The GMA Church of the Nazarene in the Philippines hosted a seminar to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. In the past six years, the Philippines has become the country with the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific. HIV/AIDS cases in the country are still on the rise, and according to the Filipino Department of Health (DOH), in the past year, there have been thirty-eight new infections every day. The GMA Church of the Nazarene in the region of Cavite organized this seminar with the help of Ms. Krizelle Anne Umali, an HIV advocate. The seminar was held at the church on the 21st of July and was attended by people from the barangay (community) of Bernardo Pulido and beyond.
The goal of the HIV/AIDS Awareness Seminar was to bring understanding about the epidemic to the community and to also end its stigma. Ms. Umali, who also worked for the Department of Health as a Senior HIV Surveillance Office, shared her expertise on HIV/AIDS. HIV is a virus that attacks and destroys the immune system, the human body’s defense against antigens. AIDS is the disease acquired from HIV infection when the immune system is already weakened or destroyed and the body can no longer fight off common opportunistic infections. As taught at the seminar, HIV may lead to AIDS, but a person with HIV does not necessarily have AIDS. The seminar attendees were also appalled when Ms. Umali shared that in their region of the Philippines, Cavite is the province with the most reported HIV cases, while the municipality of General Mariano Alvarez (GMA) is tenth in a number of reported infections in the same region.
An afternoon filled with new learning and discovery ended in simple ways to prevent HIV/AIDS. The main method given to attendees was “The ABCDE of Prevention”: choose Abstinence, Be faithful, acquire Correct information, Do not use drugs or drink alcohol, and Early detection. According to Ms. Umali, there is no better protection than proper knowledge, and that knowledge may save a friend’s or loved one’s life. Attendees were also told the power of saying “no.” We can choose to say “no” because we are created for a purpose, we are valuable, and we have a future.
The HIV/AIDS Awareness Seminar was a huge success. It not only brought wider knowledge on the epidemic, but it also opened the minds and hearts of the attendees in ending the stigma. As a church, we should be a light to the people who are suffering from this rising virus. Let us all get informed, get tested, and get involved.
Contributed by Dash Gualberto, GMA Church of the Nazarene