While relatively low compared to global statistics, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines is increasing in an alarming rate. Out of the 6,011 cases of HIV registered last year, 543 were confirmed AIDS cases and 188 deaths were reported. According toa recent report by the Department of Health,20 new cases of the virus are diagnosed every day.

It’s a daunting reality, and yet, a deafening silence still surrounds the HIV/AIDS situation in the country. Many remainvoiceless, and, most HIV-positive individuals are forced to stay in the dark for fear of being shunned by society. But amidst the stigma and lack of active public participation, Dr. Edsel Salvana found himself at the forefront of this battle.

At the tender age of seven, the young Dr. Edsel Maurice Tanghal Salvana knew he wanted to be a scientist. He took up BS Biology in the University of the Philippines Diliman and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

But this achievementproved to be a turning point in his life, as it took him to the crossroad of deciding whether tobecome a scientist or a doctor. It was Dr. Ernesto Domingo, a national scientist and doctor who would later become Dr. Salvana’s mentor and father-in-law, who became a beacon of hope for the lad. He inspired Dr. Salvana to pursue his dream of becoming a physician scientist.

Dr. Salvana’s early career focused on tropical medicine and infectious diseases. He had a promising career ahead of him in the United States.But upon learning of the rising incidences of the deadly retroviral disease in his own country, he knew he had to take part in the fight. He returned to the Philippines in 2008. From this point on, HIV became his true calling.

“In one month, I saw 12 new HIV/AIDS cases. The youngest was 21 years old. He had symptoms which (occur only in) very advanced HIV cases, which means he got this when he was much younger. And I felt this is just ridiculous, we have to do something,” he told the Inquirer in an interview.

Dr. Salvana used his knowledge and career in healthcare to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS. His researches have been used as foundations to create a national policy in addressing the HIV epidemic and he has actively campaigned for publicawareness of the disease. He established a fellowship program to increase care for people infected by HIV/AIDS. As an educator, he was able to train a new generation of physician-advocates to help advance the current diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Heeven extended his reach and took his advocacy to the global stage by delivering educational speeches in front of the United Nations and the United States Peace Corps.

He saved the lives of many people inflicted by the disease—not justprolonging their lives but making them worth fighting for.When the rest of the world seemed to have shut them out, Dr. Edsel Salvana became their champion.

Dr. Salvana took a revolutionary undertaking, to say the least, as HIV remains a taboo subject in our country. For one, staging a rock concert for the benefit of HIV-positive people is,according to the remarkable doctor,“something that most people would shy away from, let alone someone from the medical field.”

His dedication to public service in the country and the world at large drew the admiration of his peers that he was nominated to be among The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines. In 2010, he became the TOYM honoree for medicine and social activism.

“I would like think I was just doing my job, but I do appreciate and acknowledge that, together with the help of so many unsung heroes and advocates, the work we have done and its impact has been very special,” Dr. Salvana said.

His significant contribution to spreading HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment was also lauded globally. In 2013, he was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP)of the World in 2012 in the field of Humanitarian/Voluntary Leadership and Devex’ 40 Under 40 Global Development Leaders.

Dr. Salvana urges every Filipino, from studentsto highly influential businessmen, to diligently fulfill their duties to themselves and to the country. Only then can they come out of their comfort zones and change the world.

And speaking of changing the world, The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines has once again started its search for the next global leaders. For the first time in its 58-year history, nominations can now be done online. If you know an exceptional young man or woman who has contributed significantly to the welfare of the country, you can head over at http://toym2015.org/ to nominate.

To be a change-maker, Dr. Salvana leaves these words: “The best foundation for an advocate and a change-maker is the security and confidence in having fulfilled your responsibilities to your family and society. Leaders lead by example, and moral authority always flows from a job well done. Change yourself, and then change the world.” #