Last Friday, I attended the PLCPD Blogger’s Forum, entitled “Yes to Test.” It is a forum which brought bloggers together to listen and help spread the information on the importance of taking an HIV test, and how we must all work together in making this something that we do on a regular basis. There was probably around twenty bloggers there, a congressman, and some members of a Party List (KABATAAN) that are very active in promoting the RH Bill.
The key speakers of the forum were Bai Bagasao of the UNAIDS, Kiki of Outrage magazine, Karl of Take the Test, an organization that brings HIV testing to the people, and myself.
Unfortunately, the place was small and crowded and the waiters kept walking in front of the speakers to do their service, and I can’t blame them, but it made things very chaotic. The sound system wasn’t working so we had to speak as loud as we can to be heard; but overall, I think we got the message across: we must take the test often, work together in reducing or eliminating entirely the stigma surrounding HIV and taking the test, and to help create a society that does not discriminate and puts health above all other concerns.
There were members of the media there as well and the question and answer forum was quite informative and helped clear so many issues.
I’m so happy that so many new activities are happening for HIV awareness and prevention. I remember when I first started in my advocacy, back in 2008 when I first was diagnosed, you barely heard anything about HIV. At the most, it was once a year during World AIDS Day. But now, mid-year, you’d have all these symposiums and forums and talks geared towards HIV awareness and prevention.
The increasing numbers are staggering. In April of 2013, we’ve reached 388 newly diagnosed cases. The numbers are constantly rising and show no evidence that it is slowing down. Ignorance can kill. This is dangerous and we have to start working doubly hard in making changes to prevent the virus from spreading.
It was a good day, despite the venue. Lots of good questions were raised and there was a clear understanding of what must be done and the messages that we have to impart: how important it is to take the test, regularly, especially if we are engaged in risky behaviour; how our current mind frame, as a nation, is geared towards discriminating and stigmatising the HIV community and those suspected of it; how that stigma or discrimination is making it harder for us, as a nation, as a people, to protect ourselves and keep ourselves healthy.
Information is key. We need to keep ramming that down people’s heads as hard as we can and as soft as we can. All methods have to be used, at this point, because it is getting really scary out there.
I’m glad to have been a part of it. I’m very happy to be doing my part. I am going to try my best to make sure nobody else makes the same mistakes I did when I was younger.