Group empowers LGBTQ+ community

Group empowers LGBTQ+ community
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WHAT started as a dream has now reached hundreds of people, particulalry in the LGBTQ+ community. It now serves as an instrument to empower, educate and heighten awareness of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Magdalena Robinson, founder and executive director of Cebu United Rainbow LGBTQ+ Sector (Curls) Inc., initiated a movement aimed at supporting not only transwomen but also promoting inclusivity for all genders, advocating for equality and non-discrimination.

The Cebu-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) has successfully reached around 590 LGBTQ+ members from January to May through their outreach programs in various barangays of Cebu City, providing testing and screening services.

Syndy Ann Sulla, project officer-in-charge of Curls Inc., told SunStar Cebu in an interview on Saturday, June 8, 2024, that the health initiatives they are doing are meant to heighten awareness of HIV among people in the community.

Information dissemination

“Information dissemination is one of the things we could offer to them because this is part of the preventive tool that we are promoting, HIV 101. By then they will be equipped with the right knowledge,” said Sulla in a mix of English and Cebuano.

Sulla said that part of their free services is giving out HIV pouches with condoms and lubes. The organization, following the guidelines from the Department of Health, offers pre-exposure prophylaxis to reactive patients.

Meanwhile, during HIV testing programs conducted by Curls Inc., the group also incorporate discussions about mental health and Sogie 101 to promote inclusivity.

“We do not limit ourselves to HIV 101 alone, but we have so much to offer to the community,” said Sulla.

Way back in 2019, Curls Inc. was given the opportunity to become a community center and established “Vibes,” which stands for visibility, inclusion, well-being, rights empowerment and sectoral strengthening.

Sulla stressed that the organization is “no longer focused on the advocacy itself” but on the betterment of the LGBTQ+ community.

From 1984 to March 2024, according to the latest data released by the HIV and AIDS Registry of the Philippines, Central Visayas has recorded over 10,522 diagnosed HIV patients.

Advocacy

Over the years Curls Inc. has built trust with their clients as it fosters trust and confidentiality.

The Curls Inc. clinic and headquarters are located in Barangay Suba, Cebu City.

Sulla believes the barangay is an “ideal place” because it is home to a thriving LGBTQ+ community.

“We provide services to our LGBTQ+ members, and we have a reason why we established at Barangay Suba. One factor is the number of LGBTQ+ individuals here and they are already familiar with the clinic,” said Sulla.

The key population identifies three categories: men who have sex with men, transgender women and young key population.

“The community knows our function as an NGO. We are here to help those sectors. That is why our work should be a safe haven for the community,” said Sulla.

“With proper awareness, with all the preventive availabilities at present because I can compare it when I was a teenager when I didn’t know enough about HIV, but now we have social media. People are very vocal,” she added. / DPC

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