One of the biggest confusions re HIV testing in the Philippines is answering the question on “what happens after one gets tested for HIV,” said Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow (PDR).
The confusion is not helped by numerous factors – e.g.: various testing facilities are, in a way, “autonomous”, so there are varying practices; and information about post-testing remains limited.
No matter the reason/s for the confusion, “the effect is the same: it discourages many people from getting HIV testing and/or screening,” Aguila said.
To demystify particularly rapid HIV screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on the getting tested for HIV in the Philippines, and what happens after one gets tested.
The PSA is the third in a series of PSAs produced as part of a Bahaghari Center project backed by a collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific.
Particularly pertaining rapid HIV test, “we want to educate particularly Deaf Filipinos about post-testing – that, if you are non-reactive, there are steps you can do to stay non-reactive; and if you’re positive, help is available to help you access treatment, care and support (including getting antiretroviral medicines) so you can live a long, healthy life.”
Aguila stressed that knowing one’s HIV status is important to protect oneself and others around him/her.
If one is HIV-positive, then he/she can start taking antiretroviral medicine (ARV) that will prevent the HIV (virus) from replicating and thereby help him/her stay healthy and live longer/normal lives.
And if one is HIV-negative, then he/she can take steps to stay negative (for example, by practicing safer sexual practices).
“It starts with getting oneself tested,” Aguila said, “which is why we encourage people to get tested.”
Most hospitals and clinics can give HIV testing.
Social hygiene clinics (SHC) located in select barangays can also give HIV testing and/or HIV screening.
Various non-government organizations also offer HIV testing and/or screening.
There are also people who are certified to give rapid HIV test.
A series of community-based HIV testing trainings are given to select members of the Deaf community in Metro Manila/Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao is to “empower members of the Deaf community to be more proactive in dealing with HIV by allowing the Deaf to help the Deaf.” These trainings are provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.
Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.