Life is a road we all travel on. Either we take the road paved for us, or we tread our own path in life. When faced with rocks that obstruct our way, we may turn around and take easier routes. Some may even see it as a dead-end. Such is not the case for Faustine Luell “Paji” Tupas Angeles, Jr., a 30-year old sports enthusiast and HIV advocate.

Paji met the rocks when he was diagnosed with HIV in December 2010. He initially faltered, but instead of taking a U-turn, Paji decided to stand up, pick up that rock and pedal on. Fast forward to December 2017, Paji, along with 9 other outstanding individuals, became the first ever recipients of the Ripple Awards, an accolade given to awe-inspiring individuals who created positive ripples of change in the HIV and AIDS Advocacy.

Setting the Wheels in Motion

Wheels were set in motion on May 17, 2015 when Paji founded Pedal for HIV, a community of sports enthusiasts that aims to spread social awareness on HIV and AIDS through athletic activities. The community has since gained recognition and support through partnership to local government units, and ties with local and national organizations. Through these partnerships, Pedal for HIV has helped strengthen health systems for People Living with HIV (PLHIV), increase awareness on HIV and AIDS, reduce stigma associated with the condition, and provide access to testing and treatment.

It was his love for the community, cradled by his love for sports, which has helped fuel Paji in keeping the wheels rolling since being diagnosed with HIV. “When I started my advocacy, all I wanna do is to help increase awareness about HIV and never thought I'll end up where I am right now.”, he quips.

An Endless Race

Amidst the attention he has been getting as one of the first Ripple Awards recipients, Paji remains grounded and steadfast. For Paji, receiving the Ripple Award isn’t like receiving a medal while standing in a 3-tier podium that often marks the end of a race. He sees it as a recognition that he has done something good for the community.  

The race goes on for Paji. Apart from the HIV advocacy, he has been completing his education through the  Alternative Learning System at La Salle Green Hills. He sees education as “the best gift we can give to ourselves.” And as a Person Living with HIV, he believes that “it is never too late to continue reaching out for our dreams.”

Passing on the Torch

Paji has received his share of limelight through the ripples he has created in the HIV and AIDS awareness advocacy. As we near the 2018 Ripple Awards this November, Paji has a message to all advocates who will bear the torch he will pass on: “I hope you won't lose hope in what we do for the HIV program. Let's continue to be an example and inspire more people to be one with us in this cause."

Be part of the global movement in honoring the efforts of individuals, groups and projects in the HIV and AIDS advocacy. The Love Gala organization is getting ready to hand out this year’s batch of Ripple Awards on November 30, 2018. If you or someone you know has done a significant act for HIV/AIDS advocacy, now’s the chance to recognize them. Visit www.lovegala.org/nominate-now/ and nominate someone today!

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