“Kaya malapit sa akin yung HIV [advocacy] kasi may mga taong malapit sa akin na nagkaroon ng HIV.” ("The HIV [advocacy] is close to my heart because there are people in my life who had HIV.")
Rian Eli, an HR officer, started in the HIV advocacy this May 2017, when he became one of the ambassadors for Let’s TESTMNL! (a fast, easy, and anonymous HIV testing event spearheaded by LoveYourself and TestMNL). HIV affected Rian’s childhood friend, which sparked his interest in joining the advocacy.
Rian (shown above left) is also 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?
“The biggest challenge is that most people are afraid of knowing their HIV status because of the stigma. I think that’s the first thing that needs resolution.”
Rian refers to the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS as one of the largest hurdles faced in the fight toward ending HIV in the country. Regularly checking one’s HIV status has been cited to be the first step in preventing HIV transmission, as it can guide one to start or continue safe sex practices. People are often afraid of the results, even when they are certain have been having safe sex; there is still a moment of fear that maybe the result could turn out positive. Everybody has an HIV status; however, most people do not know theirs.
What is the strongest weapon we have to combat the HIV Crisis in the Philippines?
“Acceptance of oneself and from the society.”
Gaining love and acceptance not only from the people around you but also from yourself is quite a journey for many people. For Rian, to truly beat HIV in the Philippines, we should learn to accept ourselves and accept others. In this way, we could perform the necessary steps to take care of ourselves and others through timely HIV testing, safe sex practices, and compliance to treatment. Rian also encourages people to speak up and start a conversation about HIV and AIDS, as it can lead to the decline of the stigma associated with it.
“Kung mas magsasalita ka rin, kahit 'di ka naman yung celebrity status, maraming pwedeng makinig sa’yo, lalo na yung mga mas bata pa who aren’t aware of it.” ("If you speak [about HIV], even if you’re not a celebrity, there are a lot of people who can listen to you, especially the youth who may not be aware of it.")
Rian looks forward to be more involved in the HIV advocacy, including Love Gala.
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.