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PIA Press Release

HIV-AIDS positive sex worker joins ESamar preventive campaign

By Alice Nicart

Borongan, Eastern Samar (5 December) -- Extreme poverty made him become a commercial sex worker at age 16. Now at 34, Robert Gerona denounces the 'trade' he unwillingly been into, but since he and his family could hardly eat in a day he was forced to allow foreigners and other 'can afford' Filipinos to sexually exploit his body sans thought of the hazard the immoral act will bring him in the end.

Today, in his 17 year-battle against AIDS Toto as Robert is fondly called by friends is now a strong advocate of HIV-AIDS prevention campaign. As Health Educator, he now joins with other advocates in the Positive Action Foundation Philippines (PAFPI) and the United Nations Fund (UNF). Together with PAFPI Program Manager, Celestino Ramirez, Toto travels across the country to spread the message on AIDS prevention.

In a radio forum held recently at Radyo ng Bayan DYES, Toto courageously allowed himself to be interviewed by media. He looked normal except that his throat was a bit expanded. As the forum progressed, he told us that indeed his esophagus suffers most of the infection.

The doctors have not allowed him to eat by the mouth but through a tube attached to his intestine. But according to him, he discovered three years ago an alternative way how to eat and swallow the food by the mouth even as the doctors have prevented him to and he has been doing his own way. He said that at the moment, one thing is already definite to happen ? his death, any minute, any day, and before that happens, he would want to enjoy and appreciate the real taste of foods available for him.

That is why he studied and learned how to swallow solid foods but which are immediately followed by heavy down pouring of pineapple juice. Take note, pineapple juice and nothing else, not even cold water otherwise he would through it out seconds after he had swallowed it. Toto further frankly told the media that whenever he would swallow the foods they will have to stay three hours longer in his throat before they finally sink into his abdomen.

On the observance of 'World AIDS Day' last December 2, Eastern Samar province disseminated the importance of the word 'prevention' in as far as AIDS is concerned. After the pinning of red ribbons, the radio forum followed which was covered live on air by DYES. The province is now a recipient of UNFPA assisted projects particularly reproductive health and family planning. (PIA-Eastern Samar) [top]

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