I supported advocacies, yes. But I never thought of supporting something that I felt then I had no connection to. In my mind, I was saying that those who should be concerned are those who are sexually active with multiple partners, the gay community and others. Nope, not me. I will just focus on advocacies up my alley — maybe breast or cervical cancer or children illnesses. You know, women and motherly concerns.
But last year, when Project Headshot Clinic invited bloggers, along with some celebrities, to spread the word about HIV/AIDS awareness and the importance of action, I took a second look at the disease.
Here are some highlights that everyone should know about HIV/AIDS -
* HIV is not = AIDS. AIDS is the full-blown manifestation of HIV but if well-managed, HIV-positive people may not necessarily end up with AIDS.
* HIV attacks the immune system, our defense against all kinds of sickness
* You cannot die from HIV but because it weakens your immune system, you are susceptible to more serious infections and diseases
* Anyone can get HIV. It can hit anyone of any age, gender, sexual preference, race, religion, family background, profession, social status, life accomplishments, height or weight. ANYONE!
* HIV is transmitted in 4 ways: 1) unprotected sex, 2) sharing of infected needles, 3) as a fetus or infant during birth or through breastfeeding, and 4) by blood transfusion.
That is what caught my eye – item #4 (blood transfusion). How many of us have contracted dengue, for example, and needed blood transfusions? Even children get blood transfusions when platelet count is down.
Just today, I found this online news article from the Inquirer where some 124 blood units were found tainted with HIV. How safe is blood screening of donors in the Philippines – really? Scary thought…
That’s not all. Here are some alarming numbers. And mind you, this is just for the Philippines.
* In August 2010 alone, there were 108 new HIV positive individuals confirmed, a 77% increase over same period last year.
* There are now 5,472 reported cases of HIV-positive people since 1984.
* 80% of HIV-positive makes are having sex with other males.
* In 2007, only 1 new case of HIV infection was diagnosed per day; in 2010, this is up to more than 4 cases per day.
* More young people are being infected and unfortunately, a good number of those diagnosed work in places like call centers.
In the Philippines, Niccolo Cosme, a creative photographer, together with his team called Project Headshot Clinic, has tied up with Take The Test and AIDS Society Philippines (ASP) to launch Project Head Shot Clinic: ACT to promote HIV testing. This is the 3rd year that Project Headshot Clinic has been involved in this advocacy. In 2008, the theme was “AWARE”; in 2009 (the first year I joined the headshot photos), the theme was “MOVE”, which aimed to make people move to act. Now, in 2010, the theme is “ACT”, a firm call to action in terms of voluntary HIV screening and counseling. This project is part of the World AIDS campaign and they have partnered with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
For those interested to undergo HIV screening, here are the screening hospitals:
1. San Lazaro Hospital (SLH) – Tel (632) 309-9528 to 29; 740-8301 loc 6000
2. Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) – Tel (632) 807-2628 or 38, local 801/208
3. Philippine General Hospital (PGH) – Tel (632) 554-8400 local 3238
4. Manila Social Hygiene Clinic – Tel (632) 711-6942
5. Makati Social Hygiene Clinic – Tel (632) 870-1615 (ask for Tess Pagcaliwagan, RN)
6. Mandaluyong Social Hygiene Clinic
7. Pasig Social Hygiene Clinic – Tel (632) 642-7754 o4 640-2058 (look for Dennis Espina)
Being part of Project Headshot Clinic for two years (here is my post last year) has made me more personally aware of HIV and how so many young people are contracting this disease when it can be prevented by educating more people about how it is spread and how it can be prevented in the first place. It is so sad to see the future of young people dimmed by the onset of HIV in their bodies.
I am also so grateful for having met the creative fashion and conceptual photographer behind this entire project. Niccolo Cosme is well-known and sought after for his amazingly creative shots. His studio is called The Lighthouse Studio.
Thank you Niccolo Cosme and Project Headshot Clinic for letting me be part of your advocacy for two years. This is just the beginning and not the end. With everyone’s help, we can prevent the spread of this disease.
This is the message for today and every day: