Drag queen leads fight against HIV stigma

CAUSE. Piayuuuh performs for a fundraising event by Angat Cebu BPO in partnership with AIDvocates and LoveYourself Cebu at the University of the Philippines Cebu Performing Arts Theater on April 2, 2023. / ANGAT CEBU BPO
CAUSE. Piayuuuh performs for a fundraising event by Angat Cebu BPO in partnership with AIDvocates and LoveYourself Cebu at the University of the Philippines Cebu Performing Arts Theater on April 2, 2023. / ANGAT CEBU BPO

Drag is a way to express one’s self. It’s an art form where artists combine fashion, makeup and acting skills to create captivating identities on stage. Led by “Drag Queens,” these performers not only bring glamour and sparkle to their performances but also serve as a source of motivation and resilience, leaving a lasting impact on their audience.

These queens fearlessly use their platform to challenge stereotypes, amplify voices and promote acceptance, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community.

One especially outstanding queen in Cebu City is Pia Labra, more commonly known as Piayuuuh. She does not only use drag as a means of self-expression but also to raise awareness about HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

She has always been an active advocate of HIV awareness, even before getting into drag. She is a member of AIDvocates, a group of young and experienced volunteers that advocate for the fight against HIV stigma.

Piayuuuh said that HIV awareness advocacy has always been her interest, especially being an LGBTQIA+ individual.

“It’s really my passion because for me, as part of the community (LGBTQIA+), I am aware that we are the most vulnerable group,” Piayuuuh said. Piayuuuh also said that she wanted to help since she knows many lack proper knowledge about safe sex and HIV.

“I want to do something... I want to help because I have many friends who are unfortunate to have the proper education. Because I know a lot, and I wanna share my knowledge with them, and I think that’s my calling,” said Piayuuuh.

Driven by personal experiences, Piayuuuh is passionate about advocating for HIV awareness. Having lost a friend to HIV and seen how unfairly people with the virus are treated, she is determined to help them fight and show them the empathy they deserve.


Before the pandemic, Piayuuuh and AIDvocates held free HIV testing and seminars on sex education, specifically “HIV 101,” in multiple communities. As an AIDvocates member, they accessed HIV case data from the Department of Health (DOH) to respond effectively and address affected individuals’ needs.

She has also done benefit shows with her drag, including a recent performance at Seda Ayala Center Cebu on Nov. 19, 2022. The event, which included performances by many other well-known Cebu drag queens, helped raise money to help continue AIDvocates goals.

Piayuuuh said that being able to perform as a drag queen and talk about her advocacy at the same time makes her even more determined to follow her passion.

“Using the platform as drag queens in promoting your advocacy is like hitting two birds with one stone, and I love it... It’s interconnected ‘cause I can still do my passion while doing my advocacy, doing both things I love, ” Piayuuuh said.

She also added that as a drag queen, she believes in the power and responsibility of her platform, recognizing that supporters view them as role models.

“Being a drag queen also has this responsibility... of course, you have fandoms, fans or supporters, and these fans will show up and listen to you... and if they know your supporting this cause, it will affect them, too,” Piayuuuh said.


Indeed, the importance of HIV awareness cannot be overstated, as it serves as a vital tool in addressing pertinent issues, combating stigma and equipping individuals with knowledge regarding their sexual health.

LoveYourself Cebu is a community-driven organization dedicated to creating a secure and supportive environment where people may access resources and services that protect their health and well-being. Notably, it has worked with drag queens in a variety of events for its cause.

According to Ralph Tamayo of LoveYourself Cebu, drag queens are of big help because they help support their objectives to reach each individual’s life.

“We believe in the ripples of positive change. Our Drag Queens...are also not only recipients of HIV awareness but also beacons and messengers of the cause in their own ways,” said Tamayo.

Tamayo also adds that local drag queens are effective in capturing people’s attention and spreading information in a creative manner.

“Through their performance, they are able to get the community’s attention for us to spread the necessary awareness and information about our advocacy,” Tamayo said.

The DOH’s most recent report from March 2023 indicates that Cebu City has the third-highest number of people diagnosed with HIV nationwide.

There were 231 cases, which is 11 percent of the total number of cases nationwide and three percent more than the total number of cases from January to March 2023.

With queens like Piayuuuh spearheading powerful HIV awareness efforts, the time has come for people to demonstrate their support and involvement in these events throughout Cebu and Central Visayas, considering how important these are today.


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