Khalil Vera Cruz, a certified public accountant, has been involved in different HIV awareness campaigns throughout the years. From his beginnings helping LoveYourself with its financial reports, he has become an influential character in the HIV advocacy carrying this passion as second runner-up for Mr. Gay World Philippines 2016 and Pedal for HIV.
"When I was living in Singapore, I had friends who were living with me, and then we were traveling back to Singapore from a vacation here in Manila. One of my friends was discriminated because he was HIV positive. Naisip ko: ‘Ganoon ba ‘yon, kapag [HIV] positive ka, bawal ka nang magtrabaho?'" ("I thought: 'Is that how it goes, that if you’re [HIV] positive you can’t work?'")
Khalil (shown above right) is one of the volunteer actors in the 'Celebrate Love' video for Love Gala, a charity and awards event to be held in celebration of World AIDS Day on December 1 at the BGC Arts Center.
What is the biggest challenge in ending HIV?
"We (HIV advocates) lack reach, especially in the provinces. I think that’s something we’re still missing out."
Khalil explains that one of the largest hurdles in ending HIV in the Philippines is the lack of reach HIV awareness efforts have in the provinces and geographically disadvantaged areas. As many HIV advocacy groups are making quite an impact within Metro Manila, some provinces lack the presence and people who uphold the movement in erasing the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. This can lead to lower rates of HIV testing and treatment compliance, and higher undetected incidences of HIV infection.
What is the strongest weapon we have to combat the HIV Crisis in the Philippines?
“I think if we promote awareness about HIV and AIDS using different platforms like social media, I think that would be our strongest weapon.”
Khalil sees the use of social media as a way to bridge the lack of reach HIV advocacy groups have in the provinces. Truly, social media has been long standing way for us to connect and share ideas. It’s a matter of how these groups would utilize these application and continually expand their network.
“I think spreading love is important. Whatever your status is, it’s acceptance regardless if you’re HIV positive or not, what is important is how you live your life.”
Khalil continues to expound on the relevance of love when it comes to fighting HIV in the country addressing the self-stigma people living with HIV experience and way others interact with them.
Khalil looks forward to the Love Gala in his continuing advocacy for HIV awareness and elimination of the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS.
On December 1, we celebrate World AIDS Day in a special way. At the Love Gala in the BGC Arts Center, we can band together in support of ending the HIV and AIDS crisis of the Philippines with part of the proceeds going towards awareness efforts for the cause.
Attendees can expect to join a gathering of exceptional social advocates, influential people, game changers, artists, high fashion designers, and celebrities led by Miss Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez-Alacasid will be performing live together with a star-studded lineup including Morissette Amon, Wency Cornejo, Radha, Audie Gemora, Shiela Valderrama, Phi Palmos, Nicole Asensio, Polly Cabrera, and other surprise guests.