By Leslie Cathleen T. Lim, Ф2019 Class 2023
Last February 26, 2019, the Phi Lamba Delta Sorority once again shared its advocacy regarding HIV/AIDS awareness in the Philippines through EmpoweRED: An HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign. This year, its first talk was held in the Araullo High School, wherein Grade 11 and 12 students listened to two speakers, namely Dr. Christine Penalosa-Ramos from the Philippine General Hospital and Nanay Elena Felix, an HIV/AIDS warrior. The speakers both shared their knowledge and experience with regards to HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Penalosa-Ramos shared that an individual infected with HIV will be infected for life, as a cure is yet to be discovered. An individual with HIV can later on have AIDS as the latter is described as “the severe and end-stage of HIV infection.” However, as of today, there are antiretrovirals that control HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, the severity of HIV/AIDS has worsened over the years. From the year 2009 to 2018, the cases of HIV/AIDS per day increased from 1 to 32 wherein 90% of the affected individuals are males. Globally, 37 million individuals are experiencing HIV, wherein 3.5 million of these cases are found in Asia alone. Though there is only 1% HIV cases found in the Philippines, the problem in the country is the rapid rise of new cases also termed “pandemic”. Among the 63,000 cases in the country, young working individuals are the most affected as they are the ones who exhibit the riskiest behavior.
Though the disease is deadly, it is not something to be afraid of. Dr. Penalosa-Ramos shared that HIV/AIDS is not directly transmitted via water, air, saliva, sweat, tears, or even kissing, as the virus dies immediately. However, it can be transmitted via sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, organ transplantation, from a mother to a baby, or when needles are shared. Amongst all the transmittable factors, the highest form recognized is sexual transmission via anal sex.
Nanay Elena Felix further added that children or young adolescents should not be confident that they will not get the disease. To avoid the rising pandemic of AIDS/HIV cases, one must not discriminate affected individuals. One must be compassionate to these affected individuals for the latter to learn how to talk about it.
The more affected individuals talking about their experience, the more the stigma against HIV/AIDS will end. It is time to take action through public health lectures, free HIV/AIDS testing, and voluntary reading to broaden one’s knowledge. Advice given by the speakers include keeping oneself informed, practicing safe sex, practicing abstinence at a young age, and being brave enough to get tested.
At the end of the day, as Nanay Elena says, “a person living with HIV is also a person living with dignity.” Hence, stop the stigma with the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority—be informed, be aware, be empoweRED.
*EmpoweRED is an event under the Office of the Sister Caritas for the yearly Service Month of the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority.