Danee Coline E. Mangila, Ф2018, Class 2022
EmpoweRED is an event that brings forward the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority’s advocacy that aims to promote HIV awareness in the hopes of removing the stigma among individuals positive with HIV. It involves a series of talks conducted at different schools to increase HIV awareness. Last February 20, 2018, the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority brought back EmpoweRED to PGH. The event was held at Room 215, Emergency Room Complex at PGH. There were 3 speakers who shared their insight and knowledge on HIV/AIDS and free HIV testing and consultation was also offered by Love Yourself PH, one of the event’s partners.
EmpoweRED is one of the events of Caritas Month under the office of the Sister Caritas, Gianne Rosales Pagulayan Ф2016 Class 2020. The event was headed by Kristel Iris Gollayan Tiburcio Ф2017 Class 2021, Isabel Kristine Malabag Valdez Ф2017 Class 2021, and co-headed by Czarina Ann Baydo Baptisma Ф2018 Class 2022. Students, residents, and other health care professionals from different departments were in attendance including Dr. Corrina Pambid Azarcon Ф2011B Class 2016 and Dr. Melissa Rose Olivarez Orteza-Sorra Ф2012 Class 2017 from the PGH Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.
The first speaker was Dr. Marlene Mae Bermejo from DOH who talked about current epidemiological information on HIV. She mentioned that as of 2017, 31 individuals are newly diagnosed per day. This increase from previous years accompany the propagating stigma on being positive with HIV. She also talked about the importance of sharing strategic information on HIV to make the public more aware of the situation. The statistics presented by Dr. Bermejo highlights the need for dissemination of proper and informative knowledge on HIV to help remove the stigma.
Nanay Elena Felix shared a moving recount of her life as a person living with HIV. She was diagnosed as positive with HIV during a time when the stigma of the disease was very prominent. She experienced being denied of health care, mostly because of the fear of people regarding HIV. Despite all that, she has continued to live a life that helps change the lives of other people positive with HIV. Nanay Elena is truly inspiring with her courage to stand up for herself and fight the stigma.
The last speaker was Mr. Edgar “Kahel” Mutas Jr., a counselor at Love Yourself PH. Mr. Mutas shared his experiences as a counselor, talking about the different but equally challenging situations he faces as he helps people living with HIV. He talked about how a big role of his job was to build relationships and trust among those that he councils, which plays a big role in the success of what he does. Mr. Mutas and his dedication for what he does reminds us that more and more people, even those not positive with HIV, continue to join the fight against the stigma on HIV.
After the talks, people were ushered to the next room for the free HIV testing and consultation by Love Yourself PH. The testing consisted of filling out a form and extraction of a few drops of blood for the rapid HIV test. After 12 minutes, an individual’s control number will be called by a counselor. The councilor will discuss the results and general information on HIV with the councilor. Having been able to get the test myself, I very much appreciated the counselling. I liked how they started with asking with my current knowledge on HIV and how they built upon that to continue the conversation as well as add to my knowledge. I could see how knowledgeable and dedicated the councilors are in propagating proper information on HIV and AIDS.
I am looking forward to more EmpoweRED events because I believe events such as this should continue and be brought to more places. Events that aim to share proper knowledge and increase awareness on current health issues are what we need more today. Proper health education can have great impacts on public health concerns, because even just the right awareness on the transmission of HIV can improve the current situation and remove the stigma.