Miss Universe Hailed For Raising HIV Awareness

Reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach has won praise for putting a spotlight on the HIV/AIDS issue in the country on the international stage.

Lack of awareness and education has been pinpointed by advocates and health experts as a major contributing factor to the expanding HIV epidemic in the country.

“She really wants to raise awareness and I’m happy that the Miss Universe organization is helping her in that aspect,” said Dr. Winlove Mojica, one of the most active HIV/AIDS advocates from the medical community. “She just continues with it to show people that she is indeed sincere with it.”

“She said it very briefly (during the competition) but it says a lot because everything starts with awareness. You can’t push through with treatment if people are not aware of it, or aware of something,” added Mojica, a member and head of the social media arm of the Philippine Dermatological Society, who completed a fellowship course in Sexually Transmitted Infections at the National Skin Centre Singapore. “So finding somebody who is a figure, who people look up to, talking about something that has been neglected, then that issue has a bigger chance of being talked about, of raising funds and projects.”

Since winning the Miss U crown, the 26-year-old beauty queen — who came home for a short visit to shoot a shampoo commercial and will return mid-April to crown the new batch of Bb. Pilipinas winners — has already gone to several NGOs like the UNICEF that are focused on HIV work.

These were more than just a photo opportunity, as Mojica believes “that alone increases awareness about the issue — just by the pictures.”

Department of Health (DOH) officials have been warning that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections and AIDS cases are on the rise. According to a recent STAR report, the DOH documented 804 new cases of HIV/AIDS infections last January, the highest since 1984 when the country recorded its first case. According to the DOH, 776 of the cases are males and that three of the 28 infected women were pregnant, with 222 cases from the 15-to-24 age bracket while 423 cases from the 25-to-34 bracket.

Nevertheless, advocates like Mojica have lamented that there’s still so much stigma attached to the disease that, based on DOH statistics, is now affecting more young Filipinos.

To have someone like Pia --— who has over two million followers on Instagram alone -— campaigning for this issue will help lessen the stigma.

Mojica said, “It doesn’t need much work actually because she has the personality and the following. If she tweets and she posts the pictures with her doing activities related to HIV work, then more people will be more comfortable in knowing about the (issue). I think that’s the first step — making people feel comfortable in talking about it.”

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