Ex-Miss Uni­verse urges HIV test­ing in Philip­pines

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The Philip­pines' for­mer Miss Uni­verse con­ducted a pub­lic HIV test in Manila yes­ter­day a week af­ter the United Na­tions said her coun­try had the fastest­grow­ing num­ber of in­fec­tions in Asia. Pia Wurtzbach, UNAIDS good­will am­bas­sador for Asia and the Pa­cific, took the test in front of re­porters as part of her ef­forts to raise aware­ness of HIV and re­move the stigma sur­round­ing the virus in the con­ser­va­tive na­tion. The United Na­tions and the gov­ern­ment said last week the Philip­pines saw a 140 per­cent in­crease in new cases from 2010 to 2016, buck­ing a re­gional trend that saw in­fec­tions de­cline by 13 per­cent over the same pe­riod.

"It is very tricky in the Philip­pines be­cause we're a pre­dom­i­nantly Catholic coun­try and we are con­ser­va­tive. That's why it can be quite a chal­lenge to spread aware­ness on this is­sue," Wurtzbach said. "This is a prob­lem that's re­ally hap­pen­ing right now and if we don't do any­thing about it, we're gonna be num­ber one in the world." The na­tion of 100 mil­lion peo­ple, of whom 80 per­cent are Catholic, is heav­ily in­flu­enced by the church which frowns on con­tra­cep­tive use. Test­ing for HIV is also con­sid­ered ta­boo. Wurtzbach has been cam­paign­ing for HIV aware­ness since win­ning the 2015 beauty pageant. She se­cured the crown fol­low­ing a ma­jor blun­der in which host Steve Har­vey ini­tially gave it to Miss Colom­bia in er­ror.

Yes­ter­day Wurtzbach launched an HIV in­for­ma­tion cam­paign for young peo­ple as she ex­pressed sup­port for pro­posed laws which would al­low 15-year-olds to get an HIV test with­out parental con­sent. The min­i­mum age is now 18. The health depart­ment had said most re­ported HIV cases were among men hav­ing sex with men. This group on av­er­age started hav­ing sex at 16 be­fore they had be­gun us­ing con­doms or taken tests, in­creas­ing the risk of in­fec­tion. "We hope to see an in­crease in the rates of reg­u­lar HIV test­ing among Filipinos to nor­mal­ize the pro­ce­dure as a reg­u­lar med­i­cal exam," Wurtzbach said. — AFP

Miss Uni­verse 2015 and also United Na­tions AIDS (UNAIDS) Good­will Am­bas­sador for Asia and the Pa­cific Pia Wurtzbach makes a heart sign af­ter re­ceiv­ing a pub­lic HIV test to in­crease aware­ness yes­ter­day. — AP

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