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Pink, bruised and battered

Meet Murrielle Estrada of Bisdak Pride Inc. Having lived with an abusive partner, this trans Cebuana now helps empower LGBT people in the Province of Cebu. Murrielle’s message to other LGBT people is to get a perspective: “Do not be blind or deaf. All of us can fall in love, but we should not let the people we love bruise/hurt us.”

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The first time she was beaten was because transgender woman Murrielle Estrada was wearing make-up. As they were preparing to go to church back in Talisay City in the Province of Cebu, Murrielle’s live-in partner, Carlo, expressed his dislike with the way she looked.

Murielle remembered Carlo asking: “Baga ang imo make-up uy; asa diay ka? Di ba manimba ta (The make-up you have on is thick; where are you headed? I thought we’re (just) going to the church?)?”

Gibuhat daw nako to kay pa-tintal ko sa laing laki (He said I put on extra make-up so I can tempt/be tempted by other men),” Murrielle said. And then: “Diretso sumbag sa nawong (He went straight to hitting me on my face).”

Murrielle was taken aback. “Gisakitan gyud ko (I was really hurt),” she said. “Nalain ko niya (I didn’t like him [that time]).”

However, seeing what happened as “nothing serious”, “napasaylo lang gihapon nako siya (I still forgave him). Kay love man nako siya (Because I love him).”

And so Murrielle’s often violent relationship with Carlo continued, showing how LGBT people can also become embroiled in domestic violence/intimate partner violence.

VIOLENT STREAK

Domestic violence/intimate partner violence is still usually only discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships.

In the Philippines, for instance, in 2008, the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) introduced the “Women Safety Module” that attempted to comprehensively capture the extent and types of violence experienced by women (though those only aged 15 to 49) in the Philippines by collecting information on spousal violence, covering all forms of violence against women, i.e.: 1) physical violence; 2) sexual violence; 3) emotional violence; and 4) economic violence.

The deficiencies of the NDHS are glaring – e.g. over-emphasis on “spousal violence”, and limited focus on the 15-49 age group – but it still managed to surface figures that should worry everyone against violence.

According to the NDHS, one in five women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence since the age of 15; 14.4% of married women have experienced physical abuse from their husbands; and 37% of separated or widowed women have experienced physical violence. Also, one in 25 women aged 15-49 who have ever had sex ever experienced forced first sexual intercourse; one in 10 women aged 15-49 ever experienced sexual violence; and 4% of women who have ever been pregnant experienced physical violence during pregnancy.

The manifestations of the violence vary. Still according to the NDHS, one in three women who experienced physical/sexual violence reported having physical injuries such as cuts, bruises or aches; and more than 10% reported to have suffered eye injuries, sprains, dislocations or burns.

Notably, the effects to those who were violated go beyond the physical, with three in five women who experienced physical/sexual violence reported having experienced psychological consequences like depression, anxiety and anger.

Interestingly, the NDHS also touched on the violence initiated by women against their husbands, with 16% of the surveyed women having “ever hit, slapped, kicked, or done anything else to physically hurt your (last) husband at times when he was not already beating or physically hurting you”. Nine percent of the women surveyed were violent against their husbands in the last 12 months preceding the survey.

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Obviously, the NDHS is not the only source of data highlighting violence particularly against women.

In 2013, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) noted the 49.4% increase (compared to 2012) in the number of cases of violence against women reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP). And this data is not even conclusive, according to the PCW, because “data are based only from what was reported to PNP”.

In fact, reported cases under Republic Act 9262 (or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Law of 2004) continued to increase from 218 in 2004 to 16,517 cases in 2013.

PROTECTING (MAINLY) WOMEN

The Philippines has, in fact, numerous laws that protect the rights particularly of women in relationships – e.g. RA 9262. But this focus on those in heteronormative relationships seems to belie that the same concerns also happen to non-heterosexual people (i.e. LGBT people).

Internationally, domestic violence/intimate partner violence is already considered through a pink lens. The AIDS Council of NSW in Australia, for instance, noted that domestic violence has become a “silent epidemic” in the LGBT community, considering its neglect even if “roughly one in three LGBTI couples experiencing domestic violence – statistics that are echoed among the general population.”

This observation was similarly made by a review published in 2014 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, which noted that “domestic violence occurs at least as frequently, and likely even more so, between same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex couples.”

