Theater-based Forum on HIV

As part of its continuing advocacy to promote HIV and AIDS awareness, especially among young people, PLCPD will sponsor the staging of “Melanie.”

“Melanie” is a gay beautician who died from the complications of AIDS. From that tragic start, his friends begin to be aware of their own risky sexual behavior and the reality of HIV infection. They discuss the disease among themselves: its risk factors, its preventive measures, its laboratory testing, its medical management, its urban myths and its social stigma.


Melanie E-Poster

STD Tests Go Mobile

By SASsy Guest Blogger Rebecca Griffin

Most people already know how important it is to practice safe sex and have themselves regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) to ensure they stay healthy. Unfortunately, the ordeal of going to a clinic, waiting in an unfamiliar room, and being surrounded by strangers–all for what for many is a very personal matter–deters many people from getting the help they really require.

According to a report from the Huffington Post a new pilot program for at-home STD testing initiated earlier this summer by Planned Parenthood in California hopes to change that. “What we’ve found is with the app people are really looking for convenience,” Ana Sandoval, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, told the Sacramento Bee. “There’s still stigma attached with the idea that you could have possibly contracted an STD. We work hard to try to eliminate that stigma.”

The test works in conjunction with Planned Parenthood’s free mobile app and allows for users to screen themselves for both chlamydia and gonorrhea from the comfort of their own homes. The California program follows similar mobile testing services being rolled out in Minnesota and Washington state.

Regular STD testing is one of those things that everyone knows they need but very few people actually want. A survey by Adam & Eve of 1,000 men and women found that only 51 percent confirmed they’d ever been tested before and of those a quarter of them said they’d only been tested once. Whether it’s the availability or awkwardness that’s keeping you from getting tested it is important to remember that there is absolutely no shame in being safe and responsible. It’s the smart thing to do! Things can happen even to those who are particularly careful, but what’s really important is not to allow needless embarrassment to prevent you from getting the care you need.

“It’s so important for women, men and young people who need high-quality health care to be able to access it in a way that meets them where they are and allows them to get the services they need,” said Jill Balderson, vice president of health care innovation at Planned Parenthood.

By downloading the free Planned Parenthood smartphone app, users can order the test directly online and pay for the kit through the app using their credit or debit card. The home testing kits cost $149 although traditional free testing is still available at the physical locations. Upon receiving the kit, the user provides a urine sample in the included container and mails it back to the testing facility. Results are usually received within about a week.

I have my fingers crossed that the program is successful and will be expanded to more countries around the world as it could provide important options for those who live in areas without convenient access to health clinics. Hopefully, the advent of this exciting technology can offer a private and discreet way to reduce the unnecessary shame of practicing responsible sexual habits, and encourage more people to be proactive when it comes to maintaining their sexual health.

Rebecca Griffin is a freelance writer and blogger from San Diego, CA. She volunteers for organizations that support women’s rights in her free time.

HIV Registry: September 2011

According to the September 2011 report of the National Epidemiology Center, 253 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals were confirmed by the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory. The figure is 65 percent higher compared to the same period last year.

Here are some of the other reported observations:

  • 95 percent of the cases were males.
  • The 20 – 29 year age group had the most number of cases at 57 percent.
  • 135 cases came from the National Capital Region.
  • Reported mode of transmission were sexual contact and needle sharing among injecting drug users.
  • Males having sex males was the predominant type of sexual transmission at 83 percent.
  • Sixteen of the reported cases were OFWs, acquired through sexual contact.
Of the 253 cases, five (all males) were reported to be as AIDS cases.  Four cases were acquired through sexual contact [homosexual (3) and bisexual (1)] and one case from needle sharing. There were also two reported deaths for September, again both males aged 40 and 49 years old.

Winners of the ART-H Mandala Making Contest

We are pleased to announce the winners of the SAS ART-H Mandala Making Contest! The scores were based on the judges’ evaluation, Likes on the SAS Facebook page and attendance during the ART-H Primer. The respective taglines and statements were also taken into consideration.

And now, the works and statements of the winners:

3rd Place – UP Samahan sa Agham Pampulitika

Beyond pills and condoms: EQUALITY and UNDERSTANDING”


Understanding, awareness and women empowerment: these are the three essential factors needed to realize the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill, which this mandala promotes.

