MANILA, PHILIPPINES – We’ve seen the news about the Philippines being number 1 among countries with a growing HIV epidemic. We’ve read the increasing numbers — a leap from 4,300 cases in 2010 to 13,384 cases in 2018, and those are just estimates as they do not include cases hidden due to fear and shame. The age of those affected by this virus is even getting younger, with the age group 15-24 years old accounting for 80% of people living with HIV (PLHIV). Recently, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that around 36 new cases of HIV are documented every day. Again, these numbers can only cover those who have been tested and are hopefully availing treatment.
At this rate, according to the UNAIDS, the number of cases is projected to reach 201,000 in a matter of 5 or 6 years if the Philippines doesn’t up its game in battling the HIV epidemic.
But what can the reporting of cold, hard numerical data really do in our fight against the spread of HIV, and more importantly, against the lack of knowledge that breeds stigma and discrimination? Can these alarming numbers, no matter how frequently reported, really wake people up and move them to do something about this public health threat?
With currently no proper sex education implemented in schools and a dire lack of mainstream discussions regarding STI’s and HIV, some passionate organizations are taking matters into their own hands and calls on everyone to join in the fight. As part of its Acting on HIV campaign, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), in partnership with HIV advocacy groups The Red Whistle and LoveYourself, Inc., will be staging “Under My Skin” — an anthology of stories based on the true-to-life stories of those affected by HIV, including the accounts of their friends and loved ones, health practitioners and HIV advocates. It is written by Rody Vera, directed by Melvin Lee and would star veteran actress Cherry Pie Picache.
The play will have its Opening Night on February 7, 2020, 8:00PM. Part of the proceeds will go to The Red Whistle to support its continuing advocacy in spreading awareness and to further its mission of ending both the stigma and misinformation surrounding HIV, and eventually defeating HIV.
After each show, there will be a talkback session for the audience, members of the play, representatives from the partner organizations and HIV experts to have a meaningful discussion. Free HIV testing/screening will also be offered at the site.
The play will surely be a tear-jerker, and a thought-provoking one at that as it aims to reach hearts and minds, tackle the hardships faced by PLHIV’s and debunk myths surrounding HIV in order to address the main cause of HIV-related deaths, which is ignorance.