Christmas this year has been so different. It’s been an extended holiday season, but I’ve become thankful that I didn’t get my wish to sleep through the holidays. I’ve had a healthy balance between staying rested and keeping busy, and been swamped with almost every emotion there is, more happy moments than sad, I’m pleased to say.
The usual family stuff has been there, but with the several days that have been dedicated to helping Baby Nathan’s family out, they’ve become my second family as well. It’s been almost a week since Christmas passed, and still the season of giving remains. And with everything that has been happening, I can say that I have been learning a lot.
Here are just some of them...
I’ve sort of been able to generalize that people who drive Mazda 3s are seemingly extremely generous persons. You know who you are. I’m thankful, but hoping generosity is not limited to them.
I’ve seen how much fun unexpected plans can be, when a quick shopping trip spins off into a bakal-boys-hour slash dirty-secrets-Q&A-portion slash movie-date. I’m still trying to analyze if doors really do slam silently when done by the hearing-impaired.
I’ve shared the panic of being put on the spot and wanting to run away from a well-meaning bible-study-preacher person, but not having any polite way of doing so. I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one who’s not into it.
I’ve realized how the mascot effigies at fastfood chains can be such good points of reference when eyeballing with someone. I’m just thinking of how to phrase things better than I’m the guy staring at Ronald McDonald’s ass.
I’ve learned that ladies should be careful who they’re caught grocery-shopping with. Anyone of the opposite sex, even if it’s a discreet gay friend, will always be thought to be your boyfriend. I’m wondering how much worse the rumors would’ve been if we were caught with baby diapers in the shopping cart. This might be the first and the last time you'll hear this from me, but Our kids would've been beautiful!
And vice versa, discreet gay guys should be careful who they’re caught grocery shopping with, too. Anyone of the opposite sex, even if it’s just a friend, might be thought to be your – Gasp! – girlfriend. Again, I’m glad no one I knew caught us with diapers in our shopping cart. No offense, but Eeeeew! I have a reputation to protect, ya know!
Okay, okay, now seriously...
Being able to help Baby Nathan out these past holidays has been anything short of an eye-opener. I’ve been thanked myself a lot for helping them out, but I maintain that I am only a medium, and the real angels are the people who come from out of nowhere to lend a helping hand. I mean I might have the affinity to this kid just because we are both HIV positive and it is but natural for us in the poz community to, as they say, love your own. But these people who’ve been stepping up to the plate and giving whole-heartedly have been people from heaven knows where, who’ve chosen to look past the boundaries of our minority, welcoming themselves into our little community and us into theirs.
So the real learning for me in all of this is that, as much as so many people have been opening their hearts to put smiles on the faces of Baby Nathan and his family during the holidays, we must realize how Baby Nathan is serving as an angel himself, a tool to bridge the gap between the HIV-positive and the HIV-negative, and show that we are still human and that everyone, regardless of gender, orientation and HIV status, can work together.
In this case, clearly HIV is not merely a disease. It is not a punishment. HIV has served as a tool in itself, a tool that possibly the heavens have sent down to give us humans the opportunities to show compassion, to cooperate, and to prove that there is still hope in the world. A tool that didn’t come in a completely pleasant form, but, as we are beginning to see, serves its purpose to show we are not living in a fallen and hopeless world.
Okay, so maybe the country is not completely ready for the reality of HIV. Maybe majority of people still cultivate the stigma attached to HIV. But I can firmly say that the times are changing. Slowly, but surely. I’ve been taking baby steps for some time now, and I’m happy to realize that more and more people are willing to take those baby steps, too... with me, and towards me.
- Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.
Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.
And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Christmas this year has been so different. It’s been an extended holiday season, but I’ve become thankful that I didn’t get my wish to sleep through the holidays. I’ve had a healthy balance between staying rested and keeping busy, and been swamped with almost every emotion there is, more happy moments than sad, I’m pleased to say.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Finally, another Christmas Day is over. It wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. No sadness, no crying. Hardly any consciousness even. I was nothing more than half-comatose yesterday, asleep for most of it, only waking up and getting out of bed to eat meals and take showers. What the hell happened? Let’s flash back to Christmas eve and start from there.
I worked Christmas eve, remember, and only managed to flee around 3:00 in the afternoon. But instead of heading home, I made a stopover in Cubao searching for Baby Nathan’s family. Baby Nathan’s dad sent me some directions to follow and fetched me at the nearest corner, flashing his now familiar smile from all the way down the street. As we walked, he updated me on Baby’s condition, and although he never mentioned the underlying condition of HIV, I was happy he freely mentioned all the names of people and hospitals involved, not even the least bit concerned of who might hear him. And trust me, this was a small community where everyone seemed to know everyone else. I knew that from the way everyone we passed would stare at me, probably wondering who I was.
We walked past some kids playing in the street, and I thought it would be funny if Baby Nathan was doing so well that he was already one of those kids running about. But of course, not yet, he’s just over a year old, remember? The dad led me into a tiny path between houses, from which we headed up a steep flight of stairs. Upon reaching the top, there he was, Baby Nathan on his tummy on the floor, flanked by a couple of pillows, playing. And wow, that face staring up at me just made me smile. Those big puppy dog eyes set in his now healthy looking face could melt anyone’s heart. I sat down as the dad introduced me around. Baby’s mom was there, his sister, his lola and lolo, and his twinky uncle. And the way they welcomed me was overwhelming.
We sat around a bit as I cooled down, which was when I got my first ever chance to really take Baby Nathan in my arms. I’d been hesitant previously, not really knowing how to handle his frail body. I mean, I do love kids, and although I doubt if I’ll be having any of my own, I know how to handle them, but during the first few times I’d seen Baby Nathan, he just looked so fragile, I chose not to carry him myself from fear of breaking him. So this was a first for us.
Shortly after, I reminded the dad that we had a bit of shopping to do, for a bit of stuff for their Noche Buena, or Christmas eve dinner. He asked if Baby Nathan could tag along. Sure! And before I knew it, even mom and sister were all dressed up ready for the trip to the mall. And man, you should’ve seen Baby Nathan, dressed in his little shirt which I gave him before, his little jeans and his little rubber shoes, and even his little bonnet... wow, such a cutie.
We did our rounds at the grocery, with me pushing the cart, dad carrying Baby Nathan, and mom taking charge of the sister, as well as picking out what food to get. Some stuff for spaghetti, some fruit salad, hotdogs, chicken… the works. I wanted to make sure that they’d get some of that Christmas spirit without having to worry about where to get it from. Now hold on, I’m just a medium in all this. One of you good souls reading this blog helped me out to make this possible. You know who you are, and on behalf of the family, thank you.
We hardly heard a peep from Baby Nathan the whole trip. It was apparently the first time both kids were to go around the mall, which I could imagine was exciting enough. But Baby Nathan was extreme. He was so quiet and so wide-eyed, as if not wanting to miss any person, any thing, any light, or any color that we passed by. And compared with the sterile hospital room he’d been calling home for more than a month, there indeed was a lot to see.
From there, we headed back home, where I hung out a bit amidst some home-made kakanin and juice the lola offered me. The mom and the lola started preparing their Christmas dinner, as Baby Nathan was given some milk and put in bed for a bit, obviously overwhelmed by the sightseeing treat he got. It was just past 5:00 in the afternoon, and I had been getting messages from my mom asking where I was, because we were supposed to spend Christmas eve at my aunt’s house, so I left them to enjoy their Christmas evening and headed home.
My mom still thought I’d be coming from work, and I braved the terrible Cubao traffic going home, and made it past 7:00 pm. Barely even sitting down, I just took a shower and off again we went to my aunt’s house, where we spent the rest of Christmas eve. You can only imagine how tired I was by 2:00 in the morning. Now you know why I needed to space out for a whole day.
I’m still recovering, although I’ve already been able to take my mom shopping today. I did more window shopping myself, oddly enough, at the Baby Sections of the malls. I wanted to get Baby Nathan a baby walker, so he could see more than just feet, or a stroller, so they’d have an easier time taking him around. But I was a bit shocked at the prices at the local SM mall, especially for strollers, which looked like off-roaders and which were so expensive that I thought they’d better come with someone to push them for that price.
So I was thinking, maybe someone out there has an old walker and/or a stroller stashed away somewhere unused... I know someone who could put it to good use. Hint, hint. Nooooo! Not me! Grr. You know who I mean. Consider it a post-Christmas gift? Or us helping you clean house? Just give it some thought. Please.
