In commemoration of the 30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, the Philippines Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), with support from UNAIDS, held YES2Test as a move to make advocates of bloggers to urge citizens to voluntarily get themselves tested for HIV.
While the March 2013 AIDS Registry shows that there are 12,791 cumulative HIV positive individuals since 1984, UNAIDS projects a total of 28,072 actual cases in the Philippines. This discrepancy in figures is attributed to the wariness of the citizenry to have themselves tested of the virus, said Teresita Marie Bagasao, UNAIDS Country Coordinator, and this is largely since “stigma and discrimination to person living with HIV (PLHIV) is too rampant, (so) people don’t want to be tested.”
Bagasao said that 30 years on since the first HIV case was reported, “a lot has changed, including a lot of medical interventions, so it (HIV) is no longer a death sentence.” This message, however, continues to not be pervasive.
HIV advocate Wanggo Gallaga believes in not only stressing the key messages in the fight against HIV, but also in adding more “positive representation of PLHIVs”.
“We need to go beyond the stereotyped representations of PLHIVs,” Gallaga said, “since PLHIVs can live normal lives.”
For Michael David C. Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, bloggers can help spread HIV-related information. Because they “speak the language of the people, particularly of their target populations, the bloggers can help encourage people to get themselves tested. And this is a key step to take in the fight against HIV, because when people already know their status, then they will know what they can then do – if they tested negative, then they can practice safer sex; and if they tested positive, then they can take the steps for them to be and stay healthy, or for others around them to also be kept healthy.”
With Yes2Test, PLCPD is eyeing to bring the issue of HIV into the 16th Congress, and as part of its mandate, it shall also urge lawmakers to work on bills that would help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, said PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto.
Yes2Test participants included Take the Test, Bloggers for a Cause, Blogwatch, Kabataan Partylist, and public health journalist Ana Santos.