July 25, 2024

Love Yourself’s global ambassador – Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, led the grand opening of Balay Marvi, a community center offering holistic care to people to protect themselves against HIV.
Gray shared there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding HIV hence the need to have a “safe space” where people can access HIV and sexual health services in Baguio City.
“Hopefully, surrounding regions that don’t have this type of community center can look at Baguio City as one of the examples of how it can be replicated, how it can be done, and how the community can really be reached,” Gray said.
Rep. Mark Go and Councilor Levy Orcales, who also attended the launch ceremonies last Oct. 9 at the Azalea Hotel and Residences, also expressed support.
Orcales said apart from the city council’s plan of having a localized version of the HIV and AIDS Law, the Sangguniang Kabataan is also planning to convert all youth centers in Baguio as safe spaces at the barangay level.
Go, on the other hand, offered assistance to thrust new laws at the national level that would ensure the effective implementation of HIV programs in the country.
The Department of Health-Cordillera through its representative Cherrie Caluza also aired the agency’s support for Balay Marvi and the community’s efforts to address the HIV situation.
Love Yourself founder and Executive Director Ronivin Pagtakhan said many clients from Northern Luzon provinces go to Metro Manila to seek care and support, which they want to address – to provide northern Luzon clients access to sexual health services and a community that is considered a safe space for them.
As one of the country’s leading community organizations for differentiated sexual health services, Love Yourself offers innovations in the HIV advocacy, especially the country’s first World Health Organization pre-qualified HIV self-test kit, “Self Care.” The group also offers HIV prevention called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill taken by an HIV-negative person to protect themselves against the virus.
Being a one-stop shop, Balay Marvi provides differentiated testing approaches, multiple prevention methods, and treatment, support, and care. Passers-by can also get free condoms and lubricants.
Balay Marvi was named after its long-time supporter and partner, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) Deputy Executive Director Marvi Trudeau. The first-ever Love Yourself Diamond Award was conferred to her for her unwavering support for the group and passion for helping the advocacy.
Balay Marvi is made possible through the Global Fund Protects project grant implemented by PSFI and Love Yourself, under the Champion Community Centers.
Protects is the Global Fund HIV grant for 2021 to 2023 that focuses on scaling-up prevention and testing strategies employed by community-based organizations (CBO), like Love Yourself and partner local government units to expand access points across the country and provide PrEP and HIV self-testing kit supplies. It also enhances the capacities of CBOs to ensure their effectiveness and sustainability in service provision and advocacy.
Located at Lopez Building, Room 303, Session Road, Baguio City, the center is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m. To avail of Balay Marvi’s services, clients can set an appointment at www.loveyourself.ph. – Press release