The review stressed:

“Previous studies, when analyzed together, indicate that domestic violence affects 25% to 75% of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. However, a lack of representative data and underreporting of abuse paints an incomplete picture of the true landscape, suggesting even higher rates. An estimated one in four heterosexual women experience domestic abuse, with rates significantly lower for heterosexual men.”

When Murrielle was in high school, she opened up to her family that “ing-ani na jud ko (I’m really going to be like this).” They accepted her “basta dili lang daw ko magpakaulaw; basta dili nako hatagan ug kaulaw ang pamilya (as long as I don’t live shamelessly; as long as I didn’t shame the family).”

When Murrielle was in high school, she opened up to her family that “ing-ani na jud ko (I’m really going to be like this).” They accepted her “basta dili lang daw ko magpakaulaw; basta dili nako hatagan ug kaulaw ang pamilya (as long as I don’t live shamelessly; as long as I didn’t shame the family).”

WAY OF BEING

Back in Talisay City, Murrielle recalled how her parents never hurt her – at least physically.

Murrielle was eight years old when she realized that her self-identity is not aligned with her physicality. “Eight years old ko, naa ko nakit-an nga boy, gisultian nako ako mama: ‘Crush ko siya!’ Nasuko siya; sulti niya: ‘Ayaw pag-ingun-ana kay lalaki pud ka! (I was eight years old, I saw this boy, so I said to my mother: ‘I have a crush on him!’ She got angry; she said: ‘Do not be like that because you’re also a boy!).”

But Murrielle said that “I didn’t like looking at my penis. Gusto ko puki siya (I wanted to have a vagina). Sige na (Okay, fine), I accepted I was born with this body, but still I didn’t wan to use it.”

When Murrielle was in high school, she opened up to her family that “ing-ani na jud ko (I’m really going to be like this).” They accepted her “basta dili lang daw ko magpakaulaw; basta dili nako hatagan ug kaulaw ang pamilya (as long as I don’t live shamelessly; as long as I didn’t shame the family).”

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In Murrielle’s case, giving “shame” to her family means “mukawat, mag-bisyo (steal, have vices).”

Pero (But) I was accepted. Bisag bunal wala. Kulata, wala (They didn’t even hit me. They didn’t bash me).”

LOVE HURTS

Considering her family’s response to her being transgender, Murrielle was somewhat surprised with her parents’ reaction to her having a boyfriend/partner.

Before Carlo, Murrielle already had two live-in partners, “pero wala sila kahibawo nga naa koy uyab (But they didn’t know then I had a partner),” she said. It was only Carlo who she introduced to her parents. “Gihatagan mi’g duha ka Bibliya (ni mama). Sulti siya: ‘Basaha dira, wala lalaki sa lalaki dira (Mom gave us one Bible each. She said: ‘Read and see in the Bible, it doesn’t mention male to male relationships).”

Murrielle severed her link to her parents. “Wala jud mi nagtagad sa ako parents kay nagpakauwaw daw ko (We ignored each other because they said I have shamed/embarrassed them).”

This lasted for two years and nine months.

And at that time, Carlo, therefore, became the center of her life.

A friend introduced Murrielle to Carlo. “Initially, he didn’t like me as trans. Dili gani siya mag-shake hands (He won’t even shake my hands),” she said.

Murrielle was feisty then. “Ako sya diretso gi-sultian nga suplado siya (I told him straight out that he’s a snob).” Carlo became defensive, and – as if to prove her wrong – they became textmates (i.e. sent text SMS messages to each other) for a month. They became an item; and after three months, they were already living together.

Since Carlo earned well as a BPO worker, “siya nagbuhi nako (he supported me),” Murrielle said. “Plain housewife jud ko – naglalaba, naglilinis, nagtatahi ng curtains, nag-iigib, namlalantsa (I was a plain housewife – I did the laundry, I cleaned the house, I sewed the curtains, I gathered water, I did the ironing of clothes)…”

Murrielle was also introduced to Carlo’s parents, and while his father did not initially accept her, his mother was always supportive. “His mom said: ‘Imoha man decision. Kung as aka lipay, suporta ko (That’s your decision. Wherever you are happy, I support you).”

Living as a stereotypical housewife made Murrielle happy – at least for a year.

Carlo hit her a year after they started living together.

It happened repeatedly, too.

Daghan bawal – make-up, shorts, mga amigo (There were a lot of no-no’s – make-up, short pants, friends)…”

The violence against Murrielle resulted to physical injuries.

