Pia Wurtzbach continues to promote her HIV awareness advocacy four years after her Miss Universe reign ended.
She is actually excited to take part in a benefit gala titled The Universe Gives Back, happening on June 4, at the Marriot Hotel Grand Ballroom.
It is a fund-raising dinner party and fashion show headlined by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray together with the Binibining Pilipinas 2019 candidates.
"I said yes right away," remarked Pia about being tasked to be a co-chairperson of the Miss Universe Philippines' benefit gala together with architect Richelle Singson-Michael and fashion designer Albert Andrada.
"I think it's nice that they're trying to create events like this that give back.
"It's about time that we have fashion shows that give back to beneficiaries or to the community.
"We've had fashion shows before in Binibining Pilipinas, but this is something really special because we're showcasing Filipino designers and it's also going to to a cause."
The benefit fashion show will feature the creations of Filipino designers Albert Andrada, Rhett Eala, Micheal Leyva, Ito Curata, Jot Losa, Avel Bacudio, Cherry Veric, and Martin Bautista.
The event aims to raise proceeds to be donated to Pia and Catriona's chosen foundations, Love Yourself and Young Focus, respectively.
Love Yourself is a non-profit organization that provides HIV counseling, testing, treatment, and life-coaching to those who tested positive with HIV.
Young Focus is a non-profit organization that sponsors pre-school to college education to its beneficiaries.
Pia said about her beneficiary, "It ties in with Catriona's advocacies because she also works with Love Yourself.
"She's gonna be working with Young Focus for this one, I'd be working with Love Yourself.
"But, I mean, they're both Catriona's advocacies. So parang nagma-match din naman siya lahat."
Pia explained that Love Yourself caters to six community centers that provide support and a safe space for patients who tested positive with HIV.
The foundation is also planning to use part of the proceeds to purchase medical equipment for HIV patients in San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa.
"We really want to support the treatment hubs and giving them the treatment needs—cautery machine, anuscope, opthalmoscope.
"Gusto namin mag-provide ng mga magagamit nila even after the event, something that can really help not just one patient but a lot."
Citing the 2019 statistics on people newly diagnosed with HIV in the Philippines, Pia said "38" tested positive with HIV "per day" as compared to "two patients per day" in 2009.
"This is why the work really has to continue," Pia stressed.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, specifically the cells that help fight off infections.
Without proper medical care, HIV can progress to AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
According to HIV.org, HIV primarily gets transmitted through "sexual behaviors" like having sexual intercourse with someone who has HIV without using a condom.
It can also be transmitted through "sharing needles or syringes" that were "used to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV."
Does Pia get her family involved in promoting HIV awareness?
Pia answered, "Yes, of course, I always get them involved. I always urge them to take the tests with me or we'll take it together.
"Especially the ones that I work with every day, like my team, Team Pia—my handler, my road manager, even my glam team.
"I always talk to them and I encourage them to get themselves tested and to take care of themselves and to be aware of everything.
"The last thing I wanna find out is somebody really close to me getting HIV.
"Kasi siyempre you lead by example, di ba? What good is it if I'm the only one championing it and the people around me are not?"
Pia went on to say that her work with Love Yourself foundation started during her Miss Universe reign four years ago.
She met a U.S. donor who wanted to help her advocacy in promoting HIV awareness.
"I just won Miss Universe, and then merong brand na nag-pledge ng certain amount, nasa U.S. ako nito, 'You know, we wanna give this to your chosen charity.'
"I had to sit down and think, 'Okay, kanino ko ba ito ibibigay?'"
Pia recalled it was TV host Boy Abunda who recommended Love Yourself as a possible beneficiary.
"I asked Tito Boy, sakto we were doing an interview together. 'Tito Boy, ano kaya puwede ko gawin sa pera na ito? Kanino ko kaya puwede ibigay?'
"Yung Love Yourself agad ang sinuggest niya. And then when I looked into it, sila talaga I guess yung top organzation helping out patients with HIV and AIDS.
"Lumalaki nang lumalaki ang community and mapagkakatiwalaan talaga and alam mo kung saan mapupunta yung tulong mo.
"I've been doing my testing with them. I've been doing talks sa schools, sa colleges with them."
Apart from continuing Love Yourself's campaign to spread awareness about HIV, Pia has been serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) since 2017.
She said about being appointed UNAIDS ambassador, "It ties in because they actually work with each other, UNAIDS and Love Yourself, so naging madali lahat kasi parang magkakakilala lahat."
According to Pia, taking part in humanitarian efforts has given her Miss Universe crown a deeper sense of purpose.
She elaborated, "As you do all of this, like glitz and glamor, you travel a lot, you meet so many people, you do all these photo shoots...
"After all of it, and you go back to your room, and you're alone, the question is: 'Did I do something for people to really remember? Did I touch anybody's life today?'
"That's always the question in my mind.
"Like whatever I do, I always ask myself, 'Maaalala ba ako ng mga tao dito?'
"Like, 'What if something happens to me tomorrow? Have I done enough?'
"I know it's medyo dark. But I think that's also something that we ask ourselves.
"You don't have to have a title or a crown, to be in power of some sort, to be able to make a contribution.
"At the end of the day, ask yourself, 'What positive impact have I done to my family, to my friends?'
"Dun muna. Tapos eventually puwedeng maka-contribute in bigger ways."