May 18, 2012- Family Planning Organization of the Philippines thru INTERACT GenSan- a network composed of young leaders from different young people organizations advocating ASRH initiated an activity in line with the celebration of International HIV/AIDS Candlelight Memorial at Sangguniang Panlungsod Learning Center of General Santos City.
The event was participated by the young leaders from Teen Support Group (TSG), RCR Foundation, Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines (PYAP), Young Development Leaders per district in the city, Peer Facilitator’s Society of Mindanao Polytechnic College and SK kagawads of Barangay North. The event with the theme “Promoting Health and Dignity Together” aimed to promote respect and dignity and to uphold and protect the rights of people living with HIV. Further, it commemorates those people who died with AIDS.
Highlights of the event include the discussion on STI, HIV and AIDS, workshop (Power Walk) On Understanding Stigma and Discrimination, the city and youth’s commitment on eradicating social stigma and discrimination, and the Candle lighting ceremony.
Dra. Mely Lastimoso, Medical Health Officer V of City Health Office, and Social Hygiene Clinic Head of the city graced the invitation to talk about STI, HIV and AIDS. Dra. Lastimoso discussed the different ways and means to protect one’s self from HIV/ AIDS and she also gave emphasis on the ADCDE method. Further, she encouraged all the participants for free testing at the Social Hygiene Clinic.
After the discussion was the activity on Understanding Stigma and Discrimination thru a Power Walk. Ten characters in the society were portrayed in the activity. Statements regarding access to plenty information on STI, HIV and AIDS, access to treatment, care and support, access to quality Health care services and youth friendly medical services were asked during the activity. At the end, the participants were delighted because they were able to determine their power in the society based on the given character. “Our society is very judgmental. And so, there is an unequal perception and treatment between people from the higher class and the lower class”, Grace, one of the participants noted.
After the activity, an inspirational message was given thru a voice recording by Vice-Mayor Shirlyn Nograles on the city’s commitment to eradicate social stigma and discrimination on PLHIV. Further, her message was discussed thoroughly by a representative from her office. She noted that the city has a program on the treatment, care and support on PLHIV. She also appreciated the role of FPOP thru the youth network for its massive campaign to combat HIV/ AIDS.
Following the message, was the rationale presentation why IACM was celebrated every third week of month of May in respect of those people who died with AIDS. The candle lighting ceremony was facilitated by Christopher Peñales, the Chapter Program Manager. He began by letting the participants form a circle around the red ribbon- symbol of AIDS. He then asked the young ones to offer a prayer to those who have died w/ AIDS. After which, each candle was lighted and everyone gave their simple commitment to fight stigma and discrimination on PLHIV. Right after each participant gave his/her commitment, the candle was then put into a ribbon forming the symbol of AIDS.
Moreover, the activity ended with delight on each other’s faces as they signed and wrote a message on a shirt for their pledge of commitments. “I was amazed. Now even at my young age, I can do something to combat and raise awareness against HIV/AIDS thus to contribute to MDG to halt HIV/ AIDS. In my own little ways, I will be an HIV/AIDS advocate”, James, a participant remarked.