The lotus at the core, made from the male and female insignia, signifies the need for UNDERSTANDING, which is essential to the success of the RH Bill.

The outward pointing motif calls to mind the need to spread AWARENESS in the issue of RH.

And finally, the numerous faces of women in the mandala calls us to recognize WOMEN EMPOWERMENT.

These 3 elements combine to create a powerful visual message that calls us to pass the RH Bill and address the RH issue now

2nd Place – UP Artists’ Circle Sorority

“Give life without losing yours.”


This mandala as a whole represents significance fo women in their responsibility and capability to give continuation to the circle of life, in which they behold their beauty as a provider and nurturer.

The inverted triangle symbolizes the female genitalia and the three spirals symbolize women’s omnipotent power. These are surrounded by blossoming flowers that represent the blossoming of women and their potentials.

The maple leaves connote the sweetness that new life brings and at the same time, the openness to sexual pleasure through responsible and safe actions.

The condoms used to beautify the mandalas signify that men and women complement each other in order to create beauty in life.

1st Place – UP Visual Communication students, College of Fine Arts

“Safety in diversity.”

At the very center of our mandala is a triskel. These three circles connected to each other is a common element of the traditional mandala. For this specific piece, it symbolizes the three kinds of gender preferences. Straight males are symbolized by a ♂, straight females are symbolized by a ♀ and other sexual preferences combine the two symbols.

Around the triskel are “feathers.” Feathers constitute wings and wings are symbols of freedom. The central and supporting elements combined deliver the advocacy for freedom of choice in sexual preference.

At the middle of the triskel are random dots, with one red dot at the middle. This red dot symbolizes the chance of getting sexually transmitted diseases. Despite the freedom, there is still a risk. To prevent these risks from emerging, the red dot is surrounded with several contraceptives.

Our mandala recognizes the different sexual preferences of people but still reminds them of always being SAFE.

The prize for the best tagline also goes to the UP Vis Com group: “Safety in Diversity.”


The groups will be awarded when classes resume on the second week of November.

We would like to thank our judges: Dr. Eloi Hernandez of the UP College of Arts and Letters, Ms. Beth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, Mr. Red Tani of the Filipino Freethinkers and Mr. Carlos Celdran of Celdran Tours.

We would also like to thank our sponsor, DKT-Reproductive Health (Frenzy Condoms and Filipinay birth control pills), and our UP-based partner, RH AGENDA.

HIV Registry: July 2011

In the recent report released by the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health, 204 individuals were found HIV Ab sero-positive. The number is 56 percent higher compared to July of last year.


From the report, the following observations were noted:

1. Three of the 204 reported HIV positive cases were AIDS and all was acquired through sexual contact.
2. Males comprised 90 percent of the cases.
3. Age range for the reported cases were 17 to 55 years old. It was the 20-29 year age group that had the most number of cases at 63 percent.
4. 107 of the 204 reported cases were from the National Capital Region.
5. Modes of transmission were sexual contact (193) and needle sharing among injecting drug users (11). Males having sex with males were the predominant type of sexual transmission at 81 percent.
6. Two deaths were reported for July.

For the full report, download it here.



HIV Registry: June 2011

For the month of June, the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) reported 178 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals. NEC also said that this was a 63 percent increase the same period last year. According to the same report, one of the 178 individuals was listed with AIDS. He was a 38 year old single male who acquired the infection through homosexual contact.

Some other observations are here as follows:

  1. Ninety four (94) percent of the infected individuals were males.
  2. The age range for these people are between 15 to 58 years old. Median age is 28.
  3. It was the 20-29 year age-group that had the most number of cases at 60 percent.
  4. The 173, who reported mode of transmission, pointed sexual contact.
  5. Males having sex with males is still the predominant type of sexual transmission.
  6. No deaths were reported for June.
  7. Sixty two (62) percent of the cases reported were from the National Capital Region.
  8. Out of the 178 reported cases, 22 were overseas Filipino workers.
Download the full report here.


HIV Registry: May 2011

The National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health  reported that May of this year recorded the highest number of confirmed HIV Ab sero-positive cases at 184. The figure is 20 percent higher compared to the same period last year.

