When the local franchise of RuPaul’s Drag Race was launched last year in the Philippines, it was well received by a loyal niche of followers and has paved the way for the popularity of our best local drag queens.
It was very evident not just with the successful viewership on its streaming platforms but also with its sold-out shows in bars and even in bigger concert venues. The rave and hype then were solidified by the launching of Drag Den PH, also a local reality TV show that featured some of our best local drag queens as well.
Ever since they got a huge spotlight in the mainstream media, the queens became more visible at events such as university fairs, brunch shows, and even ribbon-cutting ceremonies of some businesses. And as expected, they would draw crowds of youth (mostly learned and woke millennials and Gen Z’s in our observation) who loves to see them perform live in the flesh.
On the evening of February 25, in a food park in Quezon City, the queens’ fame and charms were
used for a greater cause.
Saturday night is usually the youth’s time for night outs, so it was a very strategic time for an NGO like Free To Be U to set up an event that campaigns to end the ongoing spread of HIV here in our country.
The live program featured talks and discussions on how to deal with HIV infection, moreover how to end the existing epidemic by promoting safe sex and regular testing. They also mounted a booth for free HIV testing for those who want to get themselves tested.
‘Mga Misis! Magpa-test na tayo!’
As you can hear, the event was top-billed by one of Drag Race Philippines’ “sexiest” alumni
Viñas DeLuxe. Along with her was the ever “maganda” Minty Fresh, who redid her signature
Ariana Grande number. She did an explosive duet with Drag Den’s gorgeous supreme NAIA
Joining them on rocking the stage were Shewarma, Corazon Filipinas, Prince, and Myx Chanel. Every queen would quip a short message after each of their performances, encouraging the crowd to take full advantage of the free testing in their testing booth.
‘End the Stigma. Get tested and be secured’
In between the two sets of powerful drag performances, there was a panel discussion on HIV
awareness participated by representatives from different NGOs and support group that caters
to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
The speakers and discussers shared their personal experiences on how to deal with HIV diagnosis, such as having a solid support system from your family and close friends and how to properly reach out to those people who are having a difficult mental health state upon learning that they are HIV positive. There were also medical experts that encouraged everyone to always engage in safe sex by using condoms and taking PrEP medicines to further stop the possible transmission of the virus.
‘HIV/AIDS is not LGBTQ+ exclusive’
Despite the existing data that PLWHA are mostly gay men and transgender women, it was also
emphasized in the colloquy that everyone can be infected with the disease regardless of your
gender identity and sexual orientation.
The panel also reiterated that in recent years, people getting infected are from the younger age bracket, including teens. In one of the discussions, it was also mentioned that this is the era when sexually transmitted diseases like HIV are very easy to contract due to our easy access to social media and online dating apps.
Hence, engaging with casual sex is easier than ever, and rapid HIV transmission is inevitable. Given
these facts and figures on hand, the experts are putting stress on the current HIV epidemic as
something that is urgent and should be addressed immediately.
Contributor’s take: Public health in general should be a government’s priority.
It has always been very nice to see and attend this kind of event that aims to promote public
health safety. Especially if it’s about HIV/AIDS, which remains to be incurable and can still be
lethal if not discovered early. But despite this seemingly impending huge threat to Filipinos’
health, these NGOs and support groups can only do so much. Their efforts are still dependent
on little funding, mostly from donors and small income-generating activities. At this point, as
we are trying to resolve this public health concern, it is very important that we should get
huge support from our government on a national scale.
Support, meaning financial backing from our own taxes since it concerns our own citizens. It would be ideal if we had more free HIV testing centers that are more accessible to every Filipino, both from urban and rural settings and a free treatment facility for those who were a bit unlucky to contract it.
It is the government’s responsibility to respond to each and every issue that our health and medical sector is facing, and that includes the current HIV epidemic. Our country would be a better place if we were able to stop the stigma and everyone feels secure in their own health.
About the Author
Arci Formales is an award-winning Filipino writer and journalist from the News and Public Affairs department of GMA Network. She has been working in the media for more than a decade and has handled programs with different formats, such as food documentaries, daily newscasts, investigative reports, and even podcasts, making her versatile and well-rounded as a media practitioner. She has won a number of prestigious local and international awards because of her passion for producing socially relevant documentaries, including the highly coveted Gold Medal award at the New York Festivals and the very rare Cannes Corporate TV & Media Awards.