CNMI Department of Public Health officials join Gay Pride celebration

By Lori Lyn Lirio

Paper Dolls in their colorful costumes. Photo by Lori Lyn Lirio

CELEBRATING equality and their uniqueness, members of the local LGBT community recently hosted the first-ever Gay Pride in Saipan.

Event organizer Sharmaine Casquero said the July 29 celebration, which was held at the GIG Discotheque, was a success as she announced that they will do it yearly.

Initially, she said, the show was meant to raise funds for the Saipan Music and Dance Studio or SMADS’ 16 dancers who will be competing in Hip Hop International competition in Phoenix, Arizona on Aug. 3 to 11.

“Three days before the show, the Department of Public Health’s HIV/STD division approached the group and expressed its intention to join in the celebration while extending services to the community,” SMADS president Ester Sablan said.

Casquero said 13 members of Paper Dolls performed that night. Some of them danced, did the lip sync, and did the catwalk showcasing their colorful costumes.

In joining the Gay Pride event, CHCC’s Communicable Disease manager John Moreno said they joined the event because it was a celebration of the LGBT community and it was a fundraising for the youth – SMADS dancers.

“These are two special populations that we DPH’s HIV/STD prevention program are always looking to communicate with because they are especially vulnerable to HIV and STD,” he said.

He added their presence at the GIG was their way of expressing support to these two group population.

Moreno and his group has set up a small table at the disco bar, where they handed out brochures containing information about STD and HIV. They were also giving away T-shirts while at the same time, giving away condoms and lubricants to promote safe sex.

“As I mentioned earlier during the opening of the show, ‘no glove, no love’ because condom is very effective in preventing the transmission of HIV and STD,” he said in an interview.

Morales added they also conducted HIV testing.

“The result took only 20 minutes. We know that it is a party and it is a celebration and people are maybe concerned that the result is not what they are expecting, but they have an option to either get the results tonight after 20 minutes or they can call us at the office the following day so that they continue with celebration without worrying about the result,” Moreno said.

All throughout the celebration, he said, there were almost 10 people who get tested for HIV.

“Some people are very open and there are some who are a little nervous because it is their first time or they haven’t had their test before. We tried to put them at ease. We told them we are here to support them no matter what,” he added.

Moreno thanked the Paper Dolls and the organizer of the Gay Pride event for allowing them to celebrate with the LGBT community.

“We want to be seen, as part of Public Health, that we are concerned about this special community. We want to help fight the stigma,”

Moreno said, adding stigma and discrimination in the community isolate people, “it leads depression. It leads isolation and also leads to health disparity.”

The Public Health is here. We want to make sure that we celebrate with fun. We want to make sure that we celebrate healthy,” Moreno said.

 

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