So anyways, I’ve managed to keep my Christmas spirit going, which is so unexpected, this being the first Christmas I’m spending with HIV. And I can honestly say this is the best Christmas I’ve ever had. It’s like I have more gratitude for the little things in life, I’m living by the day, and I know that there is some reason that I was chosen for this blessing. Without HIV, I wouldn’t get the opportunities I’ve been getting lately, and I wouldn’t be meeting the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. All thanks to HIV.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I was awoken this morning at 5:00 am by a call on my mobile phone. The ringing didn’t last long. When I checked, it was an unknown number, so I dozed back off again. The next thing I heard was my message alert, which is a bit more annoying than my ringtone. That brought me to my senses.
Checking the message, it came from the same anonymous number, but made me smile. It was Baby Nathan’s dad, using a new sim card on my same network, greeting me a Merry Christmas, thanking me for all the help, and telling me he’d call later. Wouldn’t that make you smile? I replied with a good morning and a Merry Christmas as well.
Shortly after, another call came in. I answered this time, and it was Baby’s dad, saying Merry Christmas and asking how I was. I could hear Baby Nathan in the background obviously craving for some attention from his dad. I couldn’t help but laugh. We talked a bit about how they were discharged from the RITM last December 16th, how he’d gone back for a med refill yesterday, how Baby Nathan was doing well, and was becoming his naughty young self again and I told him I’d try to drop by sometime, since we lived in the same city. I was regretting having to work today. It’s December 24th, and I should just be relaxing in time for Christmas eve. But nooo. I have to work. The whole day. Argh.
Regardless, that call just jumpstarted my day. I got out of bed in a jiffy, and found myself preparing to glaze our Christmas ham while I was eating breakfast. Hmmm, did I finally find my Christmas spirit? Hahaha.
I was out of the house with a bounce in my step, and I stood across the gate waiting for a tricycle. There was this one moment when there were no cars on the street, no tricycles, no dogs, no people. It was unusual. And I realized that for that brief moment, the world was all about me. God was making me smile with the gift of silence and solitude. And smile I did.
The bus ride to work was a surprise in itself. Yeah, the traffic was terrible, especially by the bus stations in Cubao as people tried to rush home to their respective provinces. Yeah, that loud sound made when the side mirror of another bus broke against the frame of ours jolted me a bit. But the little gesture of the bus conductor thanking me for giving him exact change was unusual and unexpected, but deeply appreciated. I smiled again.
I continued exchanging text messages with Baby Nathan’s dad until I got to work. He half-jokingly wished I’d get the afternoon off from work so I could drop by. He told me to just send him a message so they could meet me in the area in case I got lost. I fished a bit, asking what they were having for Christmas dinner tonight. He shamefully answered that they didn’t have anything special to serve me. I laughed and assured him I’d try my best to drop by and take care of that. His last reply was that Baby Nathan said he’d wait for me to come. Haha, this guy knew how to make me smile.
So here I am, working on the eve of Christmas, but really, I think my day is already made. I sooooo want to go visit Baby Nathan and give them some of the Christmas spirit I’ve been being blessed with, and I’ll be trying my bestest.
I don't know exactly what endears me so much to Baby Nathan and his family, but they sort of remind me of the Nativity story of Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Christmas family. For now, let me greet everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS. May the spirit of family, happiness and giving be with us all. Wow, was that me talking?! Maybe I'm not such a scrooge after all.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Oh, shit. Four days to go till Christmas.
It’s never been a day or a season I look forward to. Ever since I had the maturity – or should I call it angst – to look beyond the decorations, the gifts and the food, and into all the emotions that are wrapped up with it, I’ve come to realize how the holidays have usually been a lonely time for me.
I know I’ve always regarded myself as a loner, and as being strong and secure, but Christmas is a time that magnifies all my insecurities, all the loneliness, all the self-pity and all the hurt. I can honestly say that I’ve cried myself to sleep on more than a couple of occurrences of Christmas.
I can’t say I’ve always been single whenever Christmastime comes. But memories of the few years that I’ve had someone special beside me during the holidays end up being tainted with doubt when the relationship ends because of infidelity, mostly on their part.
Last year, my first Christmas after my personal vow of singlehood, I remember getting the most greetings ever, mostly from the guys who I was playing mistress to at the time. But knowing that they needed to sneak off and could spare just a few minutes from their normal lives to drop me a line, and when these guys would need to go back to their wives, girlfriends, partners or boyfriends, I realize that the numbers didn’t count. Eventually, I’d be alone again.
This being the last weekend before Christmas, I’ve been attending party after party the past few days. Fun? Yes, definitely. And though I am usually nothing more than a wall flower, the happiness overflows in my heart when I see other people happy. Creepy to some extent, I know. But deep inside, I’ve been feeling the loneliness skulking in.
From my late father, I inherited a penchant for booze. And though I don’t really do much of it, nor am I addicted to it, I’ve been treating myself to my fair share of the drinking the past few days. But as much as I’d like to try to drown my sorrows away, it’s like the heavens have taunted me again. I do not get drunk. I’ve gotten as far as tipsy and sleepy, but never ever gotten puke-mad-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-can’t-remember-what-happened unconscious. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I want to forget the loneliness. I want to be numbed of the pain. But I wasn’t meant to be that lucky.
This will be my first Christmas after finding out I am HIV-positive. How much worse will HIV make it? Only time can tell.
So far, sans the HIV part of it, Christmas seems to be a time when everyone is already busy with their special someone. And as I’ve learned, third wheels will get left behind. Even just seeing strangers everywhere I look paired up walking hand in hand just leaves me sighing and trying to shake the loneliness from my mind.
Apart from that, it seems to be a time when people seem to be wearing new clothes, sporting new looks, and of course looking damned good, and it’s been such a torture to try to keep myself from having any part of that pie. I’m just afraid it’s going to get too complicated. Or maybe I’m too proud to admit that I’m needy. I don’t want to run the risk of having something end up as a fling just to tide me over the holidays.
So for now, only solitude will surely remain by my side. I’ll be constantly reminding – and convincing – myself of all the pros of being single, and if I’m lucky, when I go to bed tonight, I’ll wake up to find out it’s January already. If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to whip out – Gasp! – my License to Drama. Just wish my sanity luck... please.
P.S. On a good note, POSITIVISM.PH is up and running! Check it out! Thank you, Hotbox and Synthesis! Congrats, Bossings! We've only just begun...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
On December 1st 2008, World AIDS Day was celebrated. It’s a bit sad that just one day is dedicated to HIV and AIDS, but still it’s better than nothing. Contrast that day to the whole month of December which is something like Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. But hey, who am I to compare?
Nonetheless, I’ve noticed that HIV and AIDS has been the subject of choice for some forms of media, especially television.
On December 1st itself, ABS-CBN came up with a short public service message by their health-oriented show Salamat Dok. Later on QTV, Moms did a show on the basics of HIV and AIDS. A segment on ABS-CBN’s new program TV Patrol World also touched on the status of HIV and AIDS in the country. And later the next evening, or early the following morning to be exact, GMA’s documentary program Reporter’s Notebook had it as one of its two topics for the day. But please let’s not go back to that. I’ve ranted about it enough.
The next weekend on GMA’s magazine show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, one of her segments was still about HIV and AIDS. I didn’t catch the first part of the segment, but managed to watch how photographer Niccolo Cosme did his part for HIV and AIDS awareness by unveiling a photo exhibit entitled Headshot Clinic Aware. It was a set of face shots of people from different walks of life – director Manny Castaneda, host Sam Oh, actress Katrina Halili, model Brent Javier, and designer Rajo Laurel, just some of the more familiar faces – devoid of bright colors, other than a red mark across some part of them, all aiming to artistically make people aware of HIV and AIDS. Learn more about the Headshot Clinic on its website and see the photos on their database.
You’d think this would be some small attempt to ride on the occurrence of World AIDS Day, but what surprised me was when one of the photo subjects actually came out. Writer Wanggo Gallaga admitted he was HIV positive. Wanggo is the youngest son of Director Peque Gallaga, and says he aimed to fight the stigma by putting a face – his own – on HIV and AIDS. It was such a noble cause, and hopefully his huge step is a huge leap forward for those living with HIV. A newspaper feature, done by Wanggo himself for the Inquirer tells us more about it.
The following days saw more features on Wanggo’s disclosure on ABS-CBN’s evening news program TV Patrol World and showbiz-oriented show The Buzz among others, his father even speaking up on his son’s condition. I wasn’t able to watch these other features, sadly.
