How my HIV positive diagnosis became a silver lining
My team and I are on a bold mission to make the world a safer, more accessible and inclusive place for everyone. We intend to achieve this goal with an app built to encourage more businesses and service providers to serve diverse and vulnerable consumers better. The app is called Be Inclusive. Download it here.
My motivation to pursue this venture was drawn from my experience as child of Filipino immigrants to Australia. I grew up surrounded by racism. I faced homophobic violence as an adult. I was even banned from countries and fired because of my HIV positive status. My experience is not isolated. Many friends have come face to face with discrimination and violence due to their gender, their race or their disabilities. I did not want our lives to become mere statistics that were forgotten.
I spent the last ten years exploring how social media and mobile apps could help combat stigma and discrimination. Years of research rendered an idea in 2016 that came to me like a bolt of lightning. Since then I have been working to the point of obsession to transform my flash of imagination into reality.
I would not have gotten to where I am today had I not learned to overcome discrimination and deep seeded fear that resulted from my HIV positive diagnosis in 2004. Thanks to the support of veteran AIDS activists I become an outspoken public advocate for people living with HIV.
Inspired by the rise of social media and mobile apps I became determined to learn how technology could break down stigma and discrimination that obstructs people from accessing providers of basic health, social support and legal assistance.
I explored the unconventional path of social entrepreneurship as a means to realise my ideas. My assumption was that start-up a social enterprise could open new channels for resources and funding and reduce my organisation’s dependence on conventional grant schemes.
After a string of experiments over four years my team and I successfully gained traction with an web-based approach for connecting inclusive providers of basic services with groups vulnerable to discrimination. Having attained this valuable insight I steered towards another transformation in 2016 that pointed me in the direction of ethical business world.
I have drawn inspiration from Anita Roddick who, through the Body Shop, helped create a market for green consumerism and demand for fair trade goods. Roddick’s legacy is exemplary, although not without controversy. My aim is to learn from history and try to do better. I want to demonstrate how inclusion of diverse and vulnerable consumers can be good for business and good for cities, as well as improve livelihoods for people at the grassroots.
The road ahead over the next few months and years will be the greatest test of endurance and resourcefulness that I have faced. As daunting as the future may be, I am surprisingly excited and curious. I am grateful that I have the means to devote myself fully to a mission of making the world a more inclusive place. Better that I do my best and fail, than never have tried at all.
You can help us with our mission in THREE ways.
Download the Be Inclusive app now and learn what makes a place accessible for wheelchair users and other diverse users. Check out our growing list of wheelchair-accessible places and much more. Use the app to help us build a more inclusive Singapore.
Don't have an iPhone? Try the web version of our app.
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