Nate Burkey not only makes the country proud as the forward for the national soccer team, the Philippine Azkals, but he is also a role model for young Filipino men by encouraging them to take regular HIV tests.
Born Nathaniel George Payos Burkey, the 29-year-old Filipino-American soccer player was recently appointed as the first Philippine ambassador for Protect the Goal (PTG), an HIV-AIDS prevention and awareness campaign that was localized from the global campaign that began at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The Philippine phase of the PTG campaign will run until the end of the year.
PTG is led by the Philippine Football Federation, the local partner of the Asian Football Confederation, and draws multi-sectoral support from partners such as the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the Asian Development Bank, and advocacy group Love Yourself, Inc. (TLY).
“The thing that excites me most is being able to help my kababayans (countrymen) in a very positive way,” said Burkey on his role as a PTG ambassador.
To help dispel fears and apprehensions toward HIV testing, Nate spent one Sunday afternoon taking a quick and confidential HIV test at LoveYourself Anglo, a free HIV testing and counselling community center along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City.
Burkey hopes that young men will follow suit and take the test to finally know their HIV status.
“I’ve been tested before, I got tested today. If you haven’t been tested, that’s the one thing I would recommend. Regardless of the results, we now have a wonderful community here that can counsel and help you in any way possible,” he said.
“This isn’t a virus to be scared of. There’s no reason to be ashamed of it or hide from it, or not do anything about it. My advice to everyone is to move forward in the direction we’re going, to jump aboard with us, and get the goal that we want to achieve,” he added.
Burkey was referring to the PTG target and UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in the Philippines.
The PTG campaign focuses on the Filipino youth since they are especially vulnerable to infection and at risk of spreading the virus. Health data show that 71 percent of new infections in the Philippines since 1984 were in young people and two-thirds of high risk young people actually do not know their HIV status.
Burkey is the first client to be served at the newly opened LoveYourself Anglo, the second HIV-testing center run by TLY in partnership with the Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. LoveYourself Anglo currently offers free HIV testing and counseling services to anyone (no appointment needed, walk-ins are welcomed) from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays.