MANILA – Catriona Gray shared an open letter to “all the women in the universe” in celebration of International Women’s Month this March.
In the letter published by the advocacy group Love Yourself, the Miss Universe 2018 titleholder took the opportunity to remind women to get tested for HIV.
“I want to add a message that is, as a woman, you may have thought doesn’t really apply to you. But it does. HIV/AIDS knows no gender, sexual preference or lifestyle. It can affect anyone, and it does,” said Gray, who has been an advocate and ambassador of Love Yourself for the past three years.
“But the message I want to share today is not one of fear,” she stressed. “In writing this, I want to create a safe space of learning, acceptance, and empowerment – for all women on the front of HIV/AIDS.”
The beauty queen, who lost a friend due to AIDS-related health complications, went on: “To the women reading this, I do not want your life to be taken or defined by HIV/AIDS. To change and uplift the world for women and all people, we need to be around to make change happen. So say that we’re in this together. Let’s protect and love ourselves.”
Gray took her first HIV test last November 2018, with her experience documented on her YouTube channel.
“If I could do it, so can you,” she said. “Take my lead as you brave your first HIV test, and the succeeding ones, until it becomes a normal part of your health routine. Whatever the outcome may be, I want to emphasize that HIV is just a status: it doesn’t define you as a woman, moreso as a person.”
To those who are diagnosed HIV positive, Gray advised: “You can avail of free counseling and HIV treatment given by your government and/or even non-government organizations who are active in this cause… You have to remember that there is life after HIV if you regularly take the appropriate medicines. You can still live a normal, happy, and active life.”