Last Monday, I was quietly dishing up dinner at the dining table when something caught my ears, and made me run towards the television. ABS-CBN was premiering a new Filipino-dubbed Japanese drama entitled Precious Time. It was about a young woman’s plight with HIV, the trailer showing one scene where she shouts “HIV-positive ako! (I’m HIV-positive!)”, flowing into another where she says “Mamamatay na ako! (I’m dying!)” I was initially worried that it’d be a typical boohoo-pity-me story of HIV, but realized, Hey, it’s a fictional drama. What should I expect?
I wasn’t planning to, but I found myself still awake for the first episode of Precious Time. It didn’t quite get to the part of her discovering she was HIV positive, but I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t able to watch the following day of it since it starts way, way past my bedtime of 10:00 pm. Regardless, I think it’d be such a huge eye-opener for the Filipino masses to hear HIV, HIV and HIV nightly for the next couple of months. Hopefully it will leave them craving for more – information, that is.
The media will always be a powerful tool. And as in any campaign for awareness, I’m hoping it can really drive a hard point: That HIV is here and must be faced.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Years ago, I recall a friend of mine asking for help, because someone – an obsessed fan or a jilted lover – was writing nasty things about him in some online forums. He was called a thief, a sex addict and a liar, even broadcasting his address, his landlord, his number, the company for which he worked, and worst of all, it was being said that he was HIV positive. I knew the guy well enough to know he was a good guy, but I never questioned if the HIV part of it was true or not. I didn’t need to. All I did was report it to the webmaster, who eventually deleted the forums and the profiles being used to spread the rumors.
Eight months into being positive myself, HIV is suddenly a big issue. The ultimate nightmare for anyone with HIV, me included, is to be outed or even just speculated to have HIV. This is primarily because of the stigma attached to it. Hell, the stigma is so bad, that even if it’s not true, it can still be a nightmare.
Now, I don’t know if it’s a Filipino thing, or a universal fact, but there will always be people who will thrive on talking about other people. And I’ve come to realize that the occurrence of HIV rumors has been rising on the net, particularly on guys4men, a gay personals site that has become popular with Filipinos.
I’ve been playing roles in my head, wondering how I’d react if the same things happened to me. And I’ve come to the conclusion that my premise will always be that these are all just rumors. It will always be a question whether the details are true or not. A question which really does not need to be answered. Why? Let’s take come actual examples of stuff I’ve seen online.
Accusations of being HIV positive. Even if it is true, what’s so bad about that? HIV is not the be-all and end-all of a person. HIV is just a single facet in the gem of who we HIV-positives are. I’m HIV-positive, but I’m sorry, that doesn’t make me less of a person. Why haven’t I come out if having HIV is so bad? Well, the reality still remains that there is still stigma attached to it. That’s why I’m trying so hard to show everyone how it is to be HIV positive, so we can all understand it and those living with it better.
Allegations of someone with HIV spreading the virus irresponsibly, because of anger and revenge. Even if it is true, what can we do? Beat him up? Does that make us better people? The fact will always remain that every single person has the ultimate power to keep himself safe. If everyone he partners with opts to play safe, how far will the virus spread? To the condom? Duh. The point is, don’t expect anyone but you to keep yourself safe.
Accusations that someone has HIV and is using two profiles – one for HIV & advocacy, and one for plain sex. Even if it is true, what’s so bad about that? I have HIV, believe I’m an advocate, and I have a guys4men profile. I won’t deny that I have used that profile to find sex ever since I created it five years ago. And the reality is, I still can.
I think I’ve been smart enough not to disappear inexplicably from the site to keep people from wondering why all of a sudden. Nor do I broadcast on my profile that I am HIV positive. Reality check: my disclosure is a privilege, not an obligation. As of now, I don’t actively look as much for sex using it, but I won’t deny that I’d love some. A wake up call to everyone: the HIV positive get horny, too. We’re human! That’s what safe sex is for.
Look at it this way, would it be any better if just one profile is used for both HIV & advocacy and searching for sex? Duh. Is stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV non-existent in the Philippines? Duh again.
These are just examples of some of the stuff that’s online. Heaven knows what others there are. And personally, I don’t have enough time to comb through all the shit that’s out there.
Here’s my take. Rumors are just rumors, and can remain as such. Especially in these cases, where the words come from faceless names hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. Give humanity the benefit of the doubt to be wise enough not to take everything they read at face value.
The burden of proof is in the hands of whoever starts it. And don’t tell me that so and so said this, and so and so said that, because that just reduces accusations to mere hearsay. Do they know that you’re namedropping them in all this mayhem? Why can’t these people speak for themselves? Heaven knows what your motives are.
Contrary to popular belief, rumors, true or not, are not made to be dispelled. Rumors are made to provoke a response from the subject, and any time wasted by him doing that is an automatic victory for he who started the rumors. The more you’re affected, the more fulfilling it is for him. Remember when we were kids? Ang mas pikon, mas masarap alaskahin.
Turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, and he’ll get tired eventually. I remember being bullied as a kid, where I learned some words that were then childish but now surprisingly sensible: Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.
And to whoever is the victim of such rumors, don’t allow yourself to be the victim. Be bigger than the rumors themselves. Focus on what’s important. Work. Family. Love. Friends. Happiness. Life.
A copy of the Optimistic Creed is posted behind me here at work, and I just have to share some of its wisdom. Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the pressure of trouble.
Friday, December 12, 2008
It was Friday, but I took the day off from work. I still woke up early though, to take a trip to the Social Hygiene Clinic to get the results of my Quantitative RPR. Nothing alarming, just part of the monitoring for my syphilis.
From there I headed straight to my favorite barber who gave me my signature semi-kalbo, after which I treated myself to a hairspa. Having not that much hair left and having a hairspa doesn’t make sense, but I mostly do it for the massage that comes with it. It borders between being extremely relaxing and slightly arousing. I don’t even know if he’s really good at it, or if I just find him that hot. It feels so good that I get chills down my spine. And so much chills that I get confused whether I’m truly aroused, or just need to pee. Mmm.
It was just 11:00 am. So did I take a leave just to get my lab results and treat myself to a haircut? No, of course not. That was just the beginning. All in preparation for a big day, my first Christmas Party at the RITM.
I was feeling good today. My face was cooperating, with my breakouts taking a bit of a break. Even my sniffles were in on it, as my runny nose held up for the day. Okay so the haircut was half because I needed it, and half because I wanted to make a good first impression. Good impression, my ass! Was I planning to flirt?! No, not planning. Let’s just say I was open to the possibility. No, no. More like I needed to feel confident. Whatever.
I was able to convince U to go, so we went together, buying some pitchi-pitchi and some bread and dip on the way, for our contribution to the potluck celebration. Coming from all the way north, and going all the way south, it was expected that we’d be late. Let’s just say call time was 10:00 am, and we got there at 1:30 pm. Talk about Filipino time.
Walking in to the tune of Hep-Hep-Hooray being played by some of the pusits, I carefully stayed unnoticed while I looked around, wondering if I’d see someone I wasn’t expecting to see. Someone who I’d made contact with, who I didn’t know had HIV, too. Fortunately, other than the guys and some gals I’d met at the RITM and San Lazaro before, our resident counselor, the Doctor and the Ates, no other familiar faces. A big Whew! from me.
After a run down the buffet, I sat down and faded into my wall flower mode. Quiet, insignificant, observant, hiding behind a huge column in the middle of the hall, away from all the action. I looked the crowd over a second time between bites, checking everyone out. I have been asked by others if there really are a lot of hot guys there. I just tease, saying SECRET! I’m sorry you couldn’t make it! Hehehe.
And, though it was a party, and as much as I’d liked to share the experience, I didn’t expect any pictures to be taken. I myself opted against bringing a camera with me, from fear of the pictures having to look like this...
That aint lookin' so Christmasy, huh? Hahahahaha.
But more importantly, other than a couple of guys I noticed in face masks, everyone looked every bit normal and ordinary as the rest of the world. There were guys, there were girls, even guys who looked like girls... nothing new to me. There were kids running around, some RITM personnel hanging out and some affected friends in the mix, so much so that no one could probably identify correctly who was HIV positive and who wasn’t. I couldn’t tell myself just by looking.
I just had a moment of bother when one guy was introduced to me. It was a guy who I’ve mentioned in one of my posts before, and not in an entirely good way. Let’s just say I gave my honest opinion not expecting to meet him face to face. But he was nice enough to smile and say something to the tune of yeah, I know him already, which left me speechless. I realize I’m treading the waters between fame and notoriety as The Blogger. Good thing I snapped out of the paranoid spell soon enough.