Murrielle didn’t have anyone to confide to, too. “Wala ko matug-an (There wasn’t anyone I could tell),” she said. “Gasulti ko sa among mga amigo nga ginakulata ko. “Mangatawa man lang sila (I told our friends that he was beating me. They just laughed).”

Murrielle said that she also couldn’t physically fight back – all the men in her life were, to begin with, all physically bigger than her. “Wala jud ko kusog musukol (I didn’t have the strength to fight back),” she said.

One time, they had to settle a fight in front of barangay (village) officials.

But Murrielle said that Carlo always seemed apologetic for the pain he caused her. “Mamawi man siya. Iyaha man ko i-sweet-sweet. He offers something. Unya sex para uli-an (He suddenly does something good. He’d be sweet to me. He offers something. And then we’d have sex for the things to be as they were),” she said.

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Murrielle recalled repeatedly asking Carlo why he was hurting her, and he said it was because he loved her. “Sulti niya he doesn’t want to lose me daw (he said he didn’t want to lose me),” she said. “Tuo jud ko (And I believed him).”

LAST STRAW

Murrielle was already with Carlo for two years and nine months when – while Murrielle was washing the dishes after they had dinner – Carlo went behind her and tied his leather belt around her neck to choke her. “Galalis mi tungod sa akong shorts. Nigawas man gud ko bag-o nag-dinner kay nipalit kog ice para sa drinks. Nasuko siya kay nganong short shorts daw akong sul-obon (We were arguing about my short pants. I had to go out before dinner to buy ice for our drinks. He got angry because of the length of my short pants),” she said.

Choking while trying to at least fighting back, Murrielle found herself lying on the bedroom floor. That was when she saw herself on their floor-length mirror. “Nangitom ako liog sa iyaha belt (The skin on my neck where he tied his belt was dark),” she said. Murrielle then realized that “kung dili ko niya mapatay, ako makapatay sa iya (if he didn’t kill me, I may kill him).”

After that fight, while they were lying in bed, “mga 12:00AM, ako siya gipukaw. Wala man siya namata; tulog jud siya (around 12:00AM, I woke him. He didn’t wake up; he was in deep sleep),” Murrielle said.

Murrielle took this chance to take off.

Nisibat ko (I ran away),” she said. “Wala ko dala sanina. Kung unsa ako-a ako sul-ob, kadto lang (I didn’t bring my clothes. I only had with me what I had on me).”

Murrielle didn’t have anyone to confide to, too. “Wala ko matug-an (There wasn’t anyone I could tell),” she said. “Gasulti ko sa among mga amigo nga ginakulata ko. “Mangatawa man lang sila (I told our friends that he was beating me. They just laughed).”

Murrielle didn’t have anyone to confide to, too. “Wala ko matug-an (There wasn’t anyone I could tell),” she said. “Gasulti ko sa among mga amigo nga ginakulata ko. “Mangatawa man lang sila (I told our friends that he was beating me. They just laughed).”

FINDING HER TRUE SELF

In total, “one year and nine months akong martir (I was a ‘martyr’ for one year and nine months; or I put up with the abuses for one year and nine months).”

Murrielle stayed with a friend for three days; and then she left for Metro Manila, where she stayed with her grandmother for three months.

Staying away was important for her because Carlo was looking for her. “Apparently, prmi niya pangita sa ako-a. Samukon niya ako mama, lola. Wala sila ikatingog kay wala man sila kahibalo (he always looked for me. He bugged my mom, my [other] grandmother. But they couldn’t give him any answer because they didn’t know where I was).”

Being away also cleared her mind. “I stayed with my lola until maka-move on ko

Love man gihapon nako siya, so nasaktan gihapon ko (I still loved him, so I was hurting).”

After three months, Carlo stopped frequenting Murrielle’s family’s house to look for her.

Four months after she left him, “I think I stopped loving him,” Murrielle said.

Since Murrielle returned to Cebu, where she is now involved in LGBT human rights advocacy, she has yet to cross paths with Carlo again. “I still fear seeing him. But I am ready if that happens,” she said.

Having experienced what she did, Murrielle’s message to other LGBT people is to get a perspective. “Dili magpakabuta bungol. Kita tanan puwede ma-in-love pero dili pasagdan nga mabun-og ta nila (Do not be blind or deaf. All of us can fall in love, but we should not let the people we love bruise/hurt us).”

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

#KaraniwangLGBT

Paolo, naked

Paolo Dumlao, a pansexual Filipino performance artist, uses his naked body as a canvas, believing that art can help the people – both the artist and those who see the artworks. “It makes people think, ask… and feel,” he said, all relevant because “we’re not robots; we’re humans.”

