MANILA, Philippines – Raymond Malinay-Lopez cried foul after a photo of him labeled as someone who has HIV circulated in Facebook early this month.
The viral photo, which was uploaded last July 4, had the logo of his school and the AIDS Society of the Philippines.
It included a warning that said he “has intentionally been spreading the HIV virus by permiscuos (promiscuous) sexual acts.”
The poster has been shared several times, with some users posting negative comments about Lopez.
Turning to the same website where he was victimized, Lopez posted a long status message on Facebook to fight back.
“What a strong accusation. I was so shocked, everyone is calling on my mobile. Hundreds of Facebook messages, phone messages telling me if it’s true. I saw the images and everyone sent me the link,” he said.
“No one deserves to have their name slandered over social media in that manner, and such hate speech ought to stop,” he added. “And of course, being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence, and there have been many advances in modern medicine to help people living with HIV.”
To finally clear the issue, Lopez posted a photo of a document from the Bernardo Social Hygiene Clinic in Quezon City showing that he does not have HIV.
The staff of the clinic also gamely posed for a photo with him.
Lopez also asked the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to look into the incident and find the person behind the poster so appropriate charges may be filed.
“Do not immediately believe anything you read or see on social media without trying to verify the facts first. Second, respect the rights of people living with HIV. If you’re concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS, exercise more caution and responsibility over what you post and share on your Facebook profile,” he said.
Meanwhile, the AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP) stressed that it is not responsible for the viral photo.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the organization said: “For all its supposed intents and purposes, the notice and whoever is behind it is a blatant attack on the ASP’s name and track record. The organization has remained and will always remain professional and genuinely committed with its HIV and AIDS prevention initiatives and is conscientious in its role and responsibility to protect the rights of all individuals.”
It added that it is undertaking an investigation on the incident.
Lopez is only one of the many Filipinos who were victims of cyberbullying.
Last year, law student Christopher Lao found himself at the receiving end of online insults after unwittingly driving his car into a flooded Manila street at the height of typhoon Kabayan’s onslaught. His experience was immortalized in a television news report which was posted on YouTube.
But instead of hiding in the corner, Lao fought back and starred in a car insurance commercial which featured a parody of his experience.
On top of this, he passed the 2011 Bar Exams.
Anyone can fall prey to cyberbullying, even celebrities. Among them are Claudine Barretto, who has been attacked by a Twitter user who claimed to be fellow actress Bea Alonzo. Angel Locsin and Maja Salvador have also been victims of identity theft.
A US study showed that cyberbullying causes more depression than physical beatings or name-calling.