When she won the Miss Universe title back in 2015, Pia Wurtzbach made sure that her advocacy for HIV awareness is known.
In an exclusive interview with Meg, Pia shares her knowledge about HIV along with the misconceptions that come with it.
According to UNICEF, even though the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines is low, our country is one of seven worldwide where the number of new HIV cases grew by 25 percent from 2001 to 2009. In a report from Rappler, the director of the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), Dr. Joselito Feliciano, said that in 2018, 32 people are diagnosed with HIV-AIDS every day.
The stigma of HIV
Pia shared that one of the many reasons why there is a stigma on HIV is because not everyone has full knowledge about it. Schools do not teach what HIV is. Apart from that, not everyone has the initiative to learn and raise awareness on it.
But according to Pia, with the advanced technology we have today, it is easy to educate ourselves about relevant issues. She said, “Google is always one click away and if we truly want to help other people, we must have the initiative to help ourselves.”
Hearing the causes and effects of HIV without thorough information can lead to dangerous misconceptions. Instead of actually curing it, we might be putting the lives of other people at risk more.
She said, “Everyone can have HIV. Not only the LGBT community. A female, male, baby, or old person can have it regardless of status.”
As stated in WebMD, “HIV forms when an infected person’s body fluids — including blood, semen, fluids from the vagina, or breast milk — gets into your blood. That can happen through broken skin or the linings in your mouth, anus, penis, or vagina. People commonly get HIV from having unprotected sex with an infected person.”
That alone can feel scary, which is why people get discouraged from getting checked. “People think that it is a death sentence,” said Pia. HIV and AIDS can’t be cured, but we live in an age where there are medications available to help these people stay healthy and live a normal life.
An example of hope
Even after Pia’s reign as the Miss Universe, she continues to be an advocate of HIV awareness and prevention. Pia stated that she is “very proud” of all the people struggling with HIV for being strong. She also encourages them to be hopeful as they can be a source of light for others struggling with HIV.
“You’re all gonna be examples for other people who feel like there is no more hope, so please stay strong,” Pia said.
Apart from that, Pia also left a message for everyone who is afraid to get tested. “You know you can bring a friend with you. Bring your siblings with you, your boyfriend with you. You don’t have to go alone. There is no shame in getting a test and having one doesn’t mean you are doing risky behaviors.”