The RITM-AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG) celebrated World AIDS Day with “Right to Health,” a free concert last December 1 at SM Southmall with the hopes of raising HIV/AIDS awareness through music and spoken word poetry.
Multiple media outlets and social media platforms promoted the free event which garnered over 2,000 attendees. The concert included performances from Unit 406, Oh, Flamingo, BP Valenzuela, Ang Banda ni Kleggy, Ben&Ben, 6 Cyclemind, and Henry Igna, Serge Gabriel, and Jihad Mambuhay of Words Anonymous.
According to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), the number of cases of newly diagnosed HIV patients per day increased from 1 case per day in 2008 to 31 cases per day in 2017. The reports also highlighted the startling increase of patients aged 15 to 24 years old diagnosed with HIV.
RITM-ARG wanted to create a World AIDS Day concert that serves as a platform to spread awareness to the younger audience who are most at risk of getting HIV/AIDS. Performances from independent and mainstream Filipino bands and spoken word artists encouraged them to know more about HIV/AIDS and break the stigma.
Misinformation and the lack of available information are one of the possible causes of stigma and discrimination, which is why the country needs to create effective awareness campaigns to dispel myths relating to HIV/AIDS and equip its citizens with proper resources and information. Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) discourages people to get tested and receive proper treatment. This also lets them carry on with practices that will lead them to continue spreading the disease.
Aside from stigma and discrimination, self-worth and gender identity also play a part in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Most of the youth today have issues such as low self-esteem and trouble with how they identify themselves. Together with the lack of information and guidance, they are more likely to explore and practice risky behavior that may eventually lead to HIV/AIDS.
In between performances were the presentation of educational videos on HIV such as the ABCDE of HIV prevention (i.e., abstinence, being faithful, use condoms, no drugs, and be educated) and the issues and challenges tied to the HIV Epidemic (i.e., gender imbalance, homophobia, social and economic inequities, and neoliberal healthcare systems). The hosts also played games after the presentation of the videos to further engage the audience in participating in discussions about HIV/AIDS.
Winners of the Art Attack Visual Poetry Contest and Strains Film Contest were also awarded during the event. This years’ theme for both contests is “HIV Prevention and Awareness among Young Adults—Getting to Zero: Zero AIDS-related Deaths, Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination”. Both contests were open to all undergraduate college/university students nationwide.
Kenneth V. Manalansan won first place in the Visual Poetry Contest for his entry entitled “Limang Minutong Laban”. On the other hand, the Film Contest consisted of three categories: Infomercial, Documentary, and Short Film. Mikee Tan Cubio (Virus), Kristofferson O. Arciaga (Ang Buhay ni Ivan), and John Gabriel Dizon (Positive), won first place for their respective film categories. All winners were awarded gadgets and cash prizes.
The RITM-ARG has plans to organize another free concert for World AIDS Day next year and hopes to include more performers to help advocate their HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.
by Kathryna Marie Lopez, AIDS Research Group