MANILA – Pia Wurtzbach strengthens her advocacy on HIV/AIDS awareness with her new role as UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific.
Ever since she was crowned Miss Universe in 2015, Wurtzbach has been reminding the public to get tested for HIV to avoid putting people at risk.
The beauty queen has also raised millions of pesos during her reign to help patients suffering from the disease.
Stepping up her efforts, Wurtzbach now appeals to lower the age of consent for HIV testing, saying that it is important to adapt to changing times.
At present, those who are 18 years old and below cannot get tested for HIV in the Philippines without parental guidance. Wurtzbach noted that the policy has been discouraging teenagers from availing of the service and this can put them at risk.
“From 18, the next one would be 16. If they can lower it to 15, puwede. If it’s pushing too far with 15, then 16,” she told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday.
“A lot of teenagers have sex nowadays, but it’s like an unspoken thing, you know? We have to adjust accordingly to what’s going on in the real world. The law has to adjust to it.”
Wurtzbach is set to have her second public HIV test in Manila sometime this year. She first got tested in New York in June last year.
The Miss Universe 2015 titleholder also intends to continue using her social media accounts to increase awareness on HIV/AIDS among her more than four million followers, specifically targeting the youth.
“Definitely I’ll be using a lot of my social media to bring the message out because it’s the easiest way for me to communicate. If there are invitations to talk or to visit, we welcome that. Not just in the Philippines, but all over Asia Pacific,” she said.
“We [at UNAIDS] were talking about how alarming the numbers were in Indonesia and how we frequent Thailand also. I was just thinking of going there, I’m thinking of ways to inject this work throughout my travels,” she added.
Here are some excerpts from Wurtzbach’s one-on-one interview with ABS-CBN News:
ON HOW HER ADVOCACY STARTED
“It started when I was a Binibini, when I was Miss Universe Philippines. I was invited to meet people with HIV/AIDS. I myself didn’t know much about HIV or AIDS, just like a lot of people my age living here in the Philippines. I was curious as to why people were hesitant to talk about it, and why others don’t want to meet people with HIV/AIDS. There must be a reason why they invited us here.
“I realized that there is no reason for me to be afraid. I shouldn’t feel that I shouldn’t communicate with them, that I shouldn’t be with them physically, and I find it so bizarre how so many people don’t know. All it took was for me to Google it.”
ON BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE
“Am I not supposed to say HIV? Is that a bad word? Am I swearing if I say the word AIDS? It’s real, why should I be careful about it? I think it’s being hypocritical if I filter myself just to please other people who have an opinion on how a beauty queen should act. I mean, that’s the reason why they give us a microphone during Q&A. We answer questions. Not everything is answered by a smile and ‘world peace.’”
ON TAKING THINGS ONE STEP AT A TIME
“I don’t want to overwhelm people with information. The first thing I want to share out there is, number one, you need to get yourself tested. I won’t try to complicate things and give them a rundown on what HIV is and what it means. This is information you can check yourself. But I urge everyone to get tested, just like I did.”
ON HER FIRST HIV TEST
“When I got myself tested, I put myself in the position of other people. I now understand why they’re scared. It’s a little bit scary to wait for the results, even if I was quite sure what my result is going to be. [So if you’re scared] Why not bring a friend with you? Why don’t you bring your partner with you? You make it something fun.”
ON GETTING TREATMENT
“In case you do have it, you can get treatment for it and live a normal life. But some people don’t know that and they tend to isolate themselves because they’re scared. If you just have the right facts and the right people to take care of you, you can live a normal life. You could still go on with your career. You could still be in a relationship. You can just be like everybody else.”
“It also helps when you get treatment because it will make the statistics more accurate. Right now, we don’t know the real numbers because many people do not want to open up.”
ON HIV/AIDS MISCONCEPTIONS
“You don’t just get it through sexual contact. You also get it through sharing of needles, from recreational drugs and from getting tattoos.
“HIV testing is easy. It’s quick, you can get the results right away. It’s discreet, the people who are working in health care have vowed to secrecy so you can rest assured na walang mga chismis diyan.
“Say your reason is, ‘but I only have one partner and I’m pretty sure that I won’t get it.’ But how are you so sure that your partner only has you? I mean, I’m not saying doubt your partner, but just to be safe, di ba? You could be taking care of yourself but what if your partner is not taking care of himself or herself? The symptoms won’t show right away. Sometimes it will take six months.”