From across the room, I noticed someone looking my way. It was Baby Nathan’s dad. He cradled the Baby who seemed frightened by all the noise, flashing his familiar smile. I was caught off guard by how he recognized me from that far away, but I nodded and smiled back, and understood, they were doing okay.
A young lady walked by, a couple of minutes later, shook my hand, said thank you and walked off. I later realized she was the Baby’s mom, who I was seeing and meeting for the first time. It was surprising how young she looked, but again refreshing how positive her aura was, even belting out more than a handful of songs on the videoke machine.
Daddy walked over to my corner a bit later, updating me that the Baby was doing fine. The Baby was taken off the ARVs that were causing him fevers, and was shifted to my same pills probably, which he apparently melts in his mouth like candy. Yum. I thought to myself, now he’s really getting his childhood back. I couldn’t help but smile.
Several videoke songs, a fabulous production number from a t-back bearing babe, a couple of hours more of food, zero word from work, an exchanging of gifts, some bulge- and finger-related speculations about my penis size – something I’ve come to be comfortable with and proud of, ahem, ahem – and a refill of my ARV supply later, the crowd had thinned and it was time to go.
U and I headed back up north the way we came, had dinner at the mall – like we didn’t get enough nutrition already – and chatted over some hot chocolate into the night, until we went our own ways at about 10:30 pm.
Looking the day over, the Grinch in me has to admit that it was a positive day. And if this, being my first Christmas party of the year, is a sign of things to come, I think I’ll have a happy Christmas this year.
Christmas is supposed to be about family, and be it as small as Baby Nathan’s family, or as big as the community that came out to celebrate, I felt how it was to have a family. It’s only today that I can finally say that I do feel the spirit of Christmas.
A Positively Merry Christmas to us all!
Monday, December 08, 2008
Disclosure. I seem to be doing it more often than I expected.
Saturday saw me disclosing my HIV status once again to one of my buddies. Yes, sex buddies. But the outcome was a bit different from the usual, and I’ve been left analyzing the situation. I’d appreciate your opinion on this as well. Might being selfish be a good thing?
This guy and I had met online a couple of months ago, and he’d expressed his desire from the start for us to at least become friends. Why not? But keeping wary that something more than friendship might happen, I’d minced his mind that early on his inclinations when it came to sex. He said he was open to anything except unprotected sex. That was a surprising but welcome reply.
Eventually, a day came when we happened to be in the same mall on the same afternoon. Normally these days, I’d do everything in my power not to meet someone new who wasn’t aware of my HIV status, but my courage in this incident came from his declaration of safe sexual practices. Add to that the fact that we technically didn’t plan on having sex. And, as always, I had my safe sex kit handy, as a last resort. And so I agreed to meet. We had some drinks, talked, and went on some errands together. Eventually, he ended up taking me to his place that evening, where we had sex.
I didn’t expect anything further than what happened that fateful day, and since we had safe sex anyway, I didn’t feel the need to tell him I had HIV. But as luck may have it, he enjoyed my company, and he ended up inviting me out to his favorite bar for the following days and couple of weekends. He’d introduce me to his friends, share a couple of beers with me, and even have me give him an occasional blowjob in the restroom. We agreed it was nothing romantic, just a... uhm, a normal friendship.
Although we never really fucked again after that first time, with the days and the weeks passing by, he still didn’t know I was HIV positive. And at that point, I felt it was too late into the odd friendship we’d built to tell. And so I just quit. I couldn’t stand hiding it anymore, but didn’t know how to tell, so I started avoiding him.
Almost every weekend since then, he asked me out, but I just made excuses. Until this last weekend, he invited me out again for a drink, and I ran out of alibis. So I wrote a text message divulging my secret, and just pressing Send made my knees weak. But he made it worth it. His reply was one of the best so far. So what? I still want to see you. I’m your friend. We were safe anyway, right? I honestly couldn’t believe what I was reading.
So I agreed to meet him finally in the afternoon, just for a short talk, before some work he had to do before sundown. But what transpired was just so unexpected. After reassuring me that he was still a friend, that he knew everything about HIV and AIDS having read on it before, and that he was 100% sure he was safe, he suddenly changed his tone, reprimanding me and lecturing me for not telling him from the start.
I was reasoning out that we practically just bumped into each other at the mall at the time, and had no real plans of having sex. Also in the back of my mind, I was thinking, hell, I didn’t know you well enough to disclose to you. But he just kept pointing out that it was my responsibility to tell. He wanted to make sure that next time, I would.
The worst thing he said was that if we had done it unprotected, he’d probably be mad enough to beat me up. I know I felt fear at that point.
I was trying to explain that it wasn’t that easy or simple to tell, but he repeatedly cut me off, saying that life itself isn’t easy or simple. Geez, was it me or were we losing the connection? Seeing that he wasn’t willing to listen, I just stopped talking, but kept smiling like nothing was wrong. He wasn’t ready for the reality of it. I was relieved when he had to go run his errand, and just headed home wondering what just happened.
So what did happen? I do appreciate him expressing his support. But I’ve come to realize, there’s such a huge, huge difference between knowing about HIV, and understanding it. Yeah, he knew about transmission, prevention, and getting tested, but what he failed to see is the humanity involved in all the science of the disease.
It’s such a mystery to me how he could be so firm in saying that I should always tell any new guy I meet. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s easier said than done. Am I the only one living in this country and this world where there still is discrimination and stigma attached to HIV? Not everyone needs to know. Not everyone deserves to know. Not everyone is ready to know. And not everyone is ready to tell.
I don’t deny that my HIV status is my responsibility. It is, totally. But let’s all not forget each and everyone’s responsibility to take care of themselves. Unless you were forced into the act, or do not to have the ability to make decisions of your own, your body remains primarily your responsibility. I believe it’s at these particular instances of forgetting to take care of one’s self that HIV gets its boost.
I always say it takes two to tango. When it comes to HIV, it’s easy enough for one party to point a finger, and just as easy to beat someone up for exposing you to the risk. Bruises will heal. But the fact will remain that no one can deny responsibility in such a case.
One way to stay negative is by protecting yourself. Let’s stop blaming, and just this once, be selfish. Let’s all, first and foremost, take care and be responsible for ourselves.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Finally, I can write about R. We’d met the first and only time earlier this year, when a common friend of ours organized a threesome. My friend and I drove to R’s place, and roarrr, I liked him. He was my type: manly, mature, smart, and very dominant. But being an expert at threesomes, I always make sure the guys I’m with get their fair share of the action. So we did the deed.
R and I kept in touch after that, but before there was any opportunity for us to meet again, I found out that I was HIV positive. And for lack of having an excuse to see him again, I told him.
This thing with R sounds similar with my thing with Mojo, but it was more complicated. Why? Even R doesn’t know this yet, and he’ll be finding out for the first time from this blog entry. That one time we had sex happened on April 7th, while I was waiting for the results of my HIV test. It was after March 31st, when my blood sample was taken, and before April 16th when I got my results. I’m not proud and I realize now how lackadaisical I really was about getting tested.
R basically didn’t take the news of my being poz too well. I knew from the way he bombarded me with messages and questions that he was panicking. And as it was at a time when I myself was in a chaotic state of mind, I didn’t know how to calm him down. He got tested almost as soon as I told him, and it came up negative. But we both knew that wasn’t enough.
It was such a small HIV world, that he found this blog shortly after, probably in the midst of his panic. He even asked me point blank if I knew the guy who was writing it. I denied, of course. And with the truth being in this blog, I had to change my story with him: when I got tested, when I got my results, my age, and even my birthdate. Talk about paranoia, huh? That's why I never wrote about R, because he'd find out it was me.
I was witness to how hard it was for him to spend the next few months just waiting for the window period to expire. And for those next few months, he never stopped bugging me, until I just chose to stop replying to his messages altogether, mostly because I felt he was just dragging me down with him into depression. I knew I held some responsibility for his dilemma, but needed to help myself before anyone else.
So we lost touch, or at least I did, until that fateful day that he sent me a message after the window period passed, saying his HIV retest just turned up negative. I’m sure I heaved a sigh of relief that time and congratulated him. I think his reply was something to the tune of he’ll still be there for me, but I never held him to that promise, not after I dropped him like a hot potato in his own time of need.
So months and months passed, but I do recall getting messages from R. It wasn’t that often, probably just once every other month, asking how I was doing. I’d reply, but still felt too guilty to take too much of his time.
