Girl power for HIV awareness: Drag queens, Belmonte’s initiative to fight HIV

February 27, 2023 - 5:43 PM
Photo of the performance of NAIA and Minty Fresh at the Festival of Luv event at The Pop Up in Katipunan on February 25, 2023 (Catalina Ricci Madarang/Interaksyon)

Filipino drag queens and a city chief executive joined hands in an initiative to stop the HIV epidemic in the country.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte and popular Filipino drag performers expressed their shared advocacy during an event that aims to spread HIV awareness called “Festival of Luv” last Saturday, February 25.

The Festival of Luv was organized in partnership with the Department of Health’s (DOH) Healthy Pilipinas and the “FREE TO BE U” campaign at The Pop Up along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

‘Zero At 2030’

In her speech that night, Belmonte hailed the city’s goal to have no detected HIV cases by 2030 in a movement called “Zero At 2030.”

She noted that this was first launched in 2019. Efforts, however, were stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was then re-launched in December 2022 as a project called “Tayo ang Solusyon.”

“We are now encouraging you and you and everyone in this room to be part of the solution to end HIV by the year 2030 here in QC and in our entire country,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte also emphasized the city’s commitment to the ‘95-95-95’ strategy for people living with HIV (PLIV).

It is the strategy that EpiC launched that means 95% should know their status, 95% should get treatment if they tested positive for the virus and 95% of PLHIV should have suppressed viral loads.

Moreover, Belmonte also expressed her call to pass the SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression) Equality Bill.

“There is really no reason why we should not be passing this SOGIE Equality Bill,” she said.

“I think people have accepted that we have the right to love whomever we want. Life is too short to be hiding behind a persona that is not our true selves,” the city chief executive further stated.

RELATED: PSA: App for HIV testing, health care services can now be accessed amid COVID-19 pandemic 

From the drag queens

Jiggly Caliente, the former judge of season one of “Drag Race Philippines,” said that getting HIV tests is the first step to breaking the stigma of the virus.

“It’s really super important that we all have knowledge. And what I mean about that is please get tested and know your status. That is the very first and most important thing you can do to fight and end the stigma of HIV and AIDS, is knowledge,” Jiggly said.

“HIV and AIDS are no longer the death sentence that used to be in the 80s. With proper care and medication, you can live a fruitful and thriving life,” she added.

Prince Marell and Viñas Deluxe of “Drag Race Philippines” Season 1 and Shewarma of  “Drag Den Philippines” Season 1 also encouraged the audience to avail of the free HIV tests being offered at the festival.

The following drag queens performed at the event to show solidarity for the HIV awareness cause:

  • Myx Chanel
  • Corazon Filipinas
  • Minty Fresh
  • NAIA
  • Jiggly Caliente
  • Viñas Deluxe
  • Shewarma
  • Prince Marell

The “FREE TO BE U” campaign, meanwhile, is an HIV awareness campaign in the Philippines that was launched in 2022 by a global project funded by the United States—the Meeting Targets and Maintaining HIV Epidemic Control (EPIC).

The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.