March 10, 2023
Writer: Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, Jasmin Cyrille
Researchers: Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, Christopher Jan Dumaguin
Editor: Kyra Ballesteros
Graphics: Jacklyn Moral, Sarah Mondoy
Tweet Chat Moderator/s: Christine Joy Salva Cruz
Spaces Moderator/s: Kyra Ballesteros, Marian Lorrice Apostol, Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo
Ages ago, women were treated as the reason behind the world’s sins and temptations. Until today, they continue to be associated with various negative attitudes and prejudiced beliefs about most social issues such as Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV). HIV is a type of retrovirus that infects humans and can be spread through the exchange of a variety of bodily fluids between infected individuals including from mother to child during pregnancy.
HIV is defined by society as an illness rooted in disobeying the laws of religion or violating rules of culture – although there’s a great stigma among people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the labeling within women and girls is particularly severe. Women faced a great wave of inequalities especially in a patriarchal world. This mass labeling towards women comes from oppressing and discriminating the eyes of the society. Believing that women must be blamed due to their gender, sexuality, and vulnerability negatively impacts women’s health overall.  
Join us as we raise our voice for women and girls in observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this March 10th, 2023! Kaya, tara #UsapTayo!
HOW DID HIV BECOME A PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN?
The World Health Organization (WHO) identified HIV as a viral infection that targets the human body’s immune system and weakens one’s immunity against other infections (which are crucial to someone’s health, and could be deadly) . It creates more negative impressions about this illness as its primary (and mostly) transmission rate is through sexual activities and drug use. Having unprotected sex with others will cause a high chance of getting it.
On the other hand, there is a high risk of having HIV by sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection tools. HIV is considered to be a deadly invisible disease as people cannot see where the infection may come from; as this communicable infection goes through the bloodstream – it runs, carries, and is transmitted by blood .
There were 38.4 million individuals considered HIV positive around the globe in 2022. 54% of this alarming figure are women and girls. The Philippines has a considerable fast growth of HIV and produced an epidemic across the Asia and Pacific region in 2010 and 2018. Drivers of the epidemic include inadequate knowledge of youth and most of the communities about sex and lack of proper education about health, hygiene, and well-being  .
The mortality rate spikes dramatically because of the harsh public opinion and inadequate educational background about their reproductive health .
WOMEN AND GIRLS BEING THE SPOTLIGHT OF STIGMA
Stigma can happen for a variety of reasons, including health conditions like HIV. We often think of stigma as judgment from other people, but sometimes we can internalize the feelings of others or society at large. Stigma refers to a negative idea or attitude towards a certain group. This can lead to discrimination, the action of treating one group differently than others. Self-stigma is when you have negative ideas or attitudes about yourself .
Self-stigma can make people feel ashamed or embarrassed. It can lead to low self-worth, poor self-esteem, and detract from self-efficacy, the belief that you can accomplish things. It can interfere with your ability to seek treatment for your condition or to take good care of yourself .
Although stigma among people with HIV/AIDS is very adamant in society, the discrimination and hate towards women and girls are particularly high. Studies also revealed that although stigma from society is already elevated, the self-stigma that these women and girls living with HIV are also concerningly at its peak.
People living with HIV can also hold negative beliefs about HIV and stigmatize themselves. For many women living with HIV, the stories we tell ourselves have more negative consequences than stigma from the outside .
Women living with HIV continue to experience HIV-related stigma. Women who felt less valued in their social worlds may have been more likely to perceive HIV stigma, which could have negative health consequences. This work begins to elucidate the possible relationships between social capital and perceived HIV stigma [10.]
IN WHAT WAYS CAN WE RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT HIV?
Spread Awareness. One like and share across your social media platforms can go a long way. By sharing your knowledge and providing information about causes and HIV prevention, we can all reach hundreds of people and help them gain awareness about HIV.
Provide Unwavering Support for Women and Girls Living with HIV/AIDS. A safe space for women and girls living with HIV will give more opportunities to lessen not just the social labeling that we have in society, but also the internalized stigma that these women are currently experiencing because of HIV.