Following the release of the report, here are the main observations pointed out:

  1. Most of the cases were males at 92 percent with the median age at 28 years old.
  2. The 20-29 age group had the most number of cases.
  3. Fifty-two percent of the reported cases came from the National Capital Region.
  4. Reported modes of transmissions were through sexual contact and sharing of drug needles. For sexual contact, males having sex with other males still remain predominant.
  5. Two males from the 184 reported cases were confirmed AIDS positive. The infection was acquired through bisexual contact.
  6. A death was reported for this month.
  7. Thirty or 16 percent of the cases were OFWs and were all acquired through sexual contact.

For the full report, download it here.

In the City of Angels, they use condoms

In November 2010, Sex and Founder and Editorial Director Ana Santos was awarded a media grant by Newsbreak to conduct an investigative report on the rising incidence of HIV in the Philippines.
In this fourth of a five part series, Santos explores how Angeles City decreased occurrences of HIV.

ANGELES CITY, Philippines—It is a scene that has become a part of life in this “entertainment capital of the Philippines.”

The Reproductive Health and Wellness Center (RHWC) issues health cards to the bar girls, which allows them to work in a licensed establishment like a bar, massage parlor or a karaoke bar as a regular or contractual employee.

The IDs are color-coded according to one’s work description.

The RHWC program is part of the 100% Condom Use Programme (CUP) that the Department of Health (DOH) launched in 2003, targeting the cities of Urdaneta, Dagupan, Laoag San Fernando, La Union and Angeles.

Registered Sex Workers wear two IDS one issued by LACEM and another issued by the bar that they work for. (Photo: Ana Santos)

The CUP was patterned after a similar initiative in Thailand, which saw a drastic drop in HIV infection among commercial sex workers, their clients, and to the general population, after the program’s implementation.

In line with the policy and a local city ordinance on HIV and AIDS prevention, bars here were mandated to distribute condoms for free and to display HIV awareness messages.

The League of Angeles City Entertainers and Managers (LACEM), a group of more than 102 bar owners and managers, together with the RHWC, combine efforts to implement this policy.

A bar in Angeles City. (Photo: Ana Santos)

To be allowed to work, girls are required to register with the RHWC and are given an ID. Guest Relations Officers (GROs) and dancers sport IDs with a pink stripe; while IDs for cashiers and other personnel have a green stripe on it.

Proud to be safe

The dancers and the GROs have to prominently display their IDs while they are on duty. LACEM estimated that there are around 7,000 registered sex workers in their records.

The results of the smear tests are recorded by LACEM in a monthly smear report which also contains 1 x1 pictures of the girls.  The RHWC also keeps track of the results in a booklet called a health card. The health card looks like a library card stamped with test dates of her weekly smears.
If infected, they are given antibiotics for treatment, and their health cards are kept by the RHWC staff to monitor their condition.

It's busy every day at the Angeles City Reproductive Health and Wellness Center. Working on a rotating schedule, bars are designated one day per week for their RSWs to come in for their smear test. (Photo: Ana Santos)

Registered Sex Workers must get a weekly smear to her for common STIs. The results of these smear tests are logged in her Health Card. (Photo: Ana Santos)

While undergoing treatment, a registered sex worker will still be allowed to work at the bar but not to take home clients. The floor manager of the bar, who is notified of her condition, will not accept the client’s payment for a bar fine or taking a sex worker out.

Lyn Velasco, chief nurse at RHWC, says LACEM has been vigilant in “keeping track of their girls.”

According to Velasco, apart from the weekly smear tests, condom distribution and awareness programs as well as mass HIV counseling and testing are conducted twice a year.

Trixie, 20 a GRO at La Bamba Bar, says she welcomes the idea of condom use. In a clipped English accent, she said, “I’m not tryin’ to be cute with you or nothing, but I can make as much as P80,000 here.”

According to the External Assessment Report done in 2007 to evaluate the 100% CUP program, “there is no information on condom use rate in four of the five cities visited, except for Angeles which reported 67%.”

Below the goal

The report adds that, despite efforts from the DOH and other stakeholders, “no concrete results were documented” and that “with no assessment results and evidence of success if there were, it was extremely difficult to move it [100% CUP] forward.”

There was little evidence to support if program implementation was successful or not.

Angeles City was the only one to report 67% condom use, but this was still below the goal of 90%.