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Four years ago, Paolo Dumlao, a pansexual Filipino, did his first performance art “as mema lang (out of whim),” he said. At that time, he just wanted to “tick off something from my bucket list.” But he fell in love with the form, and so stayed with it.

Here’s the thing: In his performances, Paolo is always without clothes since he is a nude artist.

There is reason behind this, he said. “It’s not because it’s something different, or because it’s something new since it’s been done before… but because for me, the feeling (when one is nude) is very vulnerable, and I think it’s my most vulnerable form, and I want to be in that state when I perform so I can emphasize with people.”

To be clear, Paolo is not a performing artist; instead, he is a performance artist.

Performance art is different from performing arts. With the latter, “you are portraying a character that is not you. So you’re using your body as a canvas to create another character. When it comes to performance art, you yourself are the character, and the message you relay is different outside of the text,” he said. “At least that’s what I am doing.”

Paolo noted that there are people who see performances of nude artists as sexual, and he said that this is not necessarily true.

On the one hand, just because one is naked doesn’t mean the piece is sexual, as “it could be pure, it could be wholesome (even if the performer is not clothed). And I am able to show these (through my performances), and that (things aren’t) just black and white.”

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And so, it is worth stressing, “it is not pornography; I am not selling my body, I am just using my body as canvas for my art.”

Paolo said that malice needs to be removed when viewing particularly his performances – i.e. “We don’t give malice when seeing a naked child, so why give malice when seeing a naked adult?” This is particularly true when “they’re not doing anything malicious or anything sexual.”

On the other hand, Paolo said with emphasis, even if the piece is also sexual, it’s not like there’s something wrong with that. “We’re all different; sensuality is different for everyone, just as sexuality is different for everyone. You can be modest and that empowers you, and that’s fine. You could be very, very promiscuous and very sexual, and that empowers you, and that’s fine, too. As long as you’re responsible with yourself, you’re responsible when dealing with other people, and you know for a fact you’re not stepping on other people’s toes.”

Though Paolo has been inspired by various artists, his main inspiration are the people he deals with while performing. “My interaction creates an experience for me, and from that experience, I get inspired to make more art,” he said.

Paolo said he gets two reactions when he performs. For one, there are people who get “the vulnerability,” he said. And, secondly, “there are times when (people) get intimidated.” But with performance art, “your art is effective when you get a reaction, once it creates discourse.” And so for Paolo, the piece still works “even if only one person gets it.”

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There are members of his family who disapprove of what he does, though Paolo said this is largely due to security/safety issues – e.g. he could get harassed, or he could be accused of harassing and could get in trouble for this. But Paolo said that he is actually cautious when planning performances, making sure that – yes – he does so in a safe space where he won’t be harassed, and only in contexts where he won’t knowingly end up harassing people.

For those who oversimplify what he’s doing as “just getting naked”, Paolo said performing is actually very draining, not just mentally but also physically. Which is why “I look after my body,” he said, “because I use my body as my canvas and I need to take care of it. I always make sure I am ready for it; it’s strenuous.”

If there’s one lesson his performances taught him, it’s that “we share similar stories,” Paolo said. “We share similar pain, we share similar happiness or success… The levels may be different on how we deal with these, but they’re similar.”

And after his performances, if there is one thing he wants those who see him to take away from seeing him, it’s the ability to “ask questions,” Paolo said. “Never be afraid to ask questions. It’s a start of being curious, of interacting with other people. So if possible, ask all the questions you can ask. It’s a way to grow as a person.”

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Worsening #ARVshortage in the Phl?

On Jan. 9, the Philippines gained a new HIV and AIDS law that is supposed to better the lives of Filipinos living with HIV. But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage.

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In September 2018, Xander (not his real name; anonymity requested), a Filipino living with HIV, claimed that he was told by the person working in the pharmacy of his hub to “consume already-expired medicines (the three-in-one tablet of Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz)”, and that “it is “still good for three months after the expiration date.”

Since dealing with ARV-related issue is not new to him (it happened to him in the last quarter of 2013), he complained and was given newer meds. Noticeably, “those who didn’t complain – like I did – ended up using the expired meds,” he said.

Xander can only recall how he earlier lamented – again in 2013 – that the ARV shortage will happen again, particularly considering the continuing denial of the Department of Health (DOH) about this issue.

