As a young man in the Philippines — a country that has the fastest-rising rate of HIV infection in Asia — it’s easy to be paralyzed by fear of contracting or transmitting the virus. Given the health crisis facing Filipinos today, it has become important to empower men — and everyone else — to take control of their sexual health. Many advocacy groups are rallying to erase the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS by spreading a message of love as the impetus towards self-empowerment, and that will culminate next month in the first-ever Love Gala charity and awards fundraiser.
There is an average of 30 newly detected cases of HIV per day in the country. Men having sex with men and youth aged 15 to 24 are among the most affected, with sex being the most prevalent mode of transmission, according to June 2017 data by the national health department.
The Love Gala, which will be held on Worlds AIDS Day, Dec. 1, will see the Philippines join the global movement in bringing together people passionate for the cause, led by ambassadors like Miss Universe 2015, Love Gala ambassador Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach and community partners like Hornet.
Supporters who purchase a Love Gala ticket will greatly help HIV/AIDS organizations, as 10% of ticket proceeds will be donated to these causes. Attendees will also be treated to a night of camaraderie with other allies and be witness to the Ripple Awards, a heartfelt recognition of the 10 brave individuals who have made an immeasurable difference in different facets of Filipino HIV advocacy.
The Love Gala will include a fashion show featuring top Filipino designers Francis Libiran, Cary Santiago, Nat Manilag, Cheeta Rivera and John Herrera. Guests will also be serenaded by a mini concert, and VIP and Patron guests will be provided access to an after-party at Nectar Nightclub.
The Love Gala addresses an alarming epidemic
Celebrating these modern heroes is more crucial than ever, as the Philippines faces an alarming epidemic. Since the first recorded case of HIV infection in the country in 1984, the Philippines has maintained a relatively low (less than 0.1%) prevalence of HIV — until recent years, when the number of people getting testing positive for HIV and other STIs skyrocketed.
Despite efforts in stunting the rapid growth of HIV infection, like the establishment of social hygiene clinics in local government units and passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, there is widespread misinformation and misconceptions surrounding sexual health issues, especially HIV and AIDS. Moreover, the Philippines continues to have the lowest documented rates of condom use in Asia.
But through events like the Love Gala — that aim to unite supporters and encourage more people to step up in the fight against HIV’s deadly spread — there is hope to turn the tide around and bring the number of new infections and AIDS-related deaths down to zero.
The Love Gala is made possible through partner support
The Love Gala is led by the Love Gala Secretariat, a coalition of HIV and AIDS advocacy groups, government agencies, businesses, media agencies and socio-civic partners united in stopping the spread of HIV and eliminating AIDS.
Love Gala is co-presented by MAC Cosmetics and Okamoto, with special thanks to Telus International Philippines. Other institutions and organizations coming together for the event include: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Better Together Initiative, Black Maria Productions, Castro Communications, Decent Image of South Signal Association (DIOSSA), Dentsu Jayme Syfu, Hornet, Nectar Nightclub, Philippine National AIDS Council, Pinoy Plus Association Incorporated, Positibong Marino Philippines, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), Taguig City Government, The Red Whistle, The LoveYourself Incorporated, UNAIDS, the US Embassy and World Health Organization-Philippines.