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Training on community-based HIV screening held for Deaf community in Mnl

To empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

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To help empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

The training is actually one in three that will be provided by a project by the Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), backed by 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.

Disney Aguila, who heads the project, and is the concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, is first to admit that “problems regarding access to HIV-related services (particularly in this case) by Deaf Filipinos remain numerous.” This is why, for Aguila, “every effort to immediately help deal with these issues count.”

These challenges are multi-pronged, yet interconnected.

On the side of the Deaf Filipinos:

1) Knowledge about HIV remains low.

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.

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.

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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.

2) Continuing neglect of inclusion of Deaf community members in HIV-related discussions.

For instance, there may have been HIV-related projects including Deaf Filipinos in the past, but these have been very limited to Deaf LGBTQI people.

It is worth noting that 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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3) Lack of HIV-related materials in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

According to Aguila, still many people – including service providers – do not know that the Deaf community has its own language (with its own grammar and syntax). And so HIV-related materials are often produced with the assumption that “everyone can already immediately understand them, which is not necessarily true.”

Aguila recommends the development and production of materials specifically targeting the Deaf community to ensure “that the messages being relayed are truly understood,” she said.

Already, Bahaghari Center has released PSAs on the basics of HIV.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

On the side of Filipino Sign Language interpreters:

1) There is still a lack of interpreters in the country (particularly in far-flung areas.

2) Also, even among the available interpreters, not many actually know about HIV.

3) There is also the lack of interpreters who can accompany Deaf Filipinos who end up testing HIV-positive when they access treatment, care and support services.

4) And there – currently – are no HIV-related programs being offered to ensure that willing interpreters are also given HIV-related knowledge and skills.

Aguila admitted that “we definitely still have a long way to go; but we do what we can, and starting with one step – such as training Deaf community members to start testing other Deaf Filipinos is but one good step.”

The training in Manila – as well as in Cebu City in the Visayas and Davao City in Mindanao – is 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.

Call him A.M. (short for Albert Magallanes, obviously; though - he says - also to "signify being on the go, as people tend to be in the mornings"). A graduate of BS Physical Therapy (in DLS Health Sciences Institute), he found his calling ("Sort of," he laughed) attempting to organize communities ("While having fun in the process," he beamed). For instance, in Las Piñas where he is based, he helps helm an MSM group that has evolved from just offering social events to aiding its members as needed. He now writes for Outrage Magazine as the Las Piñas (and southern) correspondent.

NEWSMAKERS

Teaching Deaf Mindanawons about community-based HIV screening

Select members of the Deaf community in Mindanao were trained not only on the basics of HIV, but also on community-based HIV screening.

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“We’ve (actually) been given info on the basics of HIV,” admitted Prime Truya, a local Deaf LGBTQIA community leader from Davao City, “but past efforts have been limited to ‘basic knowledge’ sharing.”

With this, select members of the Deaf community in Mindanao were trained not only on the basics of HIV, but also on community-based HIV screening.

This endeavor – part of a project by Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), backed by collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyes to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific – is the first to actually teach the Deaf about actual screening/testing.

The goal, said Disney Aguila of Bahaghari Center and Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, Inc., is not just to “inform them that this issue is just as important to them. It is also to equip them with the actual know-how on what to do to become solutions in dealing with this issue.”

This project is also a follow-through of the public service announcements (PSAs) developed in Filipino Sign Language (FSL) to specifically tap the Deaf community.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

PSA on getting tested for HIV released in Filipino Sign Language

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

Aguila lamented that “the Deaf community is often left behind in HIV-related efforts. Not surprisingly, we have a lot of catching up to do.”

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In Davao City, for instance, at least prior to the Bahaghari Center project, none of the Deaf community members were trained to screen/test others for HIV. This “approach of not empowering us makes us dependent on Hearing people,” Aguila said, adding that this dependence is not always good because “it disempowers us in dealing with this issue.”

Aguila admitted that the Deaf community will continue to have “an uphill battle in fighting HIV exactly because of this playing catch-up,” she said. “But every effort than can be done now should already be done now.”

The community-based HIV screening 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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NEWSMAKERS

Cebu’s Deaf community taught community-based HIV screening

Select members of the Deaf community from the Province of Cebu were trained on the basics of HIV, and on community-based HIV screening in an effort to “inform them that this issue is just as important to them, and that – given the chance – they can help become the solutions to deal with this.”

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Helping Deaf Filipinos to help themselves.

Select members of the Deaf community from the Province of Cebu were trained on the basics of HIV, and on community-based HIV screening in an effort to “inform them that this issue is just as important to them, and that – given the chance – they can help become the solutions to deal with this,” said Disney Aguila of Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, Inc.

The training is part of a project by Bahaghari Center, backed by collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyes to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific.

This project is also a follow-through of the public service announcements (PSAs) developed in Filipino Sign Language (FSL) to specifically tap the Deaf community.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

PSA on getting tested for HIV released in Filipino Sign Language

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

Aguila lamented that “perhaps because the Deaf community is often left behind in HIV-related efforts, we have a lot of catching up to do,” she said.

In Cebu City, for instance, even if participants recognized the importance/urgency of tackling HIV, there are sectors that are still “unable to go beyond their fear of talking about sex and sexuality.”

Noticeably, the Hearing community “may already talk about SOGIE concepts and so on, but – because we have not always been included in discussions, we’re still learning the basics,” Aguila said.

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This is why, for Aguila, every effort counts to “ensure that we are included in the discussions; and perhaps just as importantly, also empowered so that we need not be dependent on the Hearing community just to be able to access lifesaving services.”

Aguila said that “this development may not come immediately, but every step leading there helps.”

The community-based HIV screening 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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NEWSMAKERS

Study finds no link between trans-inclusive policies and bathroom safety

A study found that “fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws/policies (in sharing public spaces such as restrooms) are not empirically grounded.”

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Photo by KangDooHo from Pixabay.com

Opponents of allowing trans people to use toilets aligned with their gender identities often cite fear of safety and privacy violations in public restrooms as reason for their opposition. A study now – conclusively – says that this fear is baseless/unfounded/erroneous.

In “Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: a Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms” – written by Amira Hasenbush, Andrew R. Flores and Jody L. Herman and published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy – it was found that “fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws/policies (in sharing public spaces such as restrooms) are not empirically grounded.”

To determine whether a relationship exists between nondiscrimination laws/policies and crime, the researchers focused on Massachusetts in the US, where at the time of the study some localities had transgender-inclusive public accommodation laws and others did not. The data were collected before the passage in 2016 of Massachusetts’ statewide nondiscrimination law that protects transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.

The research team compared cities and towns with similar characteristics that had such laws to those that did not. They then examined police reports of assault and privacy violations in these localities both before and after the laws came into effect.

The result – and to emphasize: There is no evidence that letting transgender people use public facilities that align with their gender identity increases safety risks.

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It is worth noting that with the often close association of transgender struggle with access to the restroom, an earlier study found that 30% of people (24% of the women and 38% of the men) felt that transgender people should be required to use the restroom that matches their assigned birth gender

The silver lining: This same study found that a growing number (48%) of those polled (55% of the women and 43% of the men) said that trans individuals should use the restroom that matches their identity. Twenty-one percent of the respondents (22% of the women and 19% of the men) said they were unsure.

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NEWSMAKERS

Lesbian, gay and bi people more likely to be politically liberal

A study found that LGB people were more likely to have liberal social justice perspectives; and that this was especially the case for lesbian and bisexual women ‘due to their multiple oppressed identities’.

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Photo by Yannis Papanastasopoulos from Unsplash.com

We’re more open-minded – politically speaking, that is, and in our attitudes to social issues.

This is according to a study – “‘All the Gays Are Liberal?’ Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA” – done by University of Oklahoma sociologist Meredith Worthen and published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

The study explored sexuality and gender gaps in political perspectives among college students enrolled at a university in the southern US (N = 1,940). Specifically, the study explored sexual identity (lesbian, gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual, and heterosexual); gender (man/woman); and the intersections among sexual identity and gender as they relate to politicized perspectives (liberal ideology and feminist identity) and support of politicized issues (death penalty and legal abortion).

“It is hypothesized that liberal social justice perspectives may be particularly common among LGB people as a group, and perhaps especially among lesbian and bisexual women due to their multiple oppressed identities,” stated in the study.

And – yes – the results confirmed sexuality gaps (heterosexual-LGB, MH-LGB, and B-LG) as well as gender gaps among MH and LGB students (MH women-MH men, bisexual women-bisexual men, gay men-lesbian women), though some gaps (B-LG and G-L) are in the opposite direction from expected.