Unclench the Stigma about Sex Education. Providing awareness is having an open mind about sex education. One of the many causes of HIV is the lack of knowledge that people have about it. This is also because sex education or sex in itself is continued to be seen as taboo in our society. To be able to take preventive measures, extending ample knowledge on sex education will help open topics about sex-generated diseases such as HIV and its prevention.
V’s OF MENTAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHS OF WOMEN.
Women play a significant role in communities and are considered the backbone of economic development . With widespread discrimination among women, their psychological well-being is at risk. Even their reproductive health has also been compromised due to prejudicial attitudes from the derogatory mindset of the society towards sexuality and gender.
From the expansion of these challenges, they provide us the opportunity to take action for these women and girls to address their concerns and promote their rights. We can empower women with their reproductive health and psychological wellness through the following actions:
Vocalizing. This includes promoting and understanding of mental and reproductive healths as essentials of women and young girls’ overall health. Enabling everyone to be informed about one’s health and choice is important and be aware that these are part of their rights which are meant to be respected, protected, and fulfilled.
Validating. Ensuring that all the people including women and young girls can enjoy the highest attainable standard of both sexual wellness and mental health. Through the utmost support and efforts to address cultural and social disparities that hinder them to receive such as fair treatment from society, getting right and proper intervention to their arising problems without holding discriminatory remarks.
Valuing. Recognizing the unique experiences of each woman and young girl as they encountered different faces of discrimination – definitely will remove all the inequities. This will amplify the promotion of a recovery-oriented and strengthen-based approach as treatment. It will bring appreciation to their lived experiences and strengthen their access to universal health as they seek professional/s help without shame and fear .
- How can we begin challenging and dismantling the stigma against HIV and Aids concerning women, in particular?
- How can we improve our awareness of HIV and its impact on the lives of Filipino women?
- How might we protect Filipinos who are HIV+ from stigma and discrimination?
- Post a message of solidarity for Filipino women and men who are living with HIV+
 Shastri, A. (2014). Gender inequality and women discrimination. IOSR Journal of Humanities and social science, 19(11), 27-30.
 Vigod, S. N., & Rochon, P. A. (2020). The impact of gender discrimination on a Woman’s Mental Health. EClinicalMedicine, 20.
 World Health Organization. (n.d.). HIV/AIDS. https://www.who.int/health-topics/hiv-aid
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (March, 2022). Ways of HIV can be transmitted. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/hiv-transmission/ways-people-get-hiv.
 HIV.gov (August, 2022). Global HIV/AIDS Overview. https://www.hiv.gov/federal-response/pepfar-global-aids/global-hiv-aids-overview/
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (November, 2022). Global Health – Philippines: CDC in Philippines. https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/countries/philippines/default.htm
 World Health Organization. (November, 2022). HIV. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids
 Burch, K. (March, 2022). What is Self-Stigma? VeryWell Mind. Self-Stigma: Signs and Effects of Internalized Stigma (verywellhealth.com)
 The Well Project. (November, 2021). Stigma and Discrimination Against Women Living with HIV. Stigma and Discrimination Against Women Living with HIV | The Well Project
 Cuca, Y. P., Asher, A., Okonsky, J., Kaihura, A., Dawson-Rose, C., & Webel, A. (2017). HIV stigma and social capital in women living with HIV. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 28(1), 45-54.
 Visser, M. (June, 2012). Women, HIV and Stigma. (PDF) Women, HIV and stigma (researchgate.net)
 Office of Women’s Health (n.d.). Action Steps for Improving Women’s Mental Health. http://adaiclearinghouse.net/downloads/Action-Steps-for-Improving-Womens-Mental-Health-23.pdf
 World Health Organization – Europe. (September, 2016). Action Plan for Sexual and Reproductive Health. https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/322275/Action-plan-sexual-reproductive-health.pdf