TAINTED ‘SUCCESS’

The 9th of January is supposed to be a happy day particularly for Filipinos living with HIV and their advocates. On that day, the newly-signed Republic Act 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act was released after it was signed into law by Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte. By replacing the 20-year-old Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine National AIDS and Control Act of 1998, this new law is supposed to boost the government’s response to HIV and AIDS by making health services for HIV and AIDS more accessible to Filipinos.

But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage, which is not helped by the denial of the issue by various heads of offices – including government officials, as well as those helming treatment hubs/facilities and even select non-government organizations (NGOs).

In an unsigned statement (as if so that no one can be “chased” to be held accountable for the same statement), the DOH seemed to belittle the issue by outright claiming that there’s an ‘alleged’ shortage of ARVs; even as it also stated that they take the issue of HIV infection in the country seriously. Part of this is to take “great steps to ensure that access for HIV treatments are available for those who are diagnosed with HIV.”

The DOH statement added:
“As of October 2018, we have enrolled 32,224 persons living with HIV for treatment with ARV such as Nevirapine, Lamivudine/Tenofovir. The DOH has been providing free ARV to Filipinos living with HIV through our HIV treatment hubs.
“Based on our records, there are 3,200 registered PLHIV who are on Nevirapine and 1,791 PLHIV on Lamivudine/Tenofovir, as of December last year.

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That just about half of the total PLHIVs in the Philippines use ARVs is worth noting, even if it’s another issue altogether.

But the mention of these two meds/cocktails is important because the complaints reaching – among others – Outrage Magazine, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) other and HIV-related community-based organizations/non-government organizations particularly currently mention these.

In Quezon City, for instance, at least eight PLHIVs alleged that they have been given incomplete medications – i.e. they were supplied with either Lamivudine/Tenofovir or Lamivudine/Zidovudine, but they have not been receiving Nevirapine because this is not available. These people are, therefore, taking incomplete meds.

Pinoy Plus’s hotline, PRC, has received similar allegations of non-delivery of Nevirapine.

In Cavite (Imus, Bacoor and Dasmariñas), at least three clients surfaced to allege about the same issue. PLHIVs are now “borrowing” each others’ Nevirapine supply just so they don’t miss their required dosage because their hub does not have supplies from the DOH.

There are similar allegations in Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City and Zamboanga City.

And in Alabang, the pharmacy of a treatment hub even posted on January 8, 2019 an announcement that “due to the shortage and delay of the deliveries at DOH, only one bottle will be dispensed of the following medicines: Nevirapine (200mg tablet); Lamivudine (150mg)/Zidovudine (300mg tablet); and Lamivudine (300mg)/Tenofovir (300mg tablet).” The same hub is telling its clients to “wait for further announcement on stock availability.”

Note that the RITM-AIDS Research Group’s pharmacy is putting the blame on the DOH.

DOH’s CLAIM

The same DOH statement stressed that “the latest data, as of January 4, confirms that Nevirapine has already been delivered to the 16 treatment hubs to meet the requirements for February-April 2019. For Lamivudine/Tenofovir, a month’s supply has also been delivered to Regions X, VI and I. The rest of the regions will expect deliveries within this week.”

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Noticeably, the DOH statement responds to issues only this January, even if this concern has been circulating in the PLHIV community since 2018, and only peaked now.

There are fewer ARV refills now. If, in the past, the usual practice is for hubs to give PLHIVs three bottles of ARV to last them for three months, a growing number are now complaining about the supply being cut to one month in numerous hubs – e.g. there’s that post in RITM’s pharmacy. Some allege that they are even supplied ARVs just for a week or even just for three days.

Due to the ARV shortage that the DOH is not outright confronting, expired medicines are allegedly being given to PLHIVs – as in the case of Xander.

Also due to the ARV shortage, the medication of a number of PLHIVs are allegedly being changed not because it’s medically sound, but because their usual medicines are not readily available. In Mandaluyong City, there are PLHIVs who claimed to have been told to use Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz because it’s the only available ARV. If they refuse to do so, then they will have to stop taking their usual medications until such time when the delivery of supplies are normalized again.

To allow the DOH to respond to these claims, Outrage Magazine repeatedly reached out to the government body. Upon calling the media relations unit (at +63 2 651-7800 loc. 1126), we were turned over to the office of Dr. Gerard Belimac (+63 2 651-7800 locs. 2355, 2352, 2354). Five attempts were made to speak with Belimac or any other authority in his office, but he has been unavailable at those five times; and even after leaving requests for a statement from him on the ARV shortage, as of press time, the publication has not heard back.