In addition, there is evidence of a bisexual woman consciousness that relates to strong liberalism among bisexual college women.

The study also found that those who are “exclusively heterosexual” are “significantly” less likely to be liberal.

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So – yes – in a gist: Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to be liberal in their political views and attitudes to social issues.

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#KaraniwangLGBT

Photos from the fringes of the rainbow

How Outrage Magazine’s #KaraniwangLGBT eyes to help broaden LGBTQIA representation in the Philippines by documenting those at the fringes of the rainbow. As editor Michael David Tan said: “To really engage, we have to allow others to shine. Hopefully, in a small way, #KaraniwangLGBT does that.”

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On June 13, 2015, fashion designer Veejay Floresca – who happens to be a transgender woman – alleged that she was almost refused entry by high-end bar Valkyrie in Taguig City.

“Because: 1. that venue was frequented by the so-called ‘high and mighty’ and the social climbing crowd; 2. one of the owners of the venue is a local celebrity in the person of Vice Ganda; and 3. Floresca, herself, was a mini-celebrity, the ‘Valkyrie issue’ made a big splash in the news,” recalled Michael David C. Tan, editor of Outrage Magazine.

TV personality Boy Abunda – an openly gay man himself – interviewed Floresca in ABS-CBN; and national dailies like Inquirer and The Philippine Star tackled Floresca’s “almost non-entry” into an exclusive bar.

But also around that time – on June 22, 2015 – Michael David interviewed another transgender woman: Claire Balabbo. Claire was one of the 96 contractual employees of Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna who decided to launch a sudden strike after they were told on May 16, 2015 to stop reporting to work by May 18.

“While a handful of alternative media picked the picketers’ story (for instance, Altermidya), this story remained largely ignored,” Michael David said.

And for Tan, this highlighted a “sad reality”, an “imbalance that should embarrass us all” because of the “seemingly too apparent preference to provide coverage to the issues of the rich and famous; but not of those at the fringes of society.”

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Murielle

Ryan B.

Sarah

Vien

Aside from her issues as a contractual worker, Claire also encountered work-related discrimination as a trans woman – e.g. when she just started working for Tanduay Distillers Inc., the HR office allegedly forced her to cut her hair, else risk getting fired from work; and she was physically harassed at work, though the HR office allegedly just dismissed her claim since “all workers were ‘male’ anyway” and that the co-workers may have just been joking around (as boys do).

Particularly looking at the Valkyrie versus Tanduay issues superficially, one is about accessing a space to party; while the other is about being able to work decently to make a living.

This helped drive the development of #KaraniwangLGBT, with Michael David starting to photo-document “LGBTQIA Filipinos at the fringes of the rainbow,” he said.

Michael David said that “in no way is this effort belittling the issues raised in occurrences like the Valkyrie debacle – e.g. access to space. Instead, this is an attempt to ‘give face’ to those who do not usually have the same access to, say, media and representation.”

Aian

Aris

Bunny

Claire

#KaraniwangLGBT became a section in Outrage Magazine, with the effort to tell the stories of “common LGBTQIA people” bringing Michael David (and the staff of Outrage Magazine) all over the Philippines. And what – initially – started as a photo campaign evolved, with this section now also telling the stories of the subjects via write-ups and mini-documentaries.

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To date, Michael David has already photographed/documented – among others – members of the LGBTQIA community who are also Moros, sex workers, church workers, HIV advocates, differently-abled/PWDs, PLHIVs, members of Lumad communities, contractual workers, homeless, victims of domestic abuse, et cetera.

Jelly Ace

Mara

Marimar

MMK

“To really engage, we have to allow others to shine,” Michael David said. “Hopefully, in a small way, #KaraniwangLGBT does that.”

n.b.
Following Floresca’s media tour, Valkyrie eventually amended its policy to allow trans women to party in its premises. But the “Valkyrie effect” was minimal – e.g. only Valkyrie made changes; and was Taguig City, where Valkyrie is located, still does not have an anti-discrimination ordinance, so venues there can still opt to implement discriminatory policies similar to what got Valkyrie in hot water.

Balabbo was not able to return to work. She now helps other contractual workers in other factories/plants in Laguna to organize to also fight for their rights.

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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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