This New Series Tackles a 'National Emergency': HIV and AIDS in the Philippines
In 2018, Palanca award-winning author Segundo Matias, Jr. raised many eyebrows when he published his book, Mga Batang Poz or simply Poz. The book touches on a topic surrounded by stigma: HIV-AIDS. Poz is the story of four teenagers with diverse backgrounds: one is a son of a politician, one loves to party, one is a rich guy whose girlfriend is madly in love with him, and another is a gay man who comes from a poor family.
All of them have HIV.
“Poz” refers to peope who tested positive for HIV. Poz’ story is so raw, true, and powerful it strikes the problem right at its core: the rapidly rising number of HIV-AIDS cases in the Philippines. The characters’ backgrounds represent the reality that anyone can get HIV regardless of who you are or where you come from. According to Matias, the majority of those affected in the country are Filipino males. As many as 20 percent of new cases are from the 14- to 20-year-old demographic. Every day, there are at least 30 people in the Philippines who are diagnosed with HIV.
Poz was the first book in the Philippines to tackle the sensitive issue of HIV-AIDS. “We need to talk about this now and raise awareness because the rapidly rising number of HIV cases in the Philippines is very serious,” said Matias in an interview.
ABS-CBN decided to adopt Matias’ work and turn it into an eponymous series on its streaming service, iWant. Poz was launched on July 26 and is available for free streaming on the platform.
“Hopefully, this lends a strong voice to [my advocacy]. HIV and AIDS is a national emergency. It is something that needs to be noticed because its victims are becoming younger and younger,” said Matias in a Facebook post.
Matias was referring to a newspaper story reporting about his donation—100 percent of his royalties from the streaming service—to raise HIV-AIDS awareness. The proceeds will help non-profit organizations working on screening, testing, counseling, treatment, and education of people living with HIV and AIDS.
HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is an organism that destroys a person’s immune system. It attacks cells that fight disease and infection, and hides itself from these cells by pretending to be one of them. For decades, HIV has eluded cure, thanks to its ability hide itself from the immune system. Left untreated, a person living with HIV can develop AIDS or autoimmune deficiency syndrome. AIDS is a set of symptoms that develop as a result of the body’s severely weakened immune system. Some prominent symptoms of AIDS include rapid weight loss, nausea, vomiting, coughing, chronic fatigue, recurring fever or chills and night sweats, and persistent diarrhea.
Aside from being available on the streaming service iWant, Mga Batang Poz is also an entry to the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. It will premiere on August 8, 8 p.m. at the CCP Little Theater.
Matias has authored other radical but nonetheless truthful topics about Filipino society, such as Mga Kuwentong Dapat Mong Malaman, which talks about drug abuse, smoking, and alcoholism, and Uncle Sam, which is the story of a girl and her uncle who works as a hairdresser.
In 2011, Matias’ Alamat ng Duhat won a Palanca award (first prize) in the Filipino Division in Short Story for Children.