according to a new UC Riverside study that also holds that couples with two men have the smallest social networks.

Researcher Megan Robbins says the recent study is the first to compare same- and different-sex couples’ social networks and daily interactions with one another.

Past research shows that same-gender couples enjoy strengths including appreciation of individual differences, positive emotions, and effective communication. But research hasn’t compared the quality of their daily interactions – inside and outside the couple dynamic – to those of heterosexual couples. 

“The comparison is important because there is so much research linking the quality of romantic relationships and other social ties to health and well-being, yet it is unclear if this applies similarly or differently to people in same-gender romantic relationships because they have been historically excluded from past research,” said Robbins, who is an associate professor of psychology at UCR. Reasons for potential differences include the stigma sexual minorities face, and also their resilience.

For the study, Robbins and her team recruited same-gender and different-gender couples throughout Southern California. The couples had to be in a married or “married-like” committed relationship; living together for at least a year; and have no physical or mental health conditions that impeded their daily functioning.

Among those who applied to be in the study, 78 couples were found to be eligible, 77 of which provided enough data to be used. Twenty-four of the couples were woman-woman; 20 were man-man, and 33 were man-woman.

Participants met with the researchers on two separate Fridays, a month apart, completing surveys. They received text or email prompts several times in the days following the in-person meetings. In the text/email prompts, participants were asked whether they had an interaction with their partner, a family member, or a friend in the past 10 minutes, then asked to rate the quality of the social interaction using a five-point scale – one being unpleasant; three, neutral; five, pleasant.

In terms of social networks, the study found couples in man-man relationships had smaller social networks than woman-woman and man-woman couples. On the other end of the results spectrum, women in relationships with men were most likely to have the largest social networks.

Robbins said the finding is consistent with previous research showing men with men experience the least acceptance among family members.

“We hypothesized that one model for how the social life of people in same-gender couples might differ from those in different-gender couples was a honing model, where people in same-gender couples reduce their social networks down to only those people who are supportive. We found some support for this by learning that the men with men had the smallest social networks in our sample.,” Robbins said.

The quality of interactions with families was reported to be greatest by same-gender couples. There was no difference for interaction quality with friends.

In terms of the quality of interactions with their partners, the study found same-gendered relationships had better-quality interactions than found in different-gendered relationships.

Robbins said that may be due to greater similarity between partners when they share a gender identity, and greater equality within the couple, compared to people in different-sex couples.

“When male and female partners interact, they may do so from a culturally imposed frame wherein men and women are considered ‘opposites,’ which creates more potential for tension in interactions,” Robbins wrote in the paper, titled Social Compensation and Honing Frameworks, and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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Initiatives empowering employees can backfire – study

When properly implemented, empowerment initiatives can lead to heightened motivation, productivity and creativity. However, whether these initiatives are effective at all levels of the organization depends on the management style of the person implementing them.

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Strategies meant to motivate people in the workplace may have unintended consequences, depending on who’s in charge. Research from Michigan State University and Ohio State University shows that empowerment initiatives aren’t necessarily the answer for business leaders hoping to motivate their employees.

“People tend to think of empowerment in uniformly positive ways,” said Nicholas Hays, study co-author and associate professor of management in MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business. “After all, humans crave independence and control so giving it to them at work should be a good thing. However, as people feel increasingly autonomous, they can also become unmoored from others’ needs, expectations and social norms.”

Hays explained that, in recent decades, companies have increasingly implemented various forms of empowerment initiatives that assume empowered leaders will translate into empowered workers.

The paper – published in Journal of Applied Psychology – found that, when properly implemented, empowerment initiatives can lead to heightened motivation, productivity and creativity. However, whether these initiatives are effective at all levels of the organization depends on the management style of the person implementing them.

Leaders who really care about being respected by their subordinates tend to react to empowerment initiatives by ‘paying it forward’ with certain behaviors. This could include things like allowing subordinates to set their own goals or decide how to accomplish tasks.

Hays – along with Broad College of Business colleague, Russell E. Johnson, MSU Foundation Professor of management, and Hun Whee Lee, assistant professor of management at Ohio State University and lead author of the study – found that superiors who value being respected will respond to empowerment initiatives by, in turn, empowering their workers. But, superiors who value being in charge will, somewhat ironically, respond to empowerment initiatives by closely controlling, dominating and managing their employees.

