For the past years, I have been watching clips of and listening to songs from the Tony Award-winning Jonathan Larson classic musical, Rent—a story of a group of young artists struggling to carve their own niche within the hustle and bustle of New York City’s East Village.
The story of each of the eight protagonists was largely inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, which had tuberculosis as its plot’s focal theme. With Rent, Tuberculosis is replaced with HIV/AIDS in a bid to keep up with the times and to tackle one of the critical issues faced by the target market-slash-generation of the musical, the nineties generation.
I had the privilege of watching the film adaptation back in 2006. The musical’s lyrical magnificence, masterfully crafted numbers, and overall story engrossed me so much so that I have seen the movie countless times since. As I matured, though, the film’s message gradually became more of a serious topic for me than just an engaging form of entertainment.
Creating awareness for HIV/AIDS
Last December 1, people all over the globe celebrated an important campaign initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1988: World AIDS Day. Since its discovery in 1959, HIV/AIDS has become a pandemic that made it one of the most important global public health issues in the history of human race. The campaign aims to not only serve as a day of mourning for those whose lives have been destroyed mercilessly by the disease but also, more importantly, to raise awareness. Its worldwide celebration is observed often through efforts and initiatives dedicated to spread and educate people on its prevention and control, to disseminate relevant information, and eradicate the stigma associated with the disease.
In the Philippines, the occurrence of the sexually-transmitted disease is relatively low although its prevalence is slowly picking up pace as it increases year on year. Although cases involve a vast range of age groups and sexual orientation, still, the average person, if not equipped with the right information, would mostly associate the disease with homosexuals. This is basically one of the information most health organizations want to spread: that HIV/AIDS is a heterosexual disease and that anyone, regardless of sexual preference and age, could be at risk. The Department of Health is also committed to fighting off the stigma attached to the disease.
Stopping the stigma
While it is true that the world is still waiting for a major medical breakthrough that will help cure and eradicate AIDS, it can also be pointed out that HIV, if treated correctly, can be prevented from progressing to AIDS. The stigma it poses mainly stems from misinformation and people, especially here in the Philippines, need to understand that there is a way to treat the virus. Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ARV) are given by the government for free in social hygiene clinics spread across the country and if an HIV-infected person will submit himself to correct ARV treatment, he could actually live a healthy person’s average lifetime.
To paint a better picture, ARV treatment closely mirrors that of the usual maintenance drugs people with Diabetes take. Yes, it is a lifetime treatment but it’s better than just allowing the virus to worsen and progress not only to AIDS but also to a number of opportunistic diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. If people are only correctly informed, the stoppage of the stigma will help increase the initiative in each individual to take the test and take corrective measures based upon the results.
Supporting HIV/AIDS advocacy
A number of organizations like Love Yourself Inc. have emerged to help people, especially the youth, to embrace themselves and nurture their self-worth as well as inspire a community that will create ripples of positive change within our society. And it’s actually refreshing to see how big businesses like Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. through its Pilipinas Shell Foundation also involves itself in an active participation to support the advocacy.
I am writing this journal entry because I feel like HIV/AIDS is one of the few causes left unnoticed by most companies’ CSR initiatives. I might be wrong but I think this could all be due to: 1) industries, apart from those in the medical field, do not see it as a cause related to their business undertakings; or 2) companies shy away from the stigma that the disease carries with it. For whatever reason the advocacy is mostly not in most CSRs, I would be happy to see a community that is more broad in their ways of thinking which will encourage more businesses to become proactive enough to support causes such as this.
I’d like to end this entry with a quote from one of Jonathan Larson’s lyrics from Rent:
Five-hundred twenty five thousand six-hundred minutes
Five-hundred twenty five thousand six-hundred moments so dear
Five-hundred twenty five thousand six-hundred minutes,
how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets? In midnights, in cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles? In laughter, in strife?
In five-hundred twenty five thousand six-hundred minutes,
how do you measure a year in the life?
How about LOVE? HOW ABOUT LOVE?
Larson’s words calls us to quantify life and one’s self-worth with nothing else but LOVE. As temporary dwellers of this earth, we only have ourselves to depend upon and it is by being dynamic in caring for each other to help build a well-sustained community that we can trump the many hurdles life could bring along the way.
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This essay is part of a journal he kept in fulfillment of the requirements of the course, Lasallian Business Leadership with Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics. Visit his blog at https://ripplesandechoes.wordpress.com/.
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.