NEW YORK - Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach received an award at the Apicha Community Health Center’s benefit gala in New York for lending her voice and highlighting the medical needs of the LGBTQ community, especially for people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
Apicha's "A Thousand and One Champions Gala" recognizes the exemplary work of individuals who are champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"I'm still learning. I'm not an expert on this even though I am Miss Universe. I have a voice and people are listening to me," Wurtzbach said. "I'm very grateful that they chose me. I know that I'll be able to do that job they've entrusted me with."
Transgender Filipina Geena Rocero was also recognized for her advocacy on transgender rights and equality.
"I am so honored to be here. I think it's been a moment of visibility for the Trans community and to have this recognition is something I truly appreciate, and it just allowed me to do more work," Rocero said.
Formerly named the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, it opened its doors as a basic HIV/AIDS clinic in 2000 that provided prevention and medical services for the LGBTQ community in the Big Apple.
It was recently designated a federally qualified health center for their innovative programs that serve hard to reach populations.
With HIV/AIDS cases on the rise in the Philippines, Wurtzbach said she hopes services like the ones from Apicha can be replicated back home.
"Sana pagbalik ko meron akong pagbabago na magagawa. Bilang beauty queen, lalo na pag Miss Universe, yun na yung regalo ko sa kanila, na-pag-uwi merong pagbabago magagawa. I don't have to be in politics or in power," Wurtzbach said.
Therese Rodriguez, CEO of Apicha, recognizes Wurtzbach's influence to improve HIV/AIDS awareness in the Philippines.
"She wants to develop and become an advocate for HIV especially in the Philippines, and be able to work there with folks who cannot only deal with the medical issues but also with the stigma,” Rodriguez said. "I think she is preparing to use the power of her celebrity for a very important cause."
The money raised at the benefit gala will help fund Apicha's life-saving HIV/AIDS programs.
With capital funding from the Big Apple’s State Department of Health and the New York City Economic Development Corp., Apicha’s dream of building a second site in Queens could become a reality in 2017.
Read more on Balitang America: