Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic is now a “national emergency” in the Philippines according to Dr. Rossana Ditangco, head of the AID Research Group of the health department's Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and it seems like it doesn’t bother most of us.
This is not another story of a fear-monger. Ditangco stated that it was a “national emergency” as the UNAIDS’ 2017 report indicated the rate of HIV infection in the Philippines has become the highest in the Asia Pacific region with 140 – percent increase in new infections.
It baffles me that this is not information widely spread. Isn’t it alarming? Not too much of a tragic distinction?
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach traces roots why it is arduous to seek awareness for HIV. Our state of being a pre-dominantly Catholic country which leads us to be conservatives is one big constraint here. Just testing for HIV is considered a taboo?
Pia even added that if nothing is done with the high degree of HIV Infection, “we’re gonna be No. 1 in the world.”
Following Pia’s pronouncements, since she brought home the crown of the world’s largest pageant, I come to understand that no matter how the HIV epidemic grows, not much would get alarmed because most of us barely know how menacing and rapidly it infects. Lack of education is going to make us all suffer.
That’s why perhaps almost all of us could instantly recall in Pia’s answer when asked why should she be the next Miss Universe was the clause “I am confidently beautiful with a heart.” However, it seems that no one recalls that the gist of her answer is utilizing her voice to influence the youth and that she would raise awareness to certain causes with HIV awareness mentioned as one of it. “Timely and relevant to my country,” as she describes the cause.
The gist of it may have made her won the pageant but we don’t seem to get a grasp of it.
Three years since then, Pia is not backing up. Her advocacy has been recognized by the United Nations in naming her UNAIDS goodwill ambassador for the Asia-Pacific.
Last August 9, Pia got herself test publicly. A monumental move from one of today’s influential Filipinos. Her move conveys her sincere commitment in wanting all of us to educated and that it shouldn’t be viewed with the stigma attached to it.
Our country is far from solving this high degree epidemic. I hope that this administration would not only be highly concerned with the war on drugs, anti-corruption, and crime but also take high notice of a menacing and rapidly infecting epidemic – HIV.
Again, being No. 1 in Asia Pacific is not a story of fear-monger and it doesn’t just concern those performing same-sex intercourse. I’ll end this column with Pia’s message to us: “Anybody can get HIV. You don’t just get it from having sex with a gay man. You can get it having sex with a woman, by sharing infected needles. Even a baby can get it.”