Baguio LGBT holds  beauty tilt to battle stigma and promote HIV awareness

Various organizations from Baguio City have banded together to search for a local ambassador for HIV/AIDS awareness.

Various organizations from Baguio City have banded together to search for a local ambassador for HIV/AIDS awareness.

BAGUIO CITY—In observance of Pride Month, the Baguio community of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBT) is set to hold a pageant search aimed at promoting Human Immunodefficiency Virus (HIV) awareness and voluntary HIV testing.

Spearheaded by the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Metro Baguio and the Rainbow Barracks, the pageant entitled “Search for The Advocate,” hopes to select HIV awareness advocates who can be the face of the community’s awareness campaigns and projects.

MCC pastor Rev. Myke Sotero said that this is their community’s response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.

According to Sotero, there have been approximately 27 new cases of HIV infection per day since February this year in the country. He said this problem needs to be addressed by concerned government health agencies with the help of the private sector”

Sotero added that the pageant search hopes to encourage open public discussions on sexuality and reproductive health, and the need for risk groups to know their HIV status by getting tested for free.

“Pharcy,” one of the transgender finalists said that this was one of her unique pageant experiences. She said that as an HIV advocate, she wants to be an example to her peers by having herself tested for HIV as well as be a role model for those caring for people who are living with the virus. “Knowing that i can do more for the cause through this pageant search, I already feel like a winner,” she said.

“Troy,” another gay finalist said that he hopes this pageant search will encourage gay men to openly talk about issues affecting those living with HIV: “Sana, mas maraming tao ang maliwanagan about this issue at mapawi ang lahat ng uri ng pang-aalipusta sa mga apektado ng HIV at tulungan silang mabuhay ng normal at malaya sa diskriminasyon at stigma.

( “I hope more people will be enlightened about this issue and eliminate all forms of oppression towards those affected by HIV and help them  live normally, free from discrimination and stigma.”)

Darwin Babon, a pageant finalists who works at the Baguio General Hospital HIV-AIDS Core Team (HACT) said that many young adults with HIV have been availing themselves of the HACT’s services due to the collective information campaign for voluntary counseling and testing undertaken by stakeholders in the advocacy.

“People who had been screened “reactive” of the virus come to us for the confirmatory test and thereafter provide them care and treatment. No one has to die of AIDS-related illnesses if they seek early treatment for their infection,”  Babon added.

The pageant search is supported by the Baguio-Benguet Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (BBRHAN) and the Department of Health (DOH). Organizers said that free HIV screening will be available during the event.