Up until last week, when he sent his usual how-are-you-doing-buddy, which he followed up with asking if he could call so we could talk. I was hesitant, because I didn’t feel worthy of his care and his time. I was also worried because I couldn’t remember all the details of the story I’d fabricated to cover myself up. But I gave in after a few more messages, sent him my number, and we talked.
R started out asking how I was, then moving on to more personal stuff about my family, work and other stuff. I was on to him. He was checking my story out. So I decided, fine, it’s time to come clean. I answered all his questions with utmost truth, completely aware that these same details could be found littered in this blog. I honestly had a smirk on my face talking with him, as if we were playing Pinoy Henyo.
We continued our conversation the next day, which was when, upon being asked again, I finally admitted to being the owner of this blog. It was liberating, probably even for him. He told me he’d been following this blog religiously, never forgetting the suspicion he had all along that it was me. I thanked him, and surprisingly, he thanked me too. He thanked me for triggering this phase in his life, where, as he said, he realized and learned a lot.
Although I'm wondering whether my admission changed his view of me as a person, or whether it changed his view of the PinoyPoz or B.I.T.C.H. writing this blog, either way, I was just appreciative of the time he took to salvage what he could out of our friendship. I know you’re reading this, R. Thanks for listening to – and reading – my story. And thanks for still being a friend. This is just filthy old me, finally coming clean.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Yesterday was a usual day. Worked. Headed home. Had dinner. Took a shower. Drank my meds. Hopped into bed. But I had no plans of sleeping. I was waiting for Reporter’s Notebook, a show on GMA channel 7, which was to have a post-World-AIDS-Day feature on HIV and AIDS. I couldn’t wait. I knew it would be late, but man, it started at midnight, way past my 10:00 pm bedtime. Even worse, they started with another feature, on firecrackers. Yawn.
Finally, at 12:30 in the morning, the segment came on. It was hosted by Maki Pulido, and sort of started me off with a Huh? when she introduced HIV as short for Human Immuno Virus. Hmm, not a good sign.
They started off with interviews of doctors, including my very own Dr. Diana Mendoza from the Social Hygiene Clinic of the Manila Health Department. I honestly lost track of what she was saying, since my mind was going fanatic, knowing the face on the tube. Statistics were laid out: 33 million people worldwide living with HIV, 3,515 people in the Philippines diagnosed to have HIV, and up to 7,490 people in the country possibly actually carrying the virus without their knowing. I’m just one of these statistics.
They mentioned that there has been an alarming rise in diagnoses of HIV infections, this October being the highest ever, at 59 for the month. Personally, it’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean more people are getting infected. It just means that more people are finding out they are. More people having the guts. More people taking responsibility. Who knows how long they’ve been carrying the virus around and not knowing, right? And yes, I speak from experience.
They then introduced three vignettes of people in the Philippines infected by HIV. First, Eric, a married seafarer, who used female sex workers while deployed on a vessel. Second, Joey, a single male, who was a sex worker for five years. Third, Anthony, a callcenter agent who’s had hundreds of partners and has sex even when on break at work.
Wow, thanks for helping the world judge us, ha. I’ve been drowning in Positivism so much, I probably forgot how important it was to point out how slutty we are. Hmmm, so what image is this show trying to leave? That HIV is a punishment for the promiscuous? That’ll really help people chicken out of getting tested, freaks. Now, I was really getting pissed. It’s a good thing they didn’t go as far as push the stereotype of HIV being a homosexual disease.
Maki Pulido and her team continued to show they’re not so pulido, when she asked the call center agent if he knew from whom he got it. Anthony answers something to the tune of, I don’t know anymore, because I’ve had so many. When asked how many sex partners he’s had, he replies, “More than 400, less than 300…” which causes Ms. Pulido to let out a whopping “Wow!” Well, the last time I checked my math, there’s no such number that’s more than 400, less than 300, so I don’t know how they could let that slip through editing. Wow your face.
They went on to show experts from different fields, heading later on to the topic of ARVs. Eric starts off saying ARVs are expensive, but the segment goes on to say that there is access to free ARVs in the country, thanks to foreign funding of government efforts. Then Ms. Remedios AIDS Foundation pops up, and says the free medicines will only be supplied until 2012, and that after that, the burden will be on the government to continue to be able to support the free medicines. At that point, I could feel the blood rushing to my head.
Wow, Remedios AIDS Foundation, thank you for not putting that in more pleasant terms. Thank you for pointing out that we are a burden. And thank you for letting all my hopes and dreams beyond 2012 fall to pieces. Your advocacy amazes me. Yes, I am being sarcastic.
I could literally feel my CD4 count dropping by the minute, because the negativity of the statements was bothersome. Way to scare us all back into hopelessness. You Remedios AIDS F... F... Frustrators!
I don’t really know who to blame. Whether it’s the resource person, the host, the researchers, the staff, the show or the station. That’s what you get when you squeeze as big a topic as HIV into 25 minutes, inclusive of 10 minutes of commercial content. I really hope you made money off of this one. Thanks for bastardizing HIV. I really regretted having to wait up for this program. It's time to burn this notebook.
The only good part is that this reaffirmed why we need to push Positivism to the forefront. It’s really time for change. Now.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
November 30th – a national holiday, Bonifacio Day, but oddly moved to December 1st. December 1st – not normally a big day, especially in a country whose Christmas season starts on the first day of the –ber months. But this year, I was expecting something more. December 1, 2008 was the 20th year of commemorating World AIDS Day.
Okay, I honestly needed to rethink if I was part of this momentous day, considering that, technically, I don’t have AIDS. But since I haven’t heard of any such HIV day, I invited myself to the party. It’s something to the level of my birthday getting observed only because it was just a couple of days away from my mom and dad’s birthdays. I encompassed myself in the celebration.
Pondering on the reason why it’s a day especially for AIDS just left me assuming it was started because there was a need to commemorate the lives lost to AIDS. But in this country where the existence of AIDS is almost unknown among the masses or maybe even denied, and in this day and age when medical advances have managed to enable people living with AIDS to live almost normal and healthy lives, the primary reason for commemorating World AIDS Day may just have shifted to a need for awareness and education. At least that’s what I thought.
So I spent the day at home, combing the web and the boob tube, looking for any signs of activity commemorating World AIDS Day in the Philippines. I did appreciate both Yahoo! and Yahoo! Philippines changing the banners on their web pages for this special day.
Other than that, I was expecting Google to have something too, but saw nothing. No worries.
I then set might sights on local and cable television. I was mostly looking toward the early evening news for maybe activities within the metro commemorating World AIDS Day. But prior to that, I was on Velvet, where Extreme Makeover Home Edition replayed an episode featuring a single mom suffering from cancer, who made it her advocacy to adopt and care for children who had AIDS. It was still touching even though I’d watched it a handful of times before.
I also chanced upon a public service message by the show Salamat Dok of ABS-CBN on AIDS awareness. Short but good enough.
I then got a message from my poz-friendly friend telling me to turn to QTV, which I did. I locked myself in my room and flipped the TV on. The show Moms, hosted by Lani Mercado, Manilyn Reynes and Sherilyn Reyes, was in the midst of a discussion, thankfully, about the basics of HIV and AIDS.
There were three people on their panel. The two ladies were experts from the National AIDS Council and UNAIDS, while I was left questioning what organization the other guy represented. He wasn’t as articulate as the two ladies, and was even unsure of what the meaning of MSM was, even if he was the one who chucked the term out. MSM is a term used to refer to the at-risk group of Men who have Sex with Men. Other similar terms would be FSW for Female Sex Workers, MSW for Male Sex Workers, and IDU for Intravenous Drug Users. I’m proud to say I knew all that. So I was pissed, to be honest, and left asking who the hell this guy was supposed to be.
Apparently, his name was Rommel Franco, and he was HIV positive. Argh! And later, he said he was part of Pinoy Plus Association, one of our – ahem, ahem – advocacy groups. A bigger ARGH! from me.
Okay, I tried to be supportive. Tried. He looked decent on air, but, man! He had this dazed, worried and puzzled look on his face the whole time, and as my friend and I agreed, he wasn’t very confident with what he was saying. I dunno, it would’ve been better if the pusit representation was more… comfortable and sure of himself.
The show went on to reveal the facts and myths about HIV and AIDS, mentioning statistics that there is just a 1 in 1,000 chance to be infected sexually with HIV, that up to 80% of those infected do not know their HIV status, and the facts on the window period of 3 to 6 months. Very interesting, and I can only hope that many were able to watch and learn from them.
