Blogging For Positive Change: Blogging For Equality And HIV
Through blogging, bloggers earn money, show the latest fashion, make us hungry with food reviews, make us crave for that Kylie Matte Lip Kits, and prove to us that the millennials’ greatest investment is wanderlust. My story as a blogger was different, though. Blogging became the “closet” I hid into before coming out as gay. It was a safe haven. I can be as free as a butterfly and colorful as a rainbow.
Blogging gave me the opportunity write poems of loneliness, fear, and longing of being gay. Ironic as it may sound, I wrote sadness of what supposed to be something happy and liberating. It’s also through blogging when I was able to air my opinion about LGBT issues that I have kept because of so much fear of being criticized and mocked–which I have lived the majority of my pre-coming out days.
Through this blog, I was able to come out to my relatives, friends, and the whole world that I am gay. “Bakla po ako.” This was a sentence I always hated to say but was the only way to make me love and accept myself in the first place. It was bliss. But it must not stop there.
My BF (Andrew) and I as advocates for HIV awareness
After coming out of the closet, my circle of friends grew primarily with LGBT members. And my social network has been a pendulum of both love and death. I have seen same-sex couples who have been married despite it not being recognized here in the Philippines. On the other hand, there were also floods of condolences almost every day of people, mostly for young ones, with deaths not brought about by accidents but of other cause that seems so instant. And you will see both anxious and irresponsible comments asking what the cause of death is where silent answers can already suffice as a sugar-coated curiosity.
During that time, I became so interested in HIV and its impact on the society, especially to the LGBT community. Then I was able to see that every one of us has our own HIV status. We just have to know it. It can affect anyone of us just like cancer or hypertension. But the one difference is, the stigma towards HIV is so strong that it seems that it is the disease-that-should-not-be-named.
I looked for online resources about HIV specifically from gay-themed blogs, but I found a number only. Most gay-themed blogs were about carnal content. Don’t get me wrong, I, too, am a fan of these but people, especially MSM (males having sex with males) like me, are in need of online resources to know more about it. Especially now that HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in the country.
Would you even believe that as per the latest HIV surveillance of DOH for the month of June, there were 841 new HIV antibody sero-positive individuals reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP). This was 9% higher compared to the same period last year (772). This was the highest number of cases ever reported since 1984.
No wonder, such exponential rise in HIV cases raised not just fear but also the stigma in the country. Perhaps you have seen some of these online.
Have you seen some of these before? These are just some of the things I found online that I believe these raised the stigma especially online surrounding HIV. But let me tell you as early as now that I am not putting the blame to these people posting these stuff. I, for one, got to know HIV when I transferred here in Manila when I was 21 years old. I also have the same stigma that they once have. But because I felt that HIV affects the MSM community (males having sex with males), I felt that there is a need for me to know it because I am part of the community. And if no one will study it, fight against the stigma, understand our PLHIV (people living with HIV) brothers and sisters, then nobody else will.
Then I asked myself this question:
And as a blogger, seeing the photos I have shown awhile ago, prompted me to use my influence online in combating the stigma surrounding HIV-AIDS. You might ask, why do I blog positively? Here are the 3 reasons why.
3) We all have our HIV status.
As most of you know, there are only two HIV statuses, either negative of positive. For those HIV positive people, I just want to remind you that you can still live a quality life despite having HIV. Yes, you are tied to a health system like hypertension but it is also manageable. To those HIV negative, I hope that you still remain with the same status that you have in your lifetime and show compassion to those who will forever be HIV positive.
Straight or gay, we are all affected by HIV as it is now a societal problem that we are facing.
Why am I showing these two scenarios to you?
2) We make an impact with every step we take, with every word we say.
And as bloggers and digital influencer, we can educate our readers and followers about the disease in a good light. Just what Pia Wurtzbach, Ms. Universe 2015 said: “we must think before we click.” Indeed, we must.
The very first photos I have shown are all grounded in myths, misconceptions, and miseducation that led to stigma while the latter gives us a clearer picture of how alarming it is right now and yet we can still do something about it that leads to a solution.
And lastly, why do you really need to blog positively?
1) You don’t need to be HIV positive. You just need to be human.
We will never know how is it to live life with HIV not unless we are in the shoe of PLHIV (people living with HIV). But one thing is for sure, we know how it feels to be loved. And what more love would PLHIV feel if they are given positive reinforcement despite the battle they’ve been struggling that’s associated with the virus.
Princess Diana once said: HIV doesn’t make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it.
And as a blogger, I hope that we start blogging “positively” in the hopes of alleviating, if not fully abolishing, the stigma towards HIV. As bloggers, we have the power to be a catalyst for positive change. Blogging is educating and education is spreading hope. Millions are now learning to live with HIV-AIDS — instead of waiting to die from it.
Let’s share the love. Not the virus. Not the stigma. HIV is a virus. Stigma isn’t. And I have a good news for you. One has a cure already.
Blogging For Positive Change: Blogging For Equality And HIV
Latest posts by Joemar Belleza (see all)
More from my site