Years after Miss U reign, Pia Wurtzbach’s HIV advocacy lives on
Karla Rule (The Freeman) - July 21, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach may have already turned over her much-celebrated Miss Universe crown, but the beauty queen only passed on her title and not the heart to serve.

After her momentous win in 2015, Pia has remained among the country’s most prominent beauty icons, endearing herself not only to pageant fans, but also charming people from all walks of life. She is still as determined to use her platform in raising awareness on important matters, and not long ago was in Cebu to champion a cause that’s close to her heart.

Pia was in Cebu to celebrate the eighth founding anniversary of LoveYourself, a community of volunteers that aims to propagate ideas, attitudes, and practices that encourage loving oneself by daring, caring, and sharing oneself as a way to multiply joy. The organization, which is centered on the HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome) awareness advocacy, began in 2011 through founders Ronivin Pagtakhan and Christopher Lagman.

In their mission of creating safe spaces for those with HIV, LoveYourself provides free and confidential HIV testing and treatment, as well as education, counseling and life coaching. There are six community centers in the country, and currently one in Cebu. The LoveYourself White House, which was soft-launched last April, is a cozy safe haven located at 40 Don Julio Llorente St., Cebu City. It is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 12 noon to 9 p.m.

As one of its ambassadors (along with reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray), Pia took the time from her busy schedule to grace the LoveYourself Cebu White House official launch and the center’s fundraising event dubbed ETUF: Cebu’s Premier Fashion Auction last July 6. Appearing with an arm cast, Pia came straight from a shoot of her upcoming movie with Vhong Navarro under ABS-CBN Films’ Black Sheep Productions. In the still-untitled dark comedy, Pia reportedly plays a psycho girlfriend.

In a press conference at the LoveYourself White House, Pia, a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, talked about the rising number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country. According to the Department of Health, almost 40 people are diagnosed each day.

Pia said that more people must be getting tested for the DOH to have these numbers. At the very least, more and more people are overcoming the stigma on HIV/AIDS and prioritizing their health.

“I feel like more people are getting themselves tested. At least we know who are the ones living with HIV/AIDS and give them proper treatment. There are still a lot of people who need to know about HIV and what they can do to protect themselves,” she said.

“We need to continue talking about this advocacy, encourage people to get themselves tested to lead them to proper, consistent treatment.”

She first learned about LoveYourself in 2016 from King of Talk Boy Abunda. As the reigning Miss Universe that time, she found people willing to shell out funds for certain causes and was in search for the right organizations.

“I met everyone and I voiced out the campaigns that I wanted to do. I wanted to get involved and I’m glad our relationship has continued even after I passed on the crown. I’m here not because people expect me to or because it’s part of my job. It’s a nice feeling, doing it because I want to.”

Pia encouraged others to volunteer to causes they feel strongly about. “Try to volunteer. If you feel passionate about something, try it (volunteering). It starts there. You’re giving your time and lending a hand. It creates ripples of effects,” she said.

During the fashion auction, Pia walked down the runway twice, dressed in Harley Ruedas and Lorenzo Ceniza. She also gave a speech, explaining how “etuf,” the local gay lingo for the color white, is related to the HIV/AIDS advocacy. She said that the evening of fashion and advocacy is a metaphor for purity which can be reached through the joint efforts to rid the community with HIV/AIDS and the stigma that comes with it.

“I am blessed with the opportunity to be part of an event that combines my passion for fashion and ardent drive to continue what I have started with the HIV advocacy. As we come together, the different colors of our beliefs blend in to emit nothing but brightness to achieve a common goal,” said Pia.

The gowns for auction, put together by Cebuano fashion designers, were also donned by Queen Cebu-Universe 2011 Bee Urgello and Cebuana singer-songwriter and LoveYourself ambassador Karencitta. Proceeds will go to LoveYourself’s HIV causes in Cebu.

“Life doesn’t end after HIV, because effective treatment works and they can live their lives to the fullest,” Pia said. “Let the white surroundings remind us of the blank pages that we intend to fill with nothing but successful stories and list of achieved goals.”

PIA WURTZBACH
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