As this is a continuing story, coordination will continue to – eventually hopefully – extensively hear from the DOH on this issue.

WHAT NOW?

The DOH statement also stated that it is “working closely with our suppliers to ensure that there are no gaps in our supply chain. In fact, we are waiting for deliveries of an additional 12,375 bottles of Nevirapine good for another three months and 7,024 bottles of Lamivudine/Tenofovir good for another two months.”

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The DOH also claimed that it is continuing to explore “for more partners in providing excellent support for Filipinos living with HIV-AIDS and in ending the deadly disease.”

As if wanting to pacify the complaining PLHIVs, the DOH statement transferred to responsibility to “HIV doctors to explore possible options”, or visit Facebook page (PLHIV Response Center) or email dohnaspcphiv@gmail.com. Note the use of a gmail account for a body with millions in budget.

No investigations on where the errors in the supply chain is happening so that these can be fixed is forthcoming. No one being held accountable here.

THE NEED TO GO BEYOND LIP SERVICE

Incidentally, Article V, Sec. 33 of the newly signed HIV law states: “The DOH shall establish a program that will provide free and accessible ART and medication for opportunistic infections to all PLHIVs who are enrolled in the program… A manual of procedures for management of PLHIV shall be developed by the DOH.”

The IRR is not even there yet, but this mandate to provide life-saving meds is now already cast in doubt.

Xander – who only had a refill of his ARVs – said that many like him who posted about this issue online were told to stop doing so “because we are supposedly creating panic among PLHIVs.”

He now says that people who cover up this issue are “as worse as those paid to work on this issue. Because if you go to the HIV community, we’ve long lived with worrying that our meds may not be given us at any moment. If some people think complaining about this is wrong, then they shouldn’t be in HIV advocacy, but work as PR people of those failing to do their jobs.”

In the end, “this needs to be resolved fast. Enough with discussing semantics on what we’re having is a shortage or a stockout; the fact remains that there are PLHIVs not getting their supplies. Lives are at stake. So supply the ARVs; now.”

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PSA tackles in Filipino Sign Language what happens after rapid HIV test

What happens after you get tested for HIV? Particularly to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement was released on getting tested for HIV in the Philippines, and what happens after one gets tested.

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One of the biggest confusions re HIV testing in the Philippines is answering the question on “what happens after one gets tested for HIV,” said Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow (PDR).

The confusion is not helped by numerous factors – e.g.: various testing facilities are, in a way, “autonomous”, so there are varying practices; and information about post-testing remains limited.

No matter the reason/s for the confusion, “the effect is the same: it discourages many people from getting HIV testing and/or screening,” Aguila said.

To demystify particularly rapid HIV screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on getting tested for HIV in the Philippines, and what happens after one gets tested.

The PSA is the third in a series of PSAs produced as part of a Bahaghari Center project backed by a collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

Particularly pertaining rapid HIV test, “we want to educate particularly Deaf Filipinos about post-testing – that, if you are non-reactive, there are steps you can do to stay non-reactive; and if you’re positive, help is available to help you access treatment, care and support (including getting antiretroviral medicines) so you can live a long, healthy life.”

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PSA on getting tested for HIV released in Filipino Sign Language

Aguila stressed that knowing one’s HIV status is important to protect oneself and others around him/her.

If one is HIV-positive, then he/she can start taking antiretroviral medicine (ARV) that will prevent the HIV (virus) from replicating and thereby help him/her stay healthy and live longer/normal lives.

And if one is HIV-negative, then he/she can take steps to stay negative (for example, by practicing safer sexual practices).

“It starts with getting oneself tested,” Aguila said, “which is why we encourage people to get tested.”

Most hospitals and clinics can give HIV testing.

Social hygiene clinics (SHC) located in select barangays can also give HIV testing and/or HIV screening.

Various non-government organizations also offer HIV testing and/or screening.

There are also people who are certified to give rapid HIV test.

A series of community-based HIV testing trainings are given to select members of the Deaf community in Metro Manila/Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao is to “empower members of the Deaf community to be more proactive in dealing with HIV by allowing the Deaf to help the Deaf.” These trainings are provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

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PSA on getting tested for HIV released in Filipino Sign Language

To demystify particularly rapid HIV testing/screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on the getting tested for HIV in the Philippines.

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Getting tested for HIV is – as it is – already challenging for Hearing people, but “it can be argued that this is doubly difficult for Deaf people,” said Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow (PDR). This is because “aside from dealing with the ‘usual’ issues related to getting tested for HIV that are encountered by Hearing people (including dealing with stigma and discrimination), we also have to contend with language barrier.”

Eyeing to demystify particularly rapid HIV testing/screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on the getting tested for HIV in the Philippines.

The PSA is actually one in three PSAs produced as part of a Bahaghari Center project backed by a collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

Particularly pertaining rapid HIV test, “we want to educate people that all it takes is a prick, and a person can already find out his/her HIV status… in less than 20 minutes,” Aguila said.

Knowing one’s HIV status is important, Aguila added, as a means to: protect oneself and others around him/her.

If one is HIV-positive, then he/she can start taking antiretroviral medicine (ARV) that will prevent the HIV (virus) from replicating and thereby help him/her stay healthy and live longer/normal lives.

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And if one is HIV-negative, then he/she can take steps to stay negative (for example, by practicing safer sexual practices).

“But it all starts with getting oneself tested,” Aguila said, “which is why we encourage people to get tested.”

If these are more accessible, most hospitals and clinics can give HIV testing.

Social hygiene clinics (SHC) located in select barangays can also give HIV testing and/or HIV screening.

Various non-government organizations also offer HIV testing and/or screening.

There are also people who are certified to give rapid HIV test.

A series of community-based HIV testing trainings are given to select members of the Deaf community in Metro Manila/Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao is to “empower members of the Deaf community to be more proactive in dealing with HIV by allowing the Deaf to help the Deaf.” These trainings are provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

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PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

HIV 101 in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

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To “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on the “HIV basics,” according to Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow (PDR).

The PSA is actually one in three PSAs, all of them forming part of a Bahaghari Center project backed by a collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific.

There will also be accompanying trainings for Deaf community members to know about rapid HIV testing, so that “Deaf Filipinos can start HIV testing among themselves.”

Aguila said that often, when discussing SHRH, differently-abled people – such as the members of the Deaf community – are often not included in discussions. “And so even if we’re just as affected by this global social issue, solutions to deal with them often remain hard to reach for us,” she said. From this perspective, “efforts that empower our community members are good should be done; and they should be done fast.”

IN THE PHILIPPINES

In 2012, Michael David C. Tan – publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBTQI publication in the Philippines, and head of Bahaghari Center – conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.

To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%).

Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18, the legal age of consent in the Philippines. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.

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Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.

Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) consider HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).

The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.

But this issue is not limited ONLY to the LGBTQIA members of the Deaf community. This issue also affects the SRHR of the Deaf community, as a whole.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Specific to reproductive health, WHO stresses that it “implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”

It is nonetheless unfortunate that various studies – including Tan’s – highlight how the Deaf community continues to be left behind because they are not able to access safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation/s of their choice.

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For instance, a study carried out by Deafax (EARS Campaign, 2012) revealed “higher than average levels of STIs, pregnancy and inappropriate behavior within the Deaf community.” This study specifically showed that: 35% of Deaf people did not receive any sex education at school; 65% said that sex education was inaccessible; and 36% learned through direct sexual experience.”

Dealing with SRHR vis-à-vis HIV is obviously just as tricky in the Philippines.

From January 1984 to July 2018, sexual contact among men who have sex with men (MSM) was the predominant (84%, 44,929) mode of transmission among males. Just as that moniker suggests, many of these MSM are not necessarily gay/homosexual, but also engage in sex with opposite sex partners.

This is connected to the population of those most vulnerable to risks associated with sexual activity getting younger, including HIV. But while this has been noted in the Hearing population, the Deaf community is largely ignored, with no existing data on HIV prevalence among them.

In fact, also from January 1984 to July 2018, 16,074 (28%) of the reported cases were 15-24 years old; and broken down, 1,813 were infected through male-female sex, 9,031 from male-male sex, and 4,662 from sex with both males and females.

This means that so long as the HIV infection rate among MSM increases, so do the risk for infection among women.

As it is, the number of diagnosed HIV infections among females in the Philippines has already increased. Females diagnosed with HIV from January to July 2018 (362) was almost three times the number of diagnosed cases compared to the same period of 2013 (126). Ninety-three percent (3,426) of all female cases were in the reproductive age group (15-49 years old) at the time of diagnosis.

