Batang Poz tackles HIV infection among Filipino youth

As figures of HIV infected Filipinos rise, the need to raise awareness of the disease to prevent the figures from ascending further is what prompted director Chris Martinez and author Segundo Matias, Jr., to create a series based upon the latter’s best-selling young adult reader Mga Batang Poz.

Mga Batang Poz stars Paolo Gumabao, Fino Herrera, Awra Briguela, and Mark Neumann

Mga Batang Poz stars Paolo Gumabao, Fino Herrera, Awra Briguela, and Mark Neumann

Both author and director agreed to focus on the question of how could people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or “poz” move forward and live normal, productive lives amidst the burden of stigma and isolation? What can families and friends do for a loved one who has HIV?

 So, the series Mga Batang Poz came about. It started screaming on iWant on 26 July (for free) in order, as the two said during the press conference a week ago, to enlighten the audience, young and old, on the risks of being infected and also the prudence of engaging in protected sex to avoid infection.

Segundo+Matias+Jr.

Segundo+Matias+Jr.

The streaming of the series is also meant to shed light on HIV and give hope to HIV-positive people and their loved ones, underscoring that having the virus is not the end of someone’s life.

Mga Batang Pozis about the journey of four HIV-positive teenagers played by Mark Nuemann, Fino Herrera, Paolo Gumabao, and Awra Briguela. 

The six-episode series takes the audience to what HIV-positive people from different backgrounds face every day: questioning what it means to live after knowing their diagnosis, managing their disease via antiretroviral medications, and braving judgment from families, friends, and society.

Mark plays Gab, a 16-year-old bisexual who gets entangled in a passionate love affair with his long-term girlfriend and male best friend.

Fino is Luis, a 15-year-old Filipino-Chinese teenager, who explores his sexuality and loses his virginity to an older guy. Eventually becomes addicted to unprotected sex.

Awra brings to life Chuchay, 15, an optimistic boy who grew up in a poor household. Being poor compels him to use his body to acquire money. 

Chris Martinez

Chris Martinez

Paolo, meanwhile, is the 16-year-old Enzo, a Wattpad writer who feels neglected by his parents. He sacrifices his health for a man who promises him love and commitment.

After finding each other in a social media support group for “poz’s” using their online alter egos, Gab, Luis, Enzo, and Chuchay decide to meet at a coffee shop. From there, they form a bond and start a road trip together to search for hope, overcome their despair and uncertainties, and accept their present situation so they could move forward and fulfill their dreams. 

Apart from the series, iWant also continued the dialogue on its advocacy and what still needs to be done, henceforth the exclusive special called Poz Talkwith Karen Davila. Here, the four lead stars, the author of the novel, and HIV-positive people bravely share their stories. It also started streaming on 26 July on iWant.

If you’re among many Filipinos who are not aware of HIV-AIDS, then this series could be your intro to the understanding of the disease that once rocked the world in the 80s, at that time many Filipinos thought that it was a disease that only infected Caucasian people until the first Filipino AIDS patients started coming home and dying in their native land. Many of these patients’ families had kept the cause of the death of their sons their best secrets, though many also started talking about them in coffee shops.

The government’s Department of Health said that the Philippines has the fastest growing HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region. And majority of these are also reported to be among the young, aged 15 to 24. That’s according to the Philippine National AIDS Council in 2018. This year, DOH reported that 38 new HIV cases are reported daily, up from last year’s 32. 

Whether or not the figures alarm you, it is best that you know how HIV can change the course of your children’s lives and yours too.

Mga Batang Pozwas adapted into series by writer Jerry Gracio and is produced by Unitel, StraightShooters, Inc., and Dreamscape Digital. 

The author, director, and cast of Mga Batang Poz, an iWant original series

The author, director, and cast of Mga Batang Poz, an iWant original series

It also stars Yayo Aguila, Bobby Andrews, Joem Bascon, Gardo Versoza, Rita Avila, Mark Rivera, Benedict Campos, Raven Molina, Chesca Iñigo, Patty Mendoza, Soliman Cruz, Tarek El Tayech, Dolly De Leon, Marina Benipayo, Chienna Filomeno, Ricardo Cepeda, Andrew Gan, Arnold Reyes, Angeli Agbayani, and Irma Adlawan. 

The official soundtrack is also be available on Spotify, featuring the songs “Gusto Kong Lumipad” by Agsunta, “Nothing On” by Kidwolf, “Puro Laro” by Carlo Bautista, “Ano Nga Ba Tayo?” by JMKO, “Sasamahan Kita” by Loisa Andalio, “Gitna” by Davey Langit.

(For HIV counseling, testing, treatment, and life coaching queries, contact Love Yourself Inc. through e-mail at info@loveyourself.ph or visit www.loveyourself.ph. You may also reach the National Youth Commission hotlines at 426-8479 and 371-4603.)