Communities take action against stigma and discrimination
(Press release by TLF Share Collective for the CARE Program Launch, May 20, 2021)
When Red (not his real name) was diagnosed HIV positive in 2018, he realized he needed many adjustments and changes in his life. Red filed a leave of absence at work for some away time and self-care. When he was about to resume his work, his company was not willing to let him report back. His HIV diagnosis was disclosed to company personnel and he was discriminated. He was even asked not to join the company’s Christmas party.
Red’s case is not an isolated one. Many people living with HIV (PLHIV) are left jobless once their HIV status is disclosed. Legal remedies are available but the lengthy process and the cost involved deter PLHIV who have been stigmatized and discriminated from pursuing a case. In Red’s experience, he filed a case against his company with the help of his HIV treatment hub and Pinoy Plus, a PLHIV support group for Filipinos. After a lengthy proceeding, the National Labor Relations Commission ruled in Red’s favor and his former company was directed to grant him the benefits he deserved.
Stigma and discrimination also affect men who have sex with males (MSM) and transgender women (TG). Many choose to remain silent not because they fear of the legal barriers should they decide to pursue a case; they remain silent because they feel that their experiences are inconsequential. “Marami sa amin sa MSM and TG community ipinagwawalang bahala na lang ang discrimination. Para sa iba, may mas importanteng bagay kaysa sa aming dignidad at karapatang pantao,” laments Rolando Rivac of Dangal Pilipinas MSM and TG Network.
Ending stigma and discrimination requires communities affected by HIV to stand up and speak out. To help the communities, TLF Share, a non-governmental organization that sits as member of the Philippine National AIDS Council, launched the Community Access to Redress and Empowerment (CARE) Program, which will provide information and assistance to access legal and redress mechanisms. Currently, the program is assisting four cases of stigma and discrimination, three of which are labor cases, and one involves physical threats.
Obtaining justice may be a long and difficult process but it can be done. Red encourages his fellow PLHIV who have experienced stigma and discrimination, “Kung tayo ay nakaranas ng diskriminasyon, wag tayong mahiya. I-report natin dahil may tutulong sa atin at makikinig.”
“Panawagan namin sa aming mga kasama, may CARE Program na. Huwag mahiya o matakot dahil may mga taong handang tumulong sa atin. Sama-sama tayo para sa isang ligtas na lipunan para sa ating mga PLHIV at persons with diverse SOGIE,” Rivac quips in support.