When the early evening news on ABS-CBN came on, there was a single item, featuring the status of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines, stating Department of Health statistics of 3,515 people in the Philippines infected by HIV, of which 800 are AIDS cases. So far, 310 deaths have been recorded to be AIDS-related. They also interviewed some itatago-natin-sa-pangalang-Jack person who is HIV positive. It was just a brief touch on HIV to commemorate World AIDS Day, but the disturbing part was the picture being shown to end the segment. It was an image of the hand of someone hospitalized, receiving something intravenously. That’s the sad picture of HIV, but not the norm. I was hoping they could show that we no longer suffer from HIV and AIDS, but live with it. Sigh.
I don’t know if GMA did a feature on it. I confess I’m a true-blue Kapamilya. Hehehe. But I heard they’ll be doing a feature on HIV and AIDS tonight on Reporter’s Notebook. Let’s see what they have in store.
So there, World AIDS Day went by for me with barely a pulse. The news on the Positivism.ph teaser was still the bestest gift I’d received. But hopefully in coming years, the awareness we’ve been fighting for will be in full swing. For now, let me say to everyone, poz and not, Happy – and I mean Happy – World AIDS Day! Stay Negative, Think Positive!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thanks to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, December 1st was declared a national holiday. It really doesn’t make sense to have to move a holiday that already fell on a weekend, but who am I to turn down a long weekend? More time to rest. But I was expecting it to be a boring one.
Friday night was nothing more than an early-to-bed thing, after turning down a dinner invitation after my long day at work. Saturday didn’t prove me wrong either, although someone did ask me out on a date, but cancelled last minute. I just ran some errands at the bank and the local mall instead. Sunday wasn’t shaping up to be any better, especially since it was drizzling most of the morning. Yawn.
This was until I got an unexpected message... Drum roll, please...
The Positivism.ph team was aiming for December 1st as a launch date for the e-magazine, in time for World AIDS Day. And aim we did. But despite everyone working their asses off on this project, it seemed we’d missed our mark. I last checked for updates Friday, but so far there was no definite word whether we’d make it or not. I even checked the URL, but still saw some generic portal page probably put up by the site host. It wasn’t imaginable to even expect the team to work over the weekend.
But unexpectedly, I received a text message from our Positivism.ph big boss earlier this afternoon. Positivism teaser page is up! :) I don’t even remember what I replied, because I was on the net within a minute, eager to see what was up. This was exactly what I saw...
To say I was excited was an understatement. I was shaking! I admit, too, I was on the verge of tears, but I told myself “Snap out of it, sissy boy!” I logged on to Yahoo! Messenger and bombarded all my contacts with the great news. One friend who was online thought I made the teaser myself, trying to make sense of my excitement. I said no, but that I was just part of the project. I found E online as well, and was relieved to hear that he was feeling the rush, too. At least I wasn’t being crazy alone.
So there. It took me a couple of hours to calm down enough to start writing this entry. It may be just a teaser, but for me, it’s a ray of hope for those affected by HIV, which is practically everyone.
I doubt if December 1st will see droves of Filipinos coming out to truly celebrate World AIDS Day, but for this pusit, there certainly is much to celebrate. As the teaser says, change is coming.
Go check it out yourselves at http://positivism.ph/ and watch out for more. Help us spread the news, too!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I started this blog feeling like I was, as entitled, Back in the Closet. But as I went along my HIV journey, I started seeing that things weren’t so bad. And especially since the so-called HIV advocacy groups showed me how they were Back in the Panic Room, I realized how relatively liberated I was about this HIV thing.
I think it was my effort to learn more about my condition that gave me some visibility to the road further ahead. Okay, maybe not so much as to just blurt it out to my family just yet. But it’s like I’ve become was comfortable with myself again, ready to face the world. So am I actually coming out?
Well, honestly, to some extent, I have been coming out.
Other than the doctors and medical personnel who tested me positive for HIV, my first ever attempt at disclosing my status was with Mojo, who I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. I was just weeks into being HIV positive, and we were leaning towards pursuing each other for something beyond sex at the time, and I had no reason to give for my sudden loss of interest. So I confessed. Yes, it felt like confessing, like it was a sin to have HIV. His initial reaction was irritating, because he had to ask if I was joking. That would’ve been such a bad joke, wouldn’t it? But he redeemed himself when he said, “I’m still your friend.” I had that message saved in my inbox until about a month ago, when I finally admitted to myself that we’d lost touch. I felt his sincerity when he said he’d still be a friend, but he couldn’t hide the fear, which was so bad that he hasn’t gotten tested himself, from fear of the possibility of being HIV positive. And although I still feel that his fear of HIV translated to being afraid of me, I’ve forgiven him.
Since that time and this blog, I’ve been pretty open to coming out. Of course, telling fellow pozzies doesn’t count as coming out at all. But I’ve openly given my number to some readers, given my real life Friendster account to some who wanted to put a face on me, given out my full name, especially lately with this campaign for Baby Nathan, and even gotten the chance to meet a few people who’d been reading this blog. And yes, occasions have come where a new guy would be looking to hook up, at which point I sometimes choose to tell, so he’d have time to change his mind if he wanted to.
Has it been that easy? Not at all. It’s taken a bit of courage and a lot of trust for me to be able to do such things. But then again, I always think to myself, “How can I expect them to accept me and my condition, if I am drowning in my own paranoia?”
Impressive? Not really. Because I opened up to these people as strangers. And as I always said, the less a person knew me, the easier it was to tell.
So what about the rest? Well, honestly, I’ve been too chicken to tell some of my other contacts myself. And when I say contacts, I mean... okay, sexual contacts. So I did the next best thing. I backtracked through my sexual contacts up to more than a year ago, and had a friend contact them anonymously, to advise them to get tested for HIV. The reactions varied from asking who the sender was, replying to the anonymous number that they’d just gotten tested, sending foul messages to their alleged stalker, or most commonly, assuming that they did get the message, not replying. But I felt that was as decent a warning as I could manage.
Sometimes though, especially lately, I find myself disclosing my status to some of my guys. These are guys who I’ve met before, and were interested in seeing me again. These were guys who knew what a slut I was and with whom I had chemistry, and for whom I had no valid reason to suddenly be uninterested in having sex. I can’t just hurt their feelings with lies like I didn’t enjoy our last time, or I don’t miss doing it with you. I just can’t. And so I tell.
Again, a bit of courage, and a huge benefit of the doubt. I usually start with the line “I got sick,” to which they usually reply “I hope you’re feeling better now.” At that point, I’d throw my cares in the air and drop the bomb, “I found out I have HIV.” Again, some would ask if I was joking, which pisses me off, but eventually, the reality would set in. So far, no really negative reactions. They’d say they’d be there for me, wish that I was okay, and even go as far as check every so often how I was doing. The worst, so far, just involved us losing touch all of a sudden, which isn’t surprising at all. The best? Some guys would say they’d still want to see me, and even better, would still want to have sex with me. That still throws me off guard, until now.
Do I really have to tell them? Technically, no. But let’s put it this way: Granted that these guys may just be after sex, I’d like to be in a similar frame of mind, thinking that this is just HIV. It doesn’t change who I am, but rather, it just changes the premise of meeting. Definitely, it changes my sexual limitations, and possibly, it can change their interest in me. And whether it does or doesn’t, I’m fine with it. I’m not the same as before, when I’d have as many as three sex sessions in a day, three to four days a week, every week. Sounds like a gym workout, doesn’t it? I’ve mellowed down a lot, and have been finding myself resorting to every excuse there is to get out of a sex meet, but definitely, hearing HIV seems to douse most guys’ libidos most effectively.
So the road to disclosure hasn’t been as bad as I expected. But it’s still all baby steps for me. My next milestone would be being able to come out to my sister, which honestly, right now, doesn’t seem too far away. It certainly helps to have a full understanding of my condition, so helping others understand me and HIV won’t be too hard. But again, baby steps, baby steps. For now, I'm still Back in the Closet. Hopefully, someday, sometime and someway, I’ll be able to come out to the world, and with them realize that... my deepest, darkest secret is really no big deal.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The past few posts have all been about Baby Nathan. Baby Nathan, Baby Nathan, Baby Nathan. It’s all been about Baby Nathan.
What about me? I have HIV too, you know? How have I been doing? This is my blog, remember?
Okay, since you asked, I’ll tell you. It’s been seven months since I found out I’m HIV positive. I’ve been on anti-retrovirals or ARVs for the past three months. And I’m doing pretty good.
My weight is steady at around 140 pounds. No other allergic reactions to my ARVs. I’m due for another Quantitative RPR test in December, to make sure my Syphilis has gone or is going away.