The researchers conducted three separate studies measuring outcomes of empowerment initiatives that considered personality trait data and leader behavior.

“We found that leaders who really care about being respected by their subordinates tend to react to empowerment initiatives by ‘paying it forward’ with certain behaviors. This could include things like allowing subordinates to set their own goals or decide how to accomplish tasks,” Lee said. “In contrast, leaders who prefer to be in control and tell others what to do tend to react to these initiatives by doubling down on their desire for control. This is when we see things like micromanaging or setting specific goals for subordinates.”

If an employee is uncomfortable with a superior’s leadership style, the researchers say it may be beneficial to have a candid conversation between worker and boss.

“Many leaders are receptive to feedback and want to provide employees what they need to succeed at work,” Hays said. “If that doesn’t work, looking for different groups to join – either within an organization and with a different supervisor or even by changing organizations altogether – is sometimes the best option.”

And in the unprecedented workplace environment of 2020, Hays also offered insight into what he believes the paper’s findings may indicate for employees in real time.

“To the extent that leaders prioritize dominance and being in charge, they may go out of their way to micromanage employees by, for example, monitoring their online status and requesting frequent check-ins,” Hays said. “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize this as abusing an empowerment initiative, but certainly could rub employees the wrong way.”

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Virgos are discriminated against in dating and job recruitment – MIT research

Research found that “astrological stereotypes” about personalities formed without pre-existing social reality, yet are shaping social reality via discrimination, especially against Virgos.

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Which comes first, stereotypes or social reality?

In a recent paper, MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. Jackson Lu studied a novel form of stereotyping and discrimination in China based on Western astrological signs. He found that “astrological stereotypes” about personalities formed without pre-existing social reality, yet are shaping social reality via discrimination, especially against Virgos.

“Because stereotypes and social reality are mutually reinforcing, it is often difficult to know whether a given stereotype has emerged from pre-existing social reality, or instead has shaped social reality over time to resemble the stereotype. It’s a chicken-or-egg problem that social scientists have struggled to answer,” says Lu.

To help disentangle stereotypes from social reality, Lu and his colleagues conducted the first systematic examination of astrological stereotyping and discrimination in China. Through globalization, these signs were introduced to China and translated from English into Chinese. With the aid of social media, astrological signs have become a mainstream cultural trend in China.

There is also ample anecdotal evidence that people use astrological signs to infer personality traits and to make decisions about dating and employment. Importantly, each astrological sign is associated with certain personalities based on how its name is translated into Chinese.

“For example, the word ‘Virgo’ is literally translated as ‘virgin’ in Chinese, and Virgos are stereotyped as having disagreeable personalities like being fussy, critical, and picky,” he says. “Some Chinese job postings state that Virgo candidates are not wanted, and some Chinese people avoid Virgos on dating apps.”

In one study, the researchers conducted surveys asking Chinese people about their impressions of the astrological signs. Participants clearly ranked Virgos as the worst sign, followed by Scorpio because its Chinese translation is associated with the poisonous scorpion.

Further studies examined two Chinese translations of the word “Virgo.” The researchers leveraged an interesting fact that Virgo can be translated in two ways: “Virgin” is the well-known translation in astrology, whereas “royal chamber lady” is the lesser-known translation in astronomy. Participants viewed a profile of a Virgo individual. The profiles were identical, except that Virgo was either translated as “virgin” or “royal chamber lady.” Participants perceived the “virgin” profile as a more disagreeable person compared to the “royal chamber lady” profile.

“This study shows that translation can play a critical role in creating stereotypes,” says Lu.

The researchers consistently found that hiring managers – at least in China – are less willing to hire Virgos because of their perceived disagreeable personalities.

In another study, the researchers experimented with a popular Chinese dating app, using an identical profile but with different astrological signs: Virgo, Leo, or Libra. The Virgo profile received a lot fewer “likes” than the Leo and Libra profiles, which suggests that people are discriminating against Virgos in dating.

They also conducted a similar experiment in the context of hiring, using the same resume but with different astrological signs. The researchers consistently found that hiring managers – at least in China – are less willing to hire Virgos because of their perceived disagreeable personalities.

As for whether there is any basis for such discrimination based on astrological signs, Lu says their studies found none. “We found no evidence that astrological signs predict personality or job performance.”