But it has paid off. From being identified in the 2003 IHBSS as the number one site for HIV infection, Angeles City is no longer in the top three.

According to the IHBSS of 2009, Angeles City has less than 1% HIV or syphilis prevalence. The top three cities with more than 1% HIV prevalence were identified as Metro Cebu, Metro Davao and Metro Manila.

Apparently, it pays to use condoms even in the company of angels.




Sex and the workplace

In November 2010, Sex and Founder and Editorial Director Ana Santos was awarded a media grant by Newsbreak to conduct an investigative report on the rising incidence of HIV in the Philippines.
In this third of a five part series, Santos explores sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the increasing incidence on call center workers.

In September last year, the Philippine Society of Venereologists Inc. (PSVI) hosted a conference warning about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections that go unreported and undiagnosed. STIs, if untreated, may lead to infertility, mental disorientation and sometimes death.

It is also makes one more vulnerable to being infected by HIV.

According to the 2003 National Demographic Health Survey, only 7.6% of men aged 15-19 and less than 2.2% of those aged 20-49 reported an STI or STI symptoms.

In 2004, the Department of Health documented 221 cases of gonorrhea and 64 cases of Chlamydia. But Dr. Marcellano Cruz, board member of PSVI,  warns says this does not paint an accurate picture of the problem for a number of reasons.

First, private clinics and hospitals are not required to report STI incidence among patients. And there is no regulation on the tracking of STIs and after the 2004 data, no recent studies have been done on STIs, according to Cruz.

Cruz, a dermatologist, said some of his patients come in for a consultation without awareness of STI symptoms. As STIs usually manifest on the skin, dermatologists are often the first to be consulted.

“Sexual history is needed to make a diagnosis. That’s when I find out that they have had unprotected sex with multiple sex partners,” he says.

Who’s the culprit?

The social media is not the only culprit behind the site of sex-related diseases. STIs and HIV have found their niche in workplaces, experts say, courtesy of young professionals working in call centers.

Packed with young, mobile and moneyed young people, the call center industry has been labeled a natural magnet for STIs and HIV. Estimates show that about 80% of all contact center employees are in their early to mid-20s, each earning an average of Php16,000 a month.

A a study made by the Philippine General Hospital showed that over half of those tested positive for HIV were call center agents. (File photo)

In a study made by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) from November 2009 to January 2010, over half of those who were tested positive for HIV among the 406 male respondents were call center agents.

A March 2010 study by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) reports that call center employees are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior compared to other types of workers.

The UPPI study was conducted in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu and covered 16 call centers and 675 respondents, all below 35 years old.

For comparative purposes, some 254 employees from different industries were also interviewed.

The study reveals that:

• The prevalence of risky sexual activity is higher among call center respondents for casual sex, non-romantic regular sex (“friends with benefits” or “fuck buddies”), unprotected sex with multiple sex partners, sex with same gender and commercial sex.”

• Significantly more call center respondents had casual sex as compared to non-call center employees. (40% vs 27%)

• Male call center respondents reported a higher average number of partners than non–call center employees, at 3.2 vs 2.2

• More than 40% of the respondents reported that their last sexual encounter was unprotected.

Grace Cruz, UPPI director offers a caveat, however. “The report did not examine timing, so these behaviors may have been  initiated  long  before the respondents started  working  in  a call center.”  The impact of social media and the Internet on how people engage in relationships was also not studied.

Eric Manalastas of the UP Diliman Psychology Department describes call centers as ”strong situations…where one re-fashions his identity, one’s sense of right or wrong.”

The erratic working hours isolate call center employees from others who have regular day jobs.  This displacement makes the call center not just a workplace but one’s reality.

Manalastas cited examples like jails, OFW populations, and same sex schools “where they create their own subculture because they are somewhat disconnected from reality”.

The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) denies that call centers have become a hotbed of STIs and HIV.

“I will not say that [casual sex] it is not happening in call centers, but I don’t understand why we are the only industry being highlighted.” Jojo Uligan, CCAP director, said.

Uligan says there are “solid health and wellness programs” that cover STI prevention in all call centers. But he admits that condoms are not distributed in the workplace because the move could be seen as promoting casual sex.

While more people are engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners, condom use remains dismally low. (File photo)

Low condom use

As easy access to risky sex has gone unchecked, health authorities worry that HIV could just make a grand entrance.

