DAGUPAN CITY – The city of Dagupan joined the nation in celebrating World AIDS Day on December 1 with the holding of True Colours Ball 2018 at the Senior Citizens Recreational Center at the City Plaza.

The program was a joint effort made by the city government through the City Health Office, and the Department of Health and the Center of Health Development I.

The True Colours Ball was a different take on this year’s World AIDS day as it was filled with activities designed to catch the attention of groups more likely to be vulnerable to the virus. This provided an opportunity to effectively increase their awareness through information dissemination.

At least 150 representatives from every barangay and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community attended the event which marked the 30th Anniversary of the World AIDS Day.

Also present were Mayor Belen T. Fernandez, Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation President Joshua Bugayong, Civil Registry Office Head Marrien Mejia and other members from SK, CHO and DOH.

The program was kicked off with a lecture on Trends in HIV/AIDS given by DOH Certified HIV Counselor and HIV CBS Provider and Advocate Raymark Perreras.

Activities such as Hair and Make-up contest, Miss Q and A Dagupan 2018, a raffle draw and games were held after the lecture.

As an intervention, free HIV counselling and testing was also made available in the course of the program.

With the theme: “Get Tested… Know your status”, the celebration encouraged Dagupeños to take a proactive stance against HIV/AIDS by knowing their statuses through HIV tests, especially with the rising number of AIDS cases in the country.

According to the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), as many as 32 Filipinos are diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome every day in 2018.

At this rate, the number of Filipinos living the AIDS pandemic will exceed a quarter of a million by 2030 unless steps are to be taken.

There have been 65 cases of HIV/AIDS recorded from 1984 to June 2018 in Dagupan alone, according to City Health Officer Dr. Ophelia T. Rivera.

Rivera underscored the need for those possibly at risk to know their status in order to help them determine what measures they should take upon knowing whether or not they contracted HIV/AIDS.

“Huwag po kayo matatakot magpa-test. Wala naman masama, at mas maganda kung maaga malaman yung status so that you can delay the progression (through antiretroviral therapy) if you have contracted HIV/AIDS,” added Dr. Rivera.

She also said that free HIV counselling and testing are readily available at the City Health Office, with each case to be treated with utmost confidentiality in consonance with the law.

The observance of the World AIDS Day through this year’s True Colours Ball was part of one of the many activities undertaken that kicked off the 2018 Dagupan City Fiesta this December. (Verdelle De Vera/CIO)