With the dearth – if not complete absence – of information for the Deaf community in the Philippines about HIV, Deaf Filipinos (irrespective of their SOGIE) continue not to be informed of and have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control; as well as appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicine and implementation of health education program.

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To highlight, as the case is in the Philippines: Even with glaring worrying data, there continue to be no specific program to give the Deaf population access to HIV-related efforts in the Philippines.

The law, for instance, mandates that people who get tested should receive counselling; and yet not one HIV counsellor knows of Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

And for Deaf Filipinos who were able to get tested for HIV and tested HIV-positive, accessing medical services is also problematic because of the lack of interpreters, particularly those familiar with HIV and those who can actually provide HIV testing.

INCLUDING THE DEAF IN THE CONVERSATION

The PSA discusses HIV basics – from what HIV is, how one may get infected with it, and misconceptions surrounding HIV.

A second PSA will be subsequently released, tackling HIV testing (particularly rapid HIV test); while a third PSA will discuss what happens after people get tested for HIV in the Philippine context.

Also, “because any PSA can only do so much to actually make people get themselves tested for HIV,” Aguila said, a series of trainings will be given to select members of the Deaf community in Metro Manila/Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. This is to “empower members of the Deaf community to be more proactive in dealing with HIV by allowing the Deaf to help the Deaf.”

These trainings will be provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

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Relevance of public & private sectors’ support highlighted in Quezon City’s 2018 Pride parade

Highlighting the importance of the participation of all stakeholders, not just the LGBTQIA community but also including the public and the private sectors, Quezon City in Metro Manila held one of the last Pride parades in the Philippines for 2018.

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Highlighting the importance of the participation of all stakeholders, not just the LGBTQIA community but also including the public (including government) and the private sectors, Quezon City in Metro Manila held one of the last Pride parades in the Philippines for 2018.

Hanz Defensor, who helms Quezon City Pride Council (QCPC), the organizer of the annual gathering, told Outrage Magazine in an exclusive interview that Quezon City is “quite fortunate” that it now has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) that protects LGBTQIA people from discrimination.

Signed by mayor Herbert Bautista (whose term ends in May 2019), City Ordinance 2357-2014, otherwise known as The Quezon City Gender-Fair Ordinance, eyes to “to actively work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination that violate the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, existing laws, and The Yogyakarta Principles; and to value the dignity of every person, guarantee full respect for human rights and give the highest priority to measures that protect and enhance the right of all people; regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

But Defensor said that, “admittedly, kulang pa rin (this is still lacking).” This is because – even if they already have the ADO and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), the actual implementation continues to be challenging.

Quezon City, Defensor noted as an example, has “a lot of business establishments, and while they know that discriminating against LGBTQIA people in the city is prohibited by law, not all of them actually have a copy of the ADO and the IRR to know the small details.”

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As he encouraged particularly those affected by the ADO to “download (the same) from Quezon City’s official website”, he is also encouraging other local government units to already take steps to also protect their LGBTQIA constituents, perhaps learning from Quezon City’s example.

The same sentiment was expressed in a letter sent to QCPC by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who remarked that Quezon City’s ADO – which also mandates the annual holding of the Pride parade – “has become a source of inspiration for advocates of gay rights in the Philippines and the rest of the world” because “it has institutionalized the city’s progressive and inclusive policy that eliminates discrimination on the basis of SOGIE.”

Though criticized for pinkwashing, Duterte still expressed hope that Pride further strengthens “the solidarity of (the) community so you may inspire the entire nation with the diversity and dynamism of your talents and skills.”

To contextualize, past administrations did not openly support Pride-related events.

Also, even if Akbayan partylist – which is aligned with Liberal Party that helmed the country under Pres. Benigno Aquino III prior to Duterte’s term – has been sponsoring the anti-discrimination bill for almost 20 years now, it still fails to gain traction, including during Aquino’s administration when it was largely ignored.

As an FYI, Quezon City actually hosted the largely accepted first Pride March in Asia.

On June 26, 1994, ProGay Philippines and Metropolitan Community Church helmed a march in Quezon City. Dubbed as “Stonewall Manila” or as “Pride Revolution”, it was held in remembrance of the Stonewall Inn Riots and coincided with a bigger march against the imposition of the Value Added Tax (VAT).

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Defensor stressed the need to be pro-active when confronting LGBTQIA-related discrimination. While the ADO is there, he said that should LGBTQIA people from Quezon City experience discrimination, “seek help” and know that “QCPC is here, and the LGU will back you.”

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