THE Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is closing its 52nd season with the Acting on HIV campaign.

Done in partnership with HIV advocacy organizations LoveYourself, Inc. and The Red Whistle, the campaign aims to promote awareness about the disease, debunk its myths and misconceptions, and eradicate the stigma towards Persons Living With HIV (PLHIV).

PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda noted during the campaign’s launch at the PETA Theater Center on Oct. 18 that the theater company had previously been involved in HIV/AIDS programs based in the Mekong region between 2000 to 2007. She noted that the Philippines at that time had the lowest HIV-AIDS statistics among Asian countries. The growing number of cases in recent years is what prompted them to pursue the campaign locally.

Data from the July HIV/AIDS and Art Registry of the Philippines (HARP) stated that there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals (29% higher than the diagnosed cases in the same period last year). Ninety-four percent (1,048) of the newly diagnosed were male, according to HARP data. The median age was 28 years old — the age ranged from six- to 64-years-old. More than half of the newly diagnosed (51%, 567) were 25- to 34-years-old and 31% (348) were 15- to 24-years-old at the time of testing (

“The disease is happening not because there’s no science. As a matter of fact, there are medicines now that will allow for you to live a normal life [with HIV]. But what’s worse and what’s killing people is the stigma, ignorance, and the lack of compassion,” Ms. Legarda said.

“So, we felt that the arts would be the best place to be able to [give] these messages.”

At the forefront of the campaign is Rody Vera’s drama, Under My Skin, an anthology about Filipinos living with HIV — including friends and relatives of patients, HIV advocates, and health practitioners. Directed by Melvin Lee, the play will star Cherry Pie Picache, Roselyn Perez, Miguel Almendras, Mike Liwag, and Anthony Falcon. It will run from Feb. 7 to March 15, 2020 at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City.

There will be talks with HIV experts after every show. In partnership with LoveYourself Inc. and HASH-HIV & AIDS Support House, audience members may avail of free HIV screening before or after the show.

While the play will be held next year, the campaign actually begins this month with workshops, exhibits, and an online EduSeries.

The Red Whistle, in collaboration with photographer Niccolo Cosme of the Project Headshot Clinic, will launch an HIV-AIDS photo exhibit, also titled Under My Skin, on Dec 1. It will feature around 200 headshots of personalities from the theater industry.

“[…] We use the arts to help [people] understand the reality of the situation, so that hopefully they change their hearts, behavior, and attitude towards the problem, and eventually change their minds and actions. Without that change in heart, there is no change in behavior,” Benedict Bernabe, president of The Red Whistle, said.

At an eight-hour workshop, young people learn more about the advocacy through arts activities such as music, dance, creative writing.

To engage the public through social media, informative videos titled the EduSeries, featuring stories of PLHIV, will be uploaded on PETA’s Facebook page.

“The best way for us to respond to this epidemic is for us to learn how we love ourselves and to share it with other people because we want to create ripples of positive change in the community,” LoveYourself project manager Danvic Rosadino said.

For updates on the campaign activities, visit PETA’s official Facebook page at For tickets and show buying inquiries, contact PETA at, or TicketWorld at and 891-9999. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman