I woke up 3am to catch the service van provided by the Cavite State University. I was really excited because I was on my way to conduct my very first formal seminar.
I’m a volunteer for Love Yourself, Inc. particularly for the Love Yourself Ü that deals with spreading information to the Youth of Universities and Colleges. I help them conduct activities like symposiums, seminars and a simple discussions about HIV/AIDS awareness and self-worth.
Today, it was kind of overwhelming because I didn’t expect that this seminar was going to be extravagant, with Entrance of colors, choir and all. Everything was organized.
My topic for this seminar started with HIV/AIDS’ basic information but then I also gave emphasis to the effects of social stigma in the country and the PLHIV (People Living with HIV). I found the importance of giving emphasis on stigma because that’s one of the problems we deal everyday when we’re talking about HIV/AIDS.
I mentioned that Social Stigma and Discrimination always go together, like partners in crime. They eat people’s good attitude toward the PLHIV, hence, PLHIV isolation to the public. The effect of social stigma evolves until it became part of the natural belief of the people, or the culture. This kind of perception is not healthy for both PLHIV and those living with normal lives because they build differences, and worst misconceptions. One of the example of this social stigma was when I remember my relatives asking me to stay away from the organization because I might get HIV. You see the judgment already between their words. It took me some time to educate my family that I’m safe with the organization, and there’s no way I could get the virus unless if I do something risky and well-exposed to the virus. Because of this scenario, I somehow concluded that Social Stigma might be the cause and effect of both fear and lack of education.
PLHIV who already accepted their status were no longer afraid of HIV and AIDS. They knew they could control it. But the balls and chain why they do not disclose the status to their love ones and or even their closest friends and the community is the stigma itself. This is the fear of judgment and isolation.
I taught the students that we have lots of options to kill the stigma in the community, but it won’t be helpful if we just know the facts and do not practice it. The key to kill social stigma and discrimination is to start the behavior change within them. This mean changing how they look at lives and people. Behavior change also means educating themselves with information that will equip them to deal with different problems. Perhaps not just HIV/AIDS but the different aspects of life that require self-empowerment.
I ended my talk with the phrase we always tell the people: “It’s not who you are, but it’s what you do that put you at risk!” The meat of this message is that you cannot judge people by their preference, status or even gender. What exposes the people to HIV is their risky behaviors that need to be changed. And the power we can give them is the information that would change their life and the way they see life.
I would like to thank everyone from the Cavite State University – Indang, Cavite for the warm welcome, awesome food and friendly faces. Thanks for entrusting us the stage and use it spread the information about HIV/AIDS.