LoveYourself launches ‘Balay Marvi’

LoveYourself’s global ambassador — Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray — led the grand opening of “Balay Marvi,” a community center offering holistic care to people to protect themselves against HIV.

Gray said that there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding HIV, hence, “what we want to do is to really empower the community.”

She also highlighted the importance of having a safe space where people can access HIV and sexual health services in Baguio City.

On the vital role government plays, Gray also urged the local government units to continue supporting the advocacy and communities working for it because it’s something the community urgently needs.

“Hopefully, our surrounding regions, who maybe don’t have this type of community center, can really look at Baguio City as one of the shining examples of how it can be replicated, how it can be done, and how the community can really be reached,” Gray said.

Baguio City district representative Mark Go and city councilor Levy Orcales also graced the launch ceremonies held on the 9th of October at Azalea Hotel and Residences.

“We decided that there should be a localized version of our HIV and AIDS Law,” recognizing a differentiated approach to combat the epidemic. He also said, “We are trying to convert all youth centers in the City of Baguio as safe spaces in the barangay levels,” said Orcales, adding that there are 129 barangays in the City.

Go, on the other hand, offered assistance to thrust new laws at the national level that would ensure the effective implementation of HIV programs in the country. Meanwhile, the Department of Health-Cordillera Administrative Region’s representative Cherrie Caluza also aired the agency’s support for Balay Marvi and the community’s efforts to address the HIV situation.

“We observed that many clients from northern provinces go down south in Metro Manila to seek care and support, and this is something we want to address — to provide northern Luzon clients access to sexual health services, and a community that is considered a safe space for them,” said LoveYourself founder and executive director Ronivin Pagtakhan.

As one of the country’s leading community organizations for differentiated sexual health services, LoveYourself offers innovations in the HIV advocacy, especially the country’s first WHO pre-qualified HIV self-test kit, ‘SelfCare.’ The group also highlighted the availability of another layer of HIV prevention called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, a daily pill taken by an HIV-negative person to protect themselves against the virus.

Being a one-stop shop, Balay Marvi provides differentiated testing approaches, multiple prevention methods, and treatment, support and care. Passers-by can also get free condoms and lube.

The Balay Marvi was named after its long-time supporter and partner, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. deputy executive director Marvi Trudeau. The first-ever LoveYourself Diamond Award was conferred to her for her unwavering support of the group and passion for helping the advocacy.

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