“Festival of Luv” Celebrates DOH and FREE TO BE U Partnership to Promote HIV and AIDS Education and Prevention

The Festival of Luv, an event that celebrates love, acceptance, and education, successfully commemorated the partnership between the Department of Health (DOH) and the FREE TO BE U campaign, and aims to promote healthy behaviors that protect Filipinos. The event was held on February 25, 2023, at The Pop Up, Katipunan.

Teresita Marie Bagasao, Project Director of EpiC Philippines, expressed gratitude towards DOH for their support towards persons living with HIV (PLHIV). Bagasao also highlighted the milestone of including Free to Be U in DOH’s comprehensive health education campaign Healthy Pilipinas, which brings the country closer to the global goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Featured Image 48

The FREE TO BE U campaign seeks to empower PLHIV to break free from labels and enjoy life and love. It aims to inform them, and the general public about available HIV prevention and treatment services. Additionally, the campaign aims to build safe spaces and communities where their voices can be heard. This includes coordination with organizations and advocates from the PLHIV community to promote free HIV services and destigmatize the public’s view regarding the virus and the journey of people living with HIV. One such case is the 

One such case is the Festival of Luv which featured a mix of fun and informative activities, performances from Drag Race Philippines and Drag Den contestants, and a main evening forum led by medical experts, advocates, and key resource persons who shared the latest updates regarding the efforts to maintain HIV epidemic control in the country. Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte joined the celebration, affirming the city’s participation as among the first LGUs to end discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities. She also promised that Quezon City will have the largest pride festival. 


Mayor Joy Belmonte Speech and Support of the FreeToBeU campaign 2The local government of Quezon City also provided free HIV testing, as well as counseling for HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to all those who need it. 

EpiC Philippines is part of a global project dedicated to achieving HIV epidemic control, supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United States Agency for International Development. The support from PEPFAR and USAID, through EpiC and the DOH, ensures that all Filipino PLHIV receive necessary HIV services, thus contributing to the global 95-95-95 HIV goals by 2030.

DOH and EpiC PH with some of the Queens

Rodley Desmond Daniel Carza, OIC-Director IV of the DOH’s Health Promotion Bureau, shared that FREE TO BE U is part of the Healthy Pilipinas campaign which focuses on the seven priority areas of the Health Promotion Framework Strategy that includes sexual and reproductive health. Carza expressed appreciation for the partnership and encouraged everyone to share the stories of people who have accessed free HIV services, services that empower them to live from fear, free from stigma, and free to be themselves.

The Free TO BE U Campaign can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @FreeToBeUPH. Despite the Philippines still having one of the fastest-rising numbers of HIV cases in the Asia Pacific region, the successful partnership between DOH and the FREE TO BE U campaign offers hope that the country is on track to achieve HIV epidemic control and the global 95-95-95 HIV goals by 2030.