Lu notes, “Unlike race or gender, astrological signs are not a protected class, yet they form the basis for widespread discrimination in social contexts like dating and hiring. People need to be aware of this phenomenon.”

He adds, “In the case of astrological stereotypes in China, the chicken-and-egg question has a clear answer. The stereotypes came first because of language translations, and those stereotypes then shaped social reality via discrimination.”

Lu is the lead author of “Disentangling Stereotypes from Social Reality: Astrological Stereotypes and Discrimination in China,” with Xin Lucy Liu of Peking University, Hui Liao of the University of Maryland, and Lei Wang of Peking University. Their paper was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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School bullying prevention programs that involve peers may be harmful to victims

Schools should avoid using strategies that boost peer visibility of victimization (e.g. identifying a victim in a class meeting). In addition, evaluations of bullying prevention programs that look at the school as a whole should be cautious of hidden negative outcomes for individual students who remain victimized.

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School bullying has been identified as harmful to students’ mental health. Many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of bullying prevention programs, finding mixed results in general and no benefits overall for secondary school students. Looking at the specific components of bullying prevention programs helps to explain the complicated pattern: Unlike intensive programs that include parent training, firm disciplinary methods or improved playground supervision, interventions that involve work with peers tend to lead to increases in bullying. A new review explores why encouraging peers to defend victims may actually cause more harm than good.

The analysis was written by a researcher at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the University of Queensland, Brisbane. It appears in Child Development Perspectives, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.

“Many school bullying prevention programs encourage and train peer bystanders (helpers) to get actively involved in assisting with possible instances of bullying,” said Karyn L. Healy, research officer from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, who authored the analysis. “Although this approach is very common and well-intentioned, there is no evidence that it helps victims. Encouraging peers to actively defend victims of bullying may actually produce adverse outcomes for victims.”

Most research on the effectiveness of bullying prevention programs assumes that each program affects bullying and victimization in a simple and unified way. But many programs combine a range of different strategies and participants, which are likely to produce differential effects.

Healy identified several mechanisms through which bystander interventions that involve peer defense of the victim could increase victimization and distress of victims: 1) by disempowering victims, 2) by reinforcing or provoking bullying, or 3) by eroding broader support for victims by the peer group.

Schools should avoid using strategies that boost peer visibility of victimization (e.g. identifying a victim in a class meeting).

“Having lots of peers involved makes the situation more public, which can be damaging to the social reputation of victims,” said Healy. “Having a trained bystander step in also prevents the victim from handling a situation themselves and may make them look weak in the eyes of the bully. Training students to intervene in bullying also has the potential of leading to overuse of peer defense strategies because of benefits to helpers, such as making helpers feel they have higher status or increasing helpers’ feelings of belonging in school.”

Recent evidence suggests that even when programs are successful in reducing bullying, they may still be harmful to the individual students who are victimized the most. “This could potentially be the case for any program that aims to reduce overall bullying without taking into account the impacts on victims,” explains Healy.

To lessen the risk to vulnerable students, Healy suggests that schools be wary of bullying prevention programs that lack evidence of effectiveness for reducing bullying and victimization. Schools should avoid using strategies that boost peer visibility of victimization (e.g. identifying a victim in a class meeting). In addition, evaluations of bullying prevention programs that look at the school as a whole should be cautious of hidden negative outcomes for individual students who remain victimized.

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Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions, in shift from Vatican stance

Pope Francis stated: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.” Marriage equality, nonetheless, is still a no-no.

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In a first for the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis declared his support for the legal protection of LGBTQIA people in relationships by calling for the passage of civil union laws.

Pope Francis’ position – included in “Francesco“, a documentary by Evgeny Afineevsky – is a departure from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and all of the current pope’s predecessors on this issue.

In the film, Afineevsky asked Pope Francis about the place of LGBTQIA Catholics in the church. The pope emphasized his belief that LGBTQIA people should be made to feel welcome in the church.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Pope Francis said. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”

Specifically touching on the issue of civil union, Pope Francis stated: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

Before helming the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, where he advocated for same-sex civil unions. It is, nonetheless, worth noting that this was also an attempt to block a same-sex marriage law, since Argentina legalized same-sex marriage in 2010, which then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio called a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”

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