My last test results came out a month ago, which was a Hepatitis B viral load count. I didn’t know what to think when I saw the result was over 100,000 units per milliliter. I was just relieved it was far from the maximum detectable level, which was in the hundreds of millions of units per milliliter. And showing it to the doctor at the RITM, she kept me for under a minute, pointing out it was just a baseline count to begin with. She reassured me that two of my three ARVs were acting against the Hepa B virus as well, which I knew already from doing research. She told me I’d need to redo the test six months after, in March, which I’m not exactly looking forward to, because it cost me over PhP 5,000.00. But considering all the other freebies I’m getting, it’s not that bad. I just need to start saving up for it little by little.
I had a bad cold again a couple of weeks ago. No thanks to my mom, who doesn’t have enough etiquette to cover her mouth when she coughs, nor to my boss, who just won’t take a break from work to get well no matter how bad her flu, nor to my selfish colleague at work, who would rather have everyone else freeze to death from the air-conditioning than turn an electric fan her way, just to douse her hot flashes and cool her menopausal vajayjay. Geesh. Fortunately I’ve recovered without having to medicate further. I did notice though, that whenever I get sick like that, it manifests further in the form of breakouts on my face. How bad is it? Let’s just say a colleague of mine wanted to play connect-the-dots on my face. Argh.
All this ranting might just take its toll on my CD4 Count, so you know what... I should get back to talking about Baby Nathan instead. Here’s the latest update.
Another donor sent a bit of money for the medicines and supplies of the baby. I was meaning to go sometime this weekend, so I called Ate yesterday to find out what exactly he needed. She said the baby was doing fine, and fortunately, so much help has been pouring in directly, that the baby still had enough of everything he needed. So she told me to hold on to the money in the meantime, and that she’d send me a text message if some sort of a need for it came up. She did mention that the mom has started working somewhere, and was already able to support the family’s needs when it came to food. Still no final word on when exactly they’re gonna get discharged.
So there, let’s end this on a positive note, and leave it at that. Thanks for letting me rant. Hahaha, like you have a choice. Let’s just all enjoy what’s left of the weekend. Ciao!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Out of the house before 8:00 am, early for a Saturday, I trekked out to EDSA to get picked up. Picked up?! Yeah. I was sitting at the local Ministop when I got a call that he was about to drive by. I told him what I’d be wearing while walking out to wait up front. When he drove by, he waved me over and I stepped into his car and we drove off. This was bound to be a happy day.
Okay, before you start making conclusions, I was picked up by a friend who’d been reading my blog and wanted to help and visit Baby Nathan. I already had a box of Alactagrow with me, which E asked me pick up yesterday from someone near where I work. I half-blame E for my having to think up an excuse at work, for having powdered milk on hand. I just joked that it’s part of my weight gain program. Argh. Okay back to my pick-up story.
It was the first time we actually met – and no, he does not have HIV – so we had a lot to talk about during the long drive to Alabang. It was the first time I’d be going to the area not walking or in public transport, so I honestly had difficulty navigating us through Filinvest. I may as well have walked in front of the car to figure out where we were.
We had breakfast at Starbucks in Festival Mall, before walking to Shopwise, where we did our shopping. We only got a couple of boxes of milk, not being able to find cheaper brands of diapers available. We also got some food to split between Baby Nathan’s parents and Steve. My friend would’ve bought the Heraclene Baby Nathan needed at the Emilene’s Pharmacy nearby but it was out of stock. Darn! It would’ve cost less there, just PhP 15.85 each, compared to Mercury Drug’s PhP 16.10. So we looked for Watsons, where we got it for PhP 16.00 each. Good enough. We also got the Ferrous Sulfate that E mentioned Steve needed. The generic brand was good enough, costing PhP 75.00 for a hundred pieces.
From there, it was another case of the blind leading the blind, until we asked our way out to Civic Road, where I finally recognized where we were and figured out the right way to the RITM. The guard at the RITM gate at first wouldn’t let us in, asking us for the patient’s surname, which I really didn’t know. He finally gave way when I mentioned the magic word, which was Ate’s name. I think he understood.
At the ward, the nurse led us into the kid’s room, where he was awake in his dad’s lap. We put the bag of stuff for them in a corner, and I handed the nurse the stash of Heraclene. She tore off a piece and gave it to Nathan’s dad, keeping the rest with her. Apparently, the Heraclene capsule is split open and mixed with the baby’s milk for feeding. I also handed the nurse the stuff for Steve, who was still in isolation. She mentioned he was doing better, but felt the need to squeal on how Steve always puts up an attitude with whoever was attending to him, mentioning his special demands of Hansel, juice or candy, before heading off to deliver our goodies. She peeped in a few minutes later sending us Steve’s thanks, which for me, was both unexpected and unnecessary.
Baby Nathan’s senses were up and about, and he had his eyes glued to us newcomers almost the whole time. He was staring at me in particular, which worried me because he’d be letting out occasional whimpers, threatening to cry. The dad said it was probably because I was in a white shirt, which the kid was now extremely familiar with, thanks to his doctors and nurses. The kid was probably thinking I was one of those beings in white who came to give injections or take blood. Poor kiddo. Note to self: It’s a kid. Wear something colorful next time.
My friend had a million questions to ask Nathan’s dad, some of which I honestly was too shy to ask myself, so we both got to know more about the family. The dad worked as a waiter, and the mom in a videoke bar, but of course both had to stop since the kid got sick. They had to battle with being in another medical institution in Quezon City, before being referred to the RITM, where they finally found the proper care for the baby. Trust me it was a long story, which fast forwarded to today, where Baby Nathan was recovering from hitting almost rock bottom.
Baby Nathan’s condition is definitely improving, and his cheeks are filling up. Though still far from the ideal, he’s on his way. He is able to sit upright in his dad’s lap, and his legs are able to support his weight with some assistance from dad. Unlike the last time I saw him, where his hands were just clasped together and hardly moving, he is now giving out high-fives, and playfully slapping his dads face. Excellent.
His dad was even telling us how Baby Nathan now sort of knew when it was close to 8:00 am or 8:00 pm, his daily ARV schedule. So much so, that the Baby was working up a talent of trying to seal his lips, in protest of the impending dosage of probably not-so-yummy syrups. It had me giggling, because of the pilyo factor, and smiling, because that alertness was still a good sign.
His dad was also telling us about the Baby’s regular fevers, which I said might be caused by the ARVs, but I held off on pointing out how the same meds can make a grown man, as myself, running to the doctor for help. Fortunately, I don’t think Baby Nathan minded the fevers, because as his dad said, the kid could easily sleep through the spikes. He was the one kept up keeping an eye on the kid’s temperature, though, and reporting it to the nurses.
When asked what else they needed there, the dad didn’t really have much to ask for. He did point out how EQ diapers fit better than Pampers, which were just sliding off what was left of the kid’s butt. He also said the Baby was on some new medicine, which my friend said was an anti-bacterial. I’ll ask Ate about that the next time I talk to her. Other than that, they were good and happy. My friend did say that we should’ve brought some colorful toys for the baby, since all he had was a plastic airplane, which his dad said had already made several flights off the bed, thanks to the kid’s newfound strength. Great idea, don’t you think?
After more than an hour there, we bade them goodbye. He thanked us sincerely. I think it was a relief for the dad to have someone to talk to, while the mom was out. She’d been attending the regular activities of one of the so-called HIV advocacy groups, which came in the form of videoke sessions. I do hope that these groups are helping out in ways beyond that. Anyways...
From there, my friend treated me to lunch back in Festival Mall, which left me thinking that I had mistakenly included myself in Baby Nathan’s weight gain program. I love pasta and hate left-overs, so I was stuffed! We then faced the traffic back north, where I was dropped off at the bus stop while my friend headed off to work. It was a good day, and I dropped by the weekend sale at Landmark, and was super proud to get myself a number of nice shirts for just over PhP 100.00 each. Imagine that?! My early Christmas gift to myself I guess. I headed home to rest a bit, and even found energy to get myself a long-deserved haircut.
A lot of happiness today but... anything for mom? Okay, I’ll admit to being a schmuck. I offered to take her back to Landmark for the midnight sale after dinner, which she’d been hinting on since last week. It wasn’t so bad, I did some more shopping myself for some of my new godchildren, and… okay, okay, I got a couple of pairs of shorts for myself. I’d blown my Christmas budget on Baby Nathan already, so I decided to go all out. Hehehe. Eventually, I had to sneak off to the foodcourt to take my ARVs, after which I tried my best to convince my mom that we were done, before I started feeling the effects of the meds. So we walked home, and that was that.
