We can end AIDS together

It’s World AIDS Day today.

This my ninth year to celebrate World AIDS Day as a person living with HIV. In the Philippines, the HIV situation is considered an epidemic and recently it has been touted as a “youth epidemic” with the most-at-risk and most vulnerable sector of society are young men and women ages 15-24.

We can end AIDS together but we have to work at it. We cannot just leave this to the government or to the NGOs and the advocacy groups and advocates. We all have to do our part.

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Red Whistle ambassadors (including film and theater director and actor Andoy Ranay and theater and television star JC Santos) taking the fight in social media as part of Niccolo Cosme’s Headshot Clinic 2016

We need proper reproductive health education in our schools. We need it to be age appropriate, meaning we can’t pretend that the really young are not exposed to sex and sexuality as these are blatant in television and the internet and even in billboard advertisements on the streets. We can’t wait until they reach high school to give proper sex education. Kids as young as 12 years old are getting pregnant and dying of complications in their pregnancies. As much as we would want our kids to be innocent, we have to address the fact that they are exposed to these images and ideas and we have to educate them properly so that they can deal with it properly when no one is around.

We need to make condoms accessible and we need to foster sexual behavior that is responsible and sensitive to our own needs and to the needs of our partners. There is nothing wrong with sex. There is something wrong when sex is not safe or when sex is unprotected. There is something very wrong when sex happens without consent. There is something wrong when someone enters into sex for the wrong reasons, mostly due to peer pressure.

We need to have mature and responsible discussions about HIV and AIDS and sex. We all need to let go of all our antiquated ideas about these topics and seek out information that is correct and practical and honest. It has to address the new value systems and social norms that the world currently holds.

We need to ask hard questions and be willing to listen to the answers, whatever they may be.

HIV is preventable. AIDS related deaths are preventable. We just need to eradicate stigma and discrimination so that people won’t be afraid to take the test, to ask questions and ask for help when they need, and so that people can access correct and useful information that can ensure their safety — whether they are HIV positive or negative.

We can end AIDS together.

We can end AIDS together.

We can end AIDS together.

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