Country Context: HIV in the Philippines
While the Philippines once had one of the lowest HIV prevalences in Southeast Asia, the country’s epidemic is one of the fastest growing in the region - with approximately 31 newly diagnosed cases a day. There has been a 174% increase in new HIV infections and a 299% increase in AIDS-related deaths since 2010.
As of 2017, there is an estimated 68 000 people living with HIV. A vast majority of these are men, with men aged over 15 constituting approximately 61 000 cases, and women 6 200.
Estimated sizes of key populations are as follows:
MSM: 531 000
Sex workers: 152 000
Transgender people: 122 800
People who inject drugs: 10 000
There are also significant gaps to address in the HIV treatment cascade. Currently, only 71% (48 000) of PLHIV know their status. Meanwhile, only 36% (25 000) of PLHIV are on antiretroviral treatment. The number of these who are virally suppressed is currently unknown.
Given how rapidly the HIV epidemic is growing in the Philippines, there is a clear need for rapid and targeted testing, prevention and treatment programs throughout the country, particularly in major urban hubs such as Manila and Cebu.
Beginning in 2011, Love Yourself engages in a broad array of educational, social support and service delivery activities. The organisation was established by the highly-awarded community support worker Ronivin (Vinn) Garcia Pagtakhan, whose overarching goal is to boost the self-worth of Filipino youth and LGBT-MSM populations. It has amassed over 1000 volunteers from all sectors of society, who take part in organisation’s various awareness-raising, counselling, educational and social activities.
Love Yourself conducts HIV counselling, testing, treatment and life-coaching out of three community centres in Manila. Alongside this, they run awareness-raising campaigns and education seminars in schools, companies and regional communities.
At the heart of everything they do, they emphasise the “critical importance of loving oneself as a core intervention against the spread of HIV/AIDS”.