Communities In Action: Rainbow Relief Response for PLHIV and LGBTIQ Communities in the Philippines

By Marmeelyn E. Sinocruz – Friday, October 21, 2020

Cebu, Philippines: Young advocates from Bisdak Pride Inc., providing relief packs and community-based HIV screening to key affected populations. They targeted hard-to-reach rural communities in their locality.

This year, the world was hit by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic–affecting millions of people around the world, and sparing almost no country in the process. With this pandemic affecting jobs, income, livelihood, transportation, and overall way of living, several marginalized communities have been in need of our responses.

Last April 2020, Youth Voices Count initiated Rainbow Relief response which contains relief packs in the midst of the CoVid-19 pandemic in the Philippines to help affected communities in the midst of the pandemic. Ending last June 2020, the first wave of the pandemic response supported communities in four (4) cities–Quezon City, Iloilo City, Roxas City, and Tacloban city.

As of writing, the Philippines has now entered the top 20 worldwide tally in terms of new CoVid-19 cases, with the country now topping the number of cases in Southeast Asia. With this in mind, Youth Voices Count has launched the Rainbow Relief Response to help the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTIQ communities in the Philippines.

RAINBOW RELIEF RESPONSE

Continuing with its first pandemic initiative, Youth Voices Count, through the Rainbow Relief Response, aims to support the PLHIV and LGBTIQ community in more cities and areas in the Philippines that are in need of help. Funded by Frontline AIDS, the second version of the Rainbow Relief Response seeks to help a total of 350 individuals from different locations in the Philippines

Due to this, Youth Voices Count has targeted the following areas based on the capacity of their partner organizations: Western Visayas (mainly Roxas City, Iloilo City, and Bacolod City),Central Visayas (focusing on Cebu City and Cebu Province),Ilocos Sur in Northern Luzon,Zamboanga and Davao from the island of Mindanao, and the National Capital Region in Luzon with the focus primarily on Quezon City.

Bacolod City, Philippines: Youth leaders from Tribu Duag, a youth-led LGBTIQ organization, preparing masks and PPEs for distribution.

HELPING HAND

With the Philippines experiencing one of the world’s longest lockdowns, essential relief packs have been distributed by several organizations to help the marginalized communities. However, in a recent study by Youth Voices Count through online discussions, a growing number of members turned out to be in need of sanitary products such as pads/napkins, condoms, and lubricants, to name a few–things that are not really accessible even in the aforementioned relief packs that have been distributed.

Adding to this, some members are also in need of transportation and communication allowances to access antiretroviral drugs for PLHIV. Sans the issue with transportation and communication, financial and economical issues affecting Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and those who are living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) during this time is mainly caused by several factors including, but not limited to: 1) businesses closing down; 2) employment opportunities halting; and 3) ongoing self-financed opportunities being discouraged due to different Community Quarantine guidelines of the Philippine government, affecting majority of the archipelagic nation.

Cebu, Philippines: Bisdak Pride, Inc. provided community based screening to key populations, such as transgender women, in Olango Island, Mactan, Cebu. They were provided condoms, lubricants, and COVID-19 hygiene kits.
Since March 2020, strict lockdowns have been in effect in the majority of the country, hence, those who may need to travel a significant distance to access SRHR services, including STI/STD testing, ARVs, hormone therapy, and others, were and are still prohibited from doing so. If not being prohibited, they are almost guaranteed to have a hard time in crossing boundaries of different cities and provinces due to the ongoing rules and regulations.

PARTNERS FOR THE CAUSE

Because of the aforementioned conditions affecting LGBTIQ and PLHIV youth in the country, Youth Voices Count has partnered with the following organizations which work with these communities: 1) Family Planning Organization of the Philippines – Iloilo/ Rajah Community Center; 2) Team Dugong Bughaw; 3) Y-Cap for SRHR; 4) Tribu Duag; 5) Bisdak Pride / Atma Prema; 6) Gaynitiative.PH; 7) Pinoy Plus Advocacy Pilipinas, Inc. / GLOBE (Genuine, Leadership, Outstanding, Behavioural Education); 8) HASH – HIV & AIDS Support House, Inc.; 9) Mindanao Pride; 10) Candon Youth For Empowerment Movement, Inc.; and 11) Pioneer FTM.
Candon, Ilocos Sur: LGBTIQ and PLHIV communities were given relief packs containing essential food items, sanitary kits, and vitamins. The Candon Youth For Empowerment Movement, Inc. is also hosting online discussions on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
The program aims to address the current situation through the partnerships with different organizations in the country. With this targeted partnership and beneficiaries, there is hope that the intervention will be able to alleviate some of the burdens of the previously mentioned sectors of the country. Hence, Youth Voices Count is focusing on something that generic humanitarian aids have not given importance to–sexual and reproductive health for everyone, especially the key affected populations.

EXPERIENCES ON THE GROUND

Roxas City, Capiz: With the leadership of Y-Cap for SRHR, Young LGBTIQ students from the locality were provided relief packs and  communication support to facilitate easier connectivity for their online classes.

Our partners have begun consolidating and implementing their projects in various parts of the Philippines. In the initial month of implementation, we see that our partners have developed engagement plans with PLHIV and LGBTIQ communities to provide relief packs and other immediate needs of affected groups, scheduled community based screening and testing with far flung villages in their locality, and organized small learning sessions with communities to educate the on HIV/AIDS prevention.

In their first month of implementation, our partner organizations are on various levels of engagements with some utilizing existing civil society networks and partnerships to identify communities most in need. Others are  also utilized this time to learn more of the present needs of the beneficiary communities through community-led surveys and consultations. The partners are also careful to maintain the required health protocols and standards required by officials. They are ensuring that the financial support provided by Frontline AIDS and Youth Voices Count benefits the right communities.

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