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From the Editor

When HIV ‘advocates’ are offended by ‘hanash’, not by incompetence, lack of services, wasted ₱39,500, atbp

“If you’re afraid of the issues of the people you claim to serve, it’d be better for you to just close shop. You’re one of the problems; you’re one of the hindrances that cause non-delivery of proper services to PLHIVs. You don’t have any right to exist in HIV advocacy.”

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.com

I was approached to speak to a group of HIV-linked organizations (non-government organizations, and community-based organizations – the former are “registered” with government agencies, while the latter are supposed to be grassroots-driven). And when asked to talk about the “need to push for activism in HIV advocacy”, I bluntly mentioned a few things:

  1. The “funders” behind the gathering are, for me, part of the problem – e.g. they have nothing to do with HIV advocacy, and yet international donors chose to course money through them, so that you now have extremely well-paid paper-pushers who dictate the direction of HIV “advocacy” in the country, while the hard work is done by underpaid (if paid at all) grassroots activists. Nagsasayang ng pera (Wasting money) even if, as you’d notice, the HIV situation in the country continues to worsen (as of May 2023, we already had 48 new HIV cases per day).
    NOW: Is the organization inviting me ready for its funder/s to be openly criticized (attacked even), which is what I will do?
  2. The “flaws” of the member organizations of the organizer – e.g. that the HIV issues Outrage Magazine has been continuously tackling have remained the same since 1984 (when the first HIV case was reported/documented in the Philippines), which should signify failure in the efforts of these same organizations.
    NOW: I am supposed to “spark” activism among these activists who have not been heeding the in-your-face messages going their way since 1984; won’t I just become the token angsty speaker, since the continued failure to answer HIV issues is their accepted norm already anyway?

I did not commit.

And then I later heard from a friend that the person who called me stated: “I just asked him for his schedule, andami nang hanash (he already blabbered about too many issues).”

I wasn’t offended.

I was more angered.

And not even for myself; but for HIV advocacy.

Because this exemplified, for me, what’s wrong with the existing format – e.g. over-emphasis on “not offending” even if Filipinos with HIV actually continue to die (so stop with that bullshit that “HIV is no longer a death sentence”, which still isn’t fully applicable in the Philippines); normalization of what should be attacked (like the fact that no treatment hub shows any of their clients how the ₱39,500.00 OHAT Package from PhilHealth is spent); “leaders” who are not in advocacy to serve PLHIVs, but to prioritize personal interests; and so on.

It is time to be candid about the country’s HIV advocacy; this is long overdue, actually.

And a big part of the appraisal is a closer look at some of the current “leaders” in HIV advocacy in the Philippines.

I remember when the Department of Health (DOH) wasted money to hold a beauty pageant because – NKKLK! – it wanted to create a new Pia Wurtzbach (the HIV advocate that surfaced after she won Miss Universe 2015). Years after the pageant, we should be asking how the creation of a Pia copy turned out (HELLO… do you even know who won?). But also, and I KID YOU NOT, at that time, instead of attacking the wasting of money to hold that event, there were HIV “leaders” who squabbled about getting free hotel rooms in the venue of the pageant.

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Also: We have been reporting on the shortage of antiretroviral medicines since 2014, and yet note how none of the HIV NGOs/CBOs have taken this as a cause. I have personally attended meetings where “leaders” argue on who should write yet another letter for the DOH; these same “leaders” are the regulars in seminars arranged by the well-funded non-HIV organizations tapped by donor agencies, and the commonly-seen faces in international HIV-related gatherings. #IllegalMowdels pa more!

This is worth stressing because a big reason why HIV advocacy is stuck is because of the type of people “leading” it.

These are people who are offended when confronted with the truth.

These are people who prefer attacking those who tell the truth, instead of the continuing lack of actual services given to PLHIVs; the incompetence of those supposed to be serving the HIV community; the misappropriation of the ₱39,500.00 OHAT Package from PhilHealth; and so on.

Huwag atakehin ang hanash (Don’t attack the complaints). Instead, focus on what the hanash contains. Because if these issues (that caused the complaints) are dealt with, you don’t only deal with the hanash, you actually also better the lives of the very people you claim to serve, the Filipinos who live with HIV and their loved ones.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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