The number of HIV and AIDS cases in the Philippines is rising at an alarming rate. A report released some months ago revealed that one Filipino is infected by the HIV virus every 1.5 hours. This number will still increase as, according to the same report, the total number of HIV cases in July was already over 400. I am sure that there are many unreported and undocumented cases. Some may have not even had themselves tested yet. So it’s possible that these numbers will balloon to greater proportions in the coming years (or maybe even months?).

Part of the reason why there are undocumented cases is the fact that many are still afraid to go out and have themselves tested for fear that they will be ridiculed by others. You see, there’s a stigma; a sad reality that persons living with HIV (pLHIV) have to face everyday of their lives: discrimination. Discrimination because they have HIV or AIDS. People look at them as outcasts; often believing that talking to them or hugging them will already spread the infection. Discrimination because the people around do not really understand HIV or AIDS. Many even think that HIV and AIDS are one and the same.

This is where our group, Pagbantog-Kagayan comes in. Our advocacy and campaign is to make the people aware about what HIV and AIDS really are. If we are able to educate and instill knowledge on one person one day at a time, we will be making a difference in the lives of many persons living with HIV.

To kick off our campaign, we are celebrating World AIDS Day (which happens today, December 01) with a number of activities meant to drum up the importance of knowing everything and anything that you can about HIV and AIDS. We will start with an HIV March from the Capitol Grounds all the way to Limketkai Center. The unveiling of the Hulagway Photo Exhibit will happen at the Limketkai Rotunda around 11 in the morning. Then there will be a free yoga session for anyone who wishes to learn how to relax the mind and soothe the soul. By lunch time, we will all witness the launching of The Project Oxygen, a support group for pLHIV in Cagayan de Oro.

The main event, aptly titled Pagbantog HIV: The Concert, will start at around 2pm and will continue for the rest of the afternoon. There will be songs, dances, and stories in the form of monologues. Each song lyric, each music, and every monologue is intended to impart a message to the audience. Messages filled with courage, determination, and passion. Messages filled with hope that tomorrow is always a brighter day. The concert, and all our other World AIDS Day activities, are for free.

We invite you all to join our fight, our rally, our advocacy. We invite you to share our passion and dedication to HIV and AIDS awareness. We invite you all to learn, understand, believe, and hope with us.

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