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  • The ULF Team

#IdeasPositiveRun6: Know the Science, Stop the Stigma


News reports show that the highest incidence of HIV occurs in young people between the ages of 15 to 24. As the most vulnerable sector of the population, the youth are the focus of many movements to stop the spread of the virus.

The Department of Health records at least 27 people being diagnosed positive with HIV in the Philippines every day. That adds up to more than 9,000 people per year. In the whole country, Iloilo has the highest number of HIV cases in West Visayas.

News reports show that the highest incidence of HIV occurs in young people between the ages of 15 to 24. As the most vulnerable sector of the population, the youth are the focus of many movements to stop the spread of the virus.


This is the battle cry of Team Dugong Bughaw, a group of students from University of the Philippines Visayas. The team is composed of Anjelou Estrella, Alexis Penetrante, Jasper Vijar, Geeza Vicencio, and Abigail Amon, with their mentor, Dr. Philip Ian Padilla. Together they sought to create a youth alliance, to increase awareness of HIV and to push for voluntary testing. For six months, the team visited different universities, rallying students to “know the science, and stop the stigma.”

For Alexis Penetrante, HIV is a serious topic. “Sabi nila, bakit daw HIV and AIDS ang advocacy namin. Ang sagot ko, ‘Bakit hindi?’ Since there is no cure, the best thing to do is to promote prevention among the youth. With proper knowledge, it is possible.”


On July 5, 2016, Team Dugong Bughaw made history, by gathering 1,500 youth from ten universities and colleges all over Iloilo. At the West Visayas University Cultural Center, the youth listened to informative talks, played interactive games, and heard a testimonial from a Person Living with HIV (PLHIV). The experience encouraged at least 30 students to try on-site voluntary testing.


Alexis recalls, “It was a struggle. We worked on this forum for eight weeks. All the late night meetings, pressure, group messages. Every day we were out from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, to maximize our time.”


On the same day, the team launched a five-day exhibit in SM Iloilo, showcasing photos, paintings, and poetry about HIV/AIDS. The participants came from the team’s ten partner universities. The exhibit was open to the public, to further spread the awareness on the virus.


20-year-old Jerrica Celendro was inspired by Team Dugong Bughaw. “I know about HIV/AIDS but I was passive about it,” Jerrica shared as she was waiting for the results of her test. “Mas naging confident ako to ask my friends kasi nagawa ko na siya. I felt that my friends should also do this.”


Supporting Team Dugong Bughaw is the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP). Roberto Figuracion, Jr., FPOP HIV Coordinator, applauds the team’s efforts. “Reaching different demographics is very important, because there are many out there who don’t know their HIV status, and they need help.”

Through “Project High Five,” Team Dugong Bughaw was able to increase the HIV awareness of over 10,000 youth in Iloilo City.


Alexis shares, the team never thought their project would be this big. “We started as friends and we just wanted to do something. We are finding something na bago naman para samin. In this journey, we learned many things not only about HIV, but about who we are. We are becoming better versions of ourselves. It’s not only for us; it’s for the whole Philippines.”


Team Dugong Bughaw is a National Finalist of Ideas Positive Run 6. This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun6 series, which documents the transformation of 13 communities through the innovative ideas of 13 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time.

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