Queen Pia takes action on HIV advocacy
MISS Universe 2015 and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is now taking bold action on advocacy for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
On Aug. 9, the global beauty queen followed through on a promise she delivered when she launched her ambassadorship and conducted a public HIV test for the first time in the Philippines. She also unveiled her Project Progressive Information Awareness campaign–simply dubbed as the PIA Project, which aims to inform young people about HIV and help end the AIDS epidemic, not only in the Philippines, but in the Asia-Pacific region.
Wurtzbach conducted the HIV test before cameras in a mobile clinic run by the community organization LoveYourself in Kalayaan Hall in Taguig City, Philippines. This is the second time Ms Wurtzbach has undergone a public HIV screening, but the first time she has done so in the Philippines—a commitment she announced at her launch. She is a strong advocate for people knowing their HIV status and is encouraging other celebrities to join her in promoting testing.
The PIA project will focus on spreading information on HIV and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE), and promoting selfworth among the youth.
“With the PIA Project we hope to see an increase in HIV awareness, spread love for people living with HIV, and make HIV testing among Filipinos a normal part of their health and wellness routine,” said Wurtzbach. “I believe we can strengthen our bonds and achieve our shared goal of ending AIDS in the Philippines, Asia-Pacific and the Universe.”
The PIA Project will primarily encourage knowledge augmentation by developing an awareness campaign for young people, particularly from key populations. The campaign will share relevant information materials on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, SOGIE, and sexual health and wellness.
Based on data from the Philippines’ Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau the number of new HIV cases in the Philippines per day has steadily increased from one per day in 2007 to 29 per day in 2017. Over the years, the number of new HIV infections has grown among young people from key populations, including men who have sex with men and transgender people. For May 2017 alone, the Philippines reported 1098 newly diagnosed people living with HIV nationwide. Of these, 325 or roughly 30% were among youth aged 15-24 while 554 or more than half were from the 25-34 age group.
While the Asia-Pacific region has made substantial progress in responding to HIV, the region is now lagging behind the global trends, and young people from key populations are at particular risk of HIV.
“The HIV movement among young people that Pia is lighting up here in the Philippines will resonate around the Asia-Pacific region,” said Eamonn Murphy, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia-Pacific. “Her incredible energy and commitment is sparking critical conversations, raising awareness among young people on the need to take control of their health. With her huge social media presence, Pia is helping to revitalize HIV prevention efforts in the region.”
“We have seen more Filipinos, including women and young men, getting screened for HIV in our clinics. That’s a good thing—but clearly a lot more people still need to know their HIV status,” said Ronivin Pagtakhan, executive director of LoveYourself, which offers free and confidential HIV screening in its Mandaluyong and Manila clinics. “We’re excited to help Pia in her PIA Project to give HIV the national attention it deserves and erase the stigma surrounding the virus.”
The PIA Project aims to influence positive behavior change through five key initiatives.
1. #Live2LUV Campaign—A social media campaign in partnership with UNAIDS, LoveYourself, Taguig City and other partners to raise mainstream awareness on HIV, AIDS, STI, SOGIE, and sexual health and wellness.
2. PIA Video Campaign—Youth-themed short and comprehensive videos on HIV and SOGIE to be disseminated to local government units, senior high schools, colleges, universities and companies. These videos will also be uploaded as part of the #Live2LUV Campaign to encourage everyone to access free, confidential and fast HIV testing in community centers and social hygiene clinics.
3. #LoveGala—Pia has assumed the role of ambassador for the Love Gala, Asia’s Premiere Charity and Awards Gala to be held in Taguig City on Dec. 1 on World AIDS Day. This is in partnership with the Love Gala Secretariat, a coalition of government, non-profit, business and socio-civic organizations united to stop the spread of HIV and honor champions who are helping to uplift the lives of people living with HIV. The Gala will hold a benefit dinner and the first-ever Ripple Awards, a multi-sector recognition event for those who have created ripples of positive change in the community.
4. Multi-platform Service Delivery Referral System (Project PITCH)—a long-term project to be piloted in Metro Manila, then across the Philippines, and Asia and the Pacific. This will address the concerns of key populations on the accessibility of existing healthcare services. Project PITCH is a mobile-friendly website where people can search for sexual and SOGIE services provided by the government, community groups and private sector in their locality, and, more importantly, safe spaces or community centers for them to join. The project will also offer geotagging and geo-locating services, appointments and onlinebased frequently asked questions and assistance.
5. Policy Advocacy—Lastly and the most challenging is PIA Project’s advocacy on policies which will enable young people, particularly from key populations to access HIV and other key health services.
MISS Universe Pia Wurtzbach receives her certificate as UNAIDS ambassador for Asia and the Pacific