By Hanna Ho (Class 2022)
The UP Medicine Student Council (MSC), Medical Students for Social Responsibility-IPPNW (MSSR-IPPNW), One’s True Nature (OTN), and the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority organized HIV Week 2018 #KnowYourStatus in celebration of the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. The week-long event was an awareness campaign of the UP College of Medicine to help end the stigma against HIV.
The week kicked off with the opening of the #EndTheStigma Exhibit at the PGH Central Lobby on December 4, 2018. Maita Fernandez (Class 2022) from OTN gave the opening remarks. This was followed by Jessa Malipot (Class 2023) from the UP MSC, who spoke about the historical roots of HIV and the importance of World HIV Day.
The ribbon cutting was then done by Pam Pasco of Class 2021. To close the program, Alyssa Uy (Class 2021) from the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority spoke about the upcoming events for the week.
A film showing hosted by Christian Masangkay (Class 2023) was held in CH 222 in Calderon Hall later that evening. To open the film event, Chryz Bagsic from One’s True Nature gave the opening remarks. He emphasized that HIV is a preventable and a treatable disease, encouraging people to get tested, and raising awareness to destroy the stigma surrounding the disease.
Sir Anthony, a trained counselor from the DOH, was then called on to give a brief introduction for the film to be shown. The film they chose to show was a previously-aired episode from MMK entitled Pulang Laso. The episode, made for World AIDS’ Day, told the story of Allan and Kevin, showing their struggles everyday as a gay couple. Their relationship started out like a dream; they had to hide it, but they were happy until life hit them with a world of heartbreaks. Kevin was diagnosed HIV-positive; it was a late diagnosis because he shrugged off his condition until he could not take it anymore. At that point, he already had AIDS. He told Allan immediately after, and Allan also tested positive for HIV.
After the film showing, Mr. Anthony started the discussion on HIV. He elaborated that he episode showed two sides of HIV. For Kevin, it was the severe stage, diagnosed late, and already presented with AIDS. Allan was luckier; he was diagnosed early and was able to avail the needed medication to keep the viral load low and boost his immune system. Sir Anthony then emphasized the three modes of transmission of HIV – unprotected penetrative sex, blood and blood products, and from mother to child. The virus can be transmitted only in four fluids – semen, blood, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. In any other medium or environmental setting, it is easily killed off.
He then discussed the five means of prevention or the ABCDEs: abstinence; be faithful to your partner; correct and consistent condom use; don’t do drugs, drink alcohol and share needles; and lastly, education and early detection. He also shared some statistics of HIV diagnoses and death in the Philippines. Mr. Anthony wrapped up the discussion by discussing how HIV is portrayed on screen versus how it actually looks in real life. In the mainstream media, people living with HIV are always shown to be bedridden and sickly. In reality, they look just like us.
The opening of the exhibit and Keep Calm & Talk About HIV were the first events of HIV Week 2018, a week-long campaign aimed to spread awareness and end the stigma against HIV.
Pictures credited to the UP MSC.