HAPI: A beacon of hope
By Donna T. Darantinao
HAPI Youth Ambassador
Tracing back into the ‘80s, the stigma against People Living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (PLHIVs) have been facing an increasing level of prejudice and discrimination (Lockett, 2021). And even years later, this has affected the lives of PLHIVs.
Stigma, as per healthline.com, is “a negative attitude or prejudice toward people with a distinguishing characteristic, such as a physical or mental health condition. Stigmas can be self-imposed, individual, or institutional and often lead to discrimination against people with that specific characteristic.”
Because of this, PLHIVs succumb into thinking that they are not able to go back to their normal lives and create efforts in making it better. This is something that HAPI pushes to eradicate. HAPI Zambales, along with HAPI Pride in celebration of Pride Month, had successfully conducted their 2nd empowerment seminar targeting the 16 clients of San Marcelino District Hospital’s Shelter of Hope, Zambales on June 26, helping them face different challenges especially during this middle of a global pandemic and was graced by their resident motivational speaker Dr. John James Ancheta Larafoster of Celtech Colleges.
As per Anthony Van Catayong, HAPI Zambales’ Lead Convenor and HAPI Pride member, “Most of them are PLHIVs. Having such condition makes it hard for most of them to find work, and some faced discrimination because of their HIV status. The current pandemic made it worse because they already have a comorbidity and it is risky for them to get COVID [and] that affects their mental health. The main goal of the seminar is to unload emotional baggage and make them comfortable with their peers and staff of the HIV hub.”
Catayong also further that having HIV is not a death sentence. They are normal people like us. It is not the condition itself, but the stigma that is killing them.
The event was participated by clients from as far as Subic to the municipality of Palauig, mostly from nearby towns of Subic, Castillejos and San Marcelino. The event was also fully sponsored by our generous donor, Mr. Christopher L. Geake. He is very supportive of the advocacies of the Zambales Chapter.
Catayong stated that the Shelter of Hope, the TB-HIV Hub can be HAPI Zambales’ long-term partner for projects but are currently put on hold because of the pandemic situation. Some of these projects are: Vegetable Garden of HAPI X Shelter of Hope (livelihood program); and, Installation of condom and lube dispensers in the market and gyms in selected areas near the hospital.
Truly, there have been many groups that aim to debunk myths on the stigma of having HIV and that there have even been improved treatment options to increase life expectancy of PLHIVs, and to control and prevent complications. It’s always better to be aware of the facts surrounding HIV and to visit healthcare professionals if ever you want to know more about it and its treatments. Also, do know that there is a ray of sunshine regardless of how strong the storm may be.
As what Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, once said, “Hope will never be silent.”
And that’s HAPI for you!