HIV/AIDS is a scary subject to tackle, especially among the youth. It’s so taboo that it’s merely viewed as something dirty and should be avoided at all costs. But in reality, global statistics show that around 18.2 million people were diagnosed as of June 2016; 1.8 million of them are children below 15 years old.
This is what The Red Whistle Organization wants to change with their #TogetherPH campaign. According to photographer and co-founder Niccolo Cosme, they created educational materials such as a heartwarming video directed by Rhadem Morados. It features celebrity ambassadors like Regine Velasquez, JC Santos, and Katarina Rodriguez reading out experiences from people afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
The testimonies are saddening and you can feel how isolated these people felt. That people, including loved ones, treated them like they had a plague instead of supporting them.
“We just wanted to show relationships because there’s a study that campaigns that focus on relationships actually work. It’s very relatable,” Niccolo tells us.
Likewise, celebrity ambassador Dionne Monsanto put into perspective how we shouldn’t ostracize people suffering from HIV/AIDS. “HIV and sex education are topics that we don’t really discuss, but should be tackled, she says. “This also reminds those who were diagnosed that this is not a fight they should [face] alone.”
The Red Whistle also created posters which will be given out to establishments like clinics and gyms. Niccolo says that they’re made with colorful and fun designs like emojis and puzzles, and also features the ambassadors to attract the attention of various people.
The organization also partnered with Save The Children to get their advocacy across schools. However, this is tricky especially with the government’s constant disapproval of sex education. Dionne says that schools should be open to it to make kids more aware early of what to do and what not to do. “You’re not going to teach kids sex positions…It’s imminent that they’ll learn of these things sooner or later, so why not start now?”
Going back to the daunting numbers above, the need for sex ed and awareness should definitely be top priority.
So far, The Red Whistle has offered free testing and awareness education in Zamboanga, Cagayan De Oro, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Davao, and Marikina. Next week, in Boracay.
“There’s a cumulative number of 30,000 youth who are educated [on the topic of HIV] and more than 4,000 are tested,” Niccolo says.
If you want to support the #TogetherPH campaign, as well as other projects under The Red Whistle, you can check their website on how to volunteer. You can also buy shirts on Zalora in which a portion will go to the organization.