I first heard about HIV and AIDS through that Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington movie, Philadelphia. Back then, I thought the virus and the condition were both extremely rare.
Fast forward to 2004. I started working at MTV, and one of the projects that I got to work on was the MTV Staying Alive campaign and the MTV Music Summit for HIV/AIDS. Thanks to our partnerships with The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and UNICEF, I got more information on HIV and AIDS then I dared to know. I learned that contrary to my perception that HIV and AIDS were only found on distant shores, there were actual cases confirmed in the Philippines. As the years went by, I learned that the numbers continued to rise.
Ignorance can kill
Despite the rising numbers, a lot of people still don’t realize that the problem is real. We need to get the information out there. Just last week, I was having a conversation with a friend, Genesis Samonte, who is the HIV Surveillance Manager for the Department of Health, and she confirmed the need to increase awareness on HIV/AIDS prevention.
What you need to know
I wish I had updated information on hand, but here’s what I can share at the moment (these are from my 2007 files):
- All people, including children, are at risk of HIV infection. No one is immune to HIV.
- AIDS is an incurable but preventable disease. There is no vaccine for HIV.
- Across Asia, the highest national infection levels continue to be found in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines HIV is primarily transmitted through unprotected sex.
- An estimated 40 million people have been infected with HIV worldwide at the end of 2006
- At the end of 2006, there were 1.6 million people living with HIV in Southeast Asia
- Every 15 seconds a young person between 15 and 24 is infected with HIV.
- Every 6 seconds, someone is infected with HIV.
- Young people (15 to 24 years old) account for 40% of all new infections worldwide; more than 6,000 young people contract the virus each day
- Worldwide 80% of people infected with HIV don’t know they are infected
- AIDS affects people of all ages, including children. Because of AIDS, millions of children are growing up alone, growing up too fast, or not growing up at all. They need your care and support. Do your part and educate, don’t discriminate.
- People living with HIV deserve respect and to be treated with dignity. Respect the person. Challenge discrimination. Fight AIDS, not people with AIDS.
- It is our duty to learn about the epidemic, learn how we can protect ourselves from it, and learn to treat people living with HIV with respect and understanding.
- If you think you’re at risk, get tested. Contact a health worker or an AIDS center to receive confidential counseling and testing.
- HIV infection can happen to anyone, but everyone can prevent it. Be informed, be safe. Information saves lives.
For comprehensive and localized information, you can check out the monthly reports at the Department of Health website.
The reason why I opted to write about this today was because I was deeply moved by a blog post that I read yesterday that was written by my friend Gang Badoy (founder of RockEd Philippines). She wrote about 7 things she learned from Wanggo Gallaga, a brave warrior who is fighting this fight. You can read her blog post here.
Today, I stand with these people in their efforts to increase awareness and save lives. Would you like to help, too? There are many ways to help increase awareness, but one simple way to do it is to take just a few minutes of your time and have a conversation with someone about this. Those minutes will make a difference.
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Here are some resources and links you can check out to get more information on HIV and AIDS:
- UNAIDS – Fast Facts About HIV
- UNICEF – Preventing Infection Among Adolescents and Young People
- POSITIVISM – The Local Scene (More information about HIV/AIDS in the Philippines)
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