As you can see from this long post, it was a looooong day. But I checked my list, and other than the three guys who I had to blow off having sex with today, I think everybody was happy.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A quick update on Baby Nathan. I just talked to Ate over the phone this afternoon to check on him. Other than the fact that he had a fever, which I’m hoping isn’t due to allergic reactions to the ARVs, Ate says he’s doing fine. She says Baby Nathan is starting to gain weight, and says it’s definitely showing on his face. I flash back to the pictures of chubby cheeks posted above the bed at the hospital, and I just wanna cheer him on towards that.
I asked Ate what Baby Nathan needs right now, and aside from the Alactagrow milk and the diapers, she mentioned that he was put on some vitamins. She asked that I hold for a while, as she contacted the ward to ask what particular vitamins he was on. Coming back, she said the baby was put on a regimen of Heraclene. It sounded like some mythical detergent.
I did some research on the Mercury Drug site, and found out that Heraclene is actually an appetite stimulant, usually given to treat premature babies, as well as low birth weights, retarded growths, and poor appetites in infants, children & even adults. Hmm, this might just be what can help me gain weight, too.
I placed a call to one of the Mercury Drug branches, and inquired about the price. It costs PhP 16.10 per capsule, which translates to PhP 16.10 per day, if he’s on a once a day dosage.
So there. I do have plans of going back to the RITM this weekend with another generous friend to bring more stuff for Baby Nathan and Steve, so I should have more updates following that.
They still both need our help, so keep those prayers coming. I heard too from Ate that help has been pouring in from faceless names and nameless faces, and she herself is overwhelmed. I’m sure Steve and Baby Nathan would love to, so on their behalf, I say thank you, thank you and thank you.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
It’s Saturday. A rest day. But surprisingly, I did everything but rest. This day left me with feet sore from walking all day, and poorer than when I got out of bed this morning. What the hell happened?
E had sent me a text message midweek, asking if I had some extra dough on me, because someone at the RITM needed help. I’m really not the type to give alms to beggars, but this case was so different. It just had me reaching for whatever I had. And I hope it does the same to you too.
E’s message was practically begging me to help. He needed milk and diapers. Milk and diapers? I was half wishing this was one of E’s little attempts at pulling my leg, but I scrolled to the end of the message not finding the punchline.
So here’s the deal, there’s a one-year old kid confined at the RITM who’s been HIV positive since birth. I know, even to me it’s unreal. But it’s the harsh reality. Having HIV was one thing, but apparently, after being ravaged by bouts of infection and diarrhea, the baby was, as E described, reduced to skin and bones. I couldn’t imagine how bad it was until I saw the kid myself. E had visited the kid before, bringing some diapers, milk and other supplies they needed, that admittedly weren’t enough.
So I forewent my Saturday restday to meet E at Festival Mall. Okay, I won’t even mention that he was late, as usual. That’s besides the point. I had peeped at the prices earlier today while I was at the grocery with my mom and fortunately, my so-called cellphone fund would be enough for now. I was just trying to save up for a cheap phone, so it was really just a small fund. At Save More, it was just enough to buy two big boxes of Alactagrow, and a pack-of-54 of EQ Dry diapers. Alactagrow was the RITM doctor’s brand of choice, because the goal was to fatten the kid back up, while EQ Dry was the cheapest brand there was, so the money could go further.
From there we headed towards the RITM on foot. It would be my first time up on the second floor where the patients’ rooms were. We were welcomed by the nurse, who ushered us into the room of the baby. And there he was, all skin and bones of him, just like E described, on his dad’s lap. It was heart-wrenching. Ever see pictures of Somalian kids ravaged by malnutrition? That should give you an idea.
We greeted them, as the kid’s dad welcomed us with a smile. This person had his helpless child in his hands. This person had not yet eaten, because they had nothing to eat. So that smile just broke the ice for me. It was refreshing to see he was happy despite what little they had. It was uplifting that he was being strong for his kid.
I put the presents down by the side of the bed, while E introduced me and started chatting up with the dad. I was looking around, the small room had the bed placed against one wall, a sink against another, a small bathroom, and a door leading out to a balcony. I thought it was decent enough, compared to having to share a common ward with other patients. On the wall above the bed, I saw some pictures of an adorable healthy baby boy, only to realize this was what the kid looked like months ago. It was heartbreaking to be able to compare that with the condition he was in now.
Apparently, the kid’s health, still grim as I saw, was improving. This child, at a year old, is already on ARVs, Lamivudine, Nevirapine and Zidovudine, the same ones I started out with, but in liquid form. Imagine that? He was now already able to move his arms a bit, and even able to stick his tongue out at E, which, as his dad said, was the child’s attempt at playing with us. Obviously, this child wants to live. Let’s help him live.
And so, E and I are begging for your help. Let’s all help this kid live. The big box of Alactagrow, which lasts the kid 3 days, costs around P 360.00. The smaller box of Alactagrow, which lasts a day and a half, costs around P 190.00. The pack-of-54 of medium-sized EQ Dry diapers costs around P320.00. The pack-of-84 costs around P 560.00. Although whatever help you can give will be much appreciated, we think it would be better if we do not give cash.
Another HIV positive guy confined at the RITM needs some help too, in the form of food and toiletries. He was confined with nothing but the clothes on his back, has no family to care for him there, and is suffering from so many different infections. I don't know the full story, and we couldn't see the guy because he was in isolation, so you can read more about him in E's blog entry.
You can get in touch with me or E via e-mail. My e-mail address is email@example.com (yeah, yeah, I saw your jaw just drop...), while E can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org or through his blog, Chronicles of E. You can also contact the office of Dra. Ditangco at the RITM through 807-2628 and ask how you can help, and course your donations through them.
Thanks everyone. Just think of this as an early Christmas gift. Christmas is for the kids, right? I really need to go to sleep now, because I’m just fighting through the dizziness of the ARVs. Thanks again in advance.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Since being immersed in the world of HIV more than six months ago, I’ve been lucky enough to be given little chances to try my hand at counseling – talking with others who are dealing with HIV. Some who are about to get tested, some who are waiting for results, some who’ve just tested positive, some who’ve just tested negative, some who are concerned about medications, and some who have been living with HIV. I can’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot. And I think it’s dealing with the emotions which is the toughest thing.
I’ve said before how the HIV bomb being dropped on you can be a really daunting thing. It is, it is. But does it give you all the right to be a bottomless supply of depression and negativity? Is HIV a license to drama?
Well, let’s be realistic. To some extent, it is. A string of days crying, feeling lost, not knowing what to do, worrying about how it will affect the rest of your life, being angry, wallowing in paranoia… all common things. Sometimes they come in phases, one after the other, but if you have it really bad, they hit you with one big blow. Again, common, but I repeat, only to some extent.
So when does it become too much? I think you just gotta listen to yourself. If you’re in the dark about HIV, then do something about it. Read up. If you’re worrying about how it will affect the rest of your life, go to a fortune teller. How your life goes will actually be all up to you. If you’re angry because someone infected you, then go ahead and point your finger. It took two to tango, didn’t it? If you’re paranoid, get over yourself. The world doesn’t revolve around you.
Sound harsh? Well, that’s usually what it takes to snap you back into reality. You need to get over all the negativity. It’s all just going to cause you suffering, which is totally unhealthy and unnecessary. You need to get it all out of your system and realize that it’s not the end of the world. Life goes on. And open your eyes and see that so many people are willing to help you through this new phase of your life.
How bad can it all get? I think the worst would be someone who tests positive for HIV and is unwilling to get the help needed and has lost the desire to live. Someone who thinks "I wanna die! I wanna die! I wanna die!" Who isn’t going to die? We’ll all get there eventually, with or without HIV. For this person, some higher being might appear before him and say, "Your wish is my command." Zap. The End. To state the irony, this person might actually die just waiting for his death, which is a sad life.
A close second may be someone who is about to get tested and can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t stop worrying, or worse, can’t stop crying about it. It’s taxing to have to point out that they haven’t actually tested positive yet. Suck it up! Take responsibility! You wouldn’t need this test if you didn’t take the risk, would you? And if I was caught on a particularly bitchy day, be prepared. You’re getting tested for HIV. I already have HIV. Wanna trade places?
I know, I can be tough sometimes. But sometimes, that’s what it takes. The world is even lucky that I’m not the confrontational type, and am content with merely letting thoughts like this brew in my twisted mind, or go no further than my fingers doing the walking.
But nonetheless, the reality is that HIV should no