The Philippines has been classified as “low and slow” in HIV infection, but such description may not be accurate anymore.
While more people are engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners, condom use remains dismally low.

A Reuters report identified the Philippines as having the lowest condom use in Asia.

Experts say that elements indicative of a rising epidemic are here:  low condom use, multiple and concurrent partners, high mobility (in relation to OFWs), and increasing practice of anal sex among MSM.

There are signs pointing towards this possibility.

In 2009, there were two new HIV cases reported everyday. The latest numbers in 2010 showed that there are now five new HIV cases reported daily.

Health experts are now struggling to keep within the goal of less than 1% prevalence among the most at-risk groups.

They are, only now, starting to uncover where the epidemic is hiding and to acknowledge why it is growing.  – with research assistance from Ma. Ernica de Guzman




HIV 101 according to the Philippine National AIDS Council

April is STD Awareness Month. Know the behavior that puts you at risk and how to protect yourself. Sex and features a post from the Philippine National AIDS Council on HIV101.
Stay sexy, SASsy and safe. Get tested.

What is HIV and AIDS?

  • HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a retrovirus that causes HIV infection. Its entrance into the body lowers the immunity (body defense system) or the ability to fight off disease.
  • HIV Infection is the successful entry of HIV in the human host, weakening the immune system and leading to a spectrum of diseases.
  • AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a condition characterized by a combination of signs and symptoms, caused by HIV contracted from another which attacks and weakens the body’s immune system, making the afflicted individual susceptible to other life threatening infection.

How does HIV attack the immune system?

  1. The human body is protected by the White Blood Cells in the immune system.
  2. White Blood Cells in the immune system fight disease and germs for your body.
  3. Strong diseases make the body sick, but the white blood cells usually win in the end.
  4. HIV is a VERY strong germ that attacks the White Blood Cells themselves, weakening the body’s defenses against diseases and makes the body vulnerable to potentially life-threatening infections and cancers. HIV then uses human cells to manufacture more of the virus, eventually killing the host & nearby cells and overwhelms the immune system.
  5. After a very long struggle lasting years, HIV kills most of the immune system’s White Blood Cells, leaving the body unprotected.
  6. Many other (secondary) diseases attack (bringing about the condition of AIDS) and eventually kill the body.

Solid Facts on HIV and AIDS

HIV is transmitted by:
  • having unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral), with someone who is HIV positive. Unprotected, penetrative sex accounts for 80% of total exposures to the disease worldwide;
  • having a transfusion with infected blood;
  • sharing syringes and needles with someone who is HIV positive for drugs and tattoos or other skinpiercing tools such as razor blades and surgical instruments forcircumcision or scarification.
  • mothers to their unborn babies and through breastfeeding.

HIV is NOT transmitted through:

  • Kissing
  • Casual contacts or handshakes
  • Sharing living quarters, eating or drinking with an infected person
  • Mosquitoes and bed bugs.

HIV is transmitted through the following body fluids:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal/Cervical Fluids
  • Breastmilk

Stages of the HIV Disease

    • The patient starts experiencing “flu-like” symptoms
    • The patient may remain well for years
    • The patient experiences “mild” symptoms such as lack of energy, nights sweats, etc
    • The patient experiences opportunistic infections from bacterial, mycobacterial, fungal, protozoal, viral and malignant sources that can cause any of the following:
      • Swollen glands
      • Mouth infections
      • Brain infections
      • Skin diseases
      • Lung diseases
      • Loss of weight

HIV Detection and Testing

HIV can be detected through the following tests:

  • Antibody test – an indirect test measures the response of one’s body to the presence of HIV
  • Antigen test – a test that directly measures the virus

HIV Testing is voluntary, confidential and anonymous, with pre and post-test counseling. The window period for testing is 6 months from the last exposure with HIV.

There is NO vaccine and NO cure for HIV. Anti-retroviral medication (ARVs) may only slow down the replication of the virus.

The A-B-C-D-E of AIDS Prevention

  • A – Abstinence
  • B – Be faithful (having a mutual monogamous relationship)
  • C – Careful Sex (No exchange of body fluids)
  • D – Don’t share needles/ sterilized needles
  • E – Education and Information