HIV/AIDS advocate, Pia Wurtzbach from the Philippines has strengthened her awareness efforts after being named UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific. Wurtzbach started her advocacy campaigns after she was crowned Miss Universe in 2015.
Wurtzbach’s main agenda has been to get people to go for HIV testing in order to prevent further transmission of the virus. Ever since she started her campaign, she has managed to raise thousands of dollars to help HIV patients.
Appeal to Lower Age of Consent
In a bid to further her HIV testing campaign, the beauty queen is now appealing to the Filipino government to lower the age at which an individual can give consent to get tested for HIV. Currently, the age of consent is 18. Wurtzbach wants it to be lowered to 16 in order to adapt to changing times.
Individuals below the age of 18 in the Philippines require parental guidance to get tested. This requirement has prevented a lot of teenagers going for testing putting them at high risk as teenagers are engaging in sex at early age.
Breaking the Stigma and Stereotype
To fight stigma and break the HIV/AIDS stereotype, Wurtzbach took her first public HIV test in New York in 2016. She plans to do another test in public in Manila this year. Her decision to get tested in public was a way to put herself in the shoes of those she was asking to get tested. She says that by taking the test she was able to fully understand the HIV testing process and why people are scared to get tested.
She believes that it’s important to talk about HIV/AIDS especially among the young people. She’s also urging people to get treatment as soon as they get tested in order to live a normal and healthy life.
According to Wurtzbach, many people in Asia are not aware of availability of HIV treatment (eg. HIV PEP) and tend to isolate themselves and suffer in silent. For this reason many others are opting not to get tested. She believes that with the right facts and the right people to take care of those affected, patients can live longer and normal lives.
Part of her HIV/AIDS education campaign is to fight the existing HIV misconceptions. She talks to young people about how the virus is contracted. Many young people seem to believe that one can get HIV just through sexual contact.
They are not aware of other transmission methods such as sharing of needles, recreational drugs and blood transfusion. Another area of concern is the lack of knowledge on safe sex. Young people prefer to trust their sexual partners instead of practicing safe sex.
According to the beauty queen, many youths believe that by having one sexual partner they will not get HIV even if they don’t use protection, so they skip protection. This is dangerous because while you can be sure you have only one partner, you can never be sure that your partner has just you.
Wurtzbach intends to keep talking to young people about HIV/AIDS using her social media accounts. She has more than four million followers, making her platforms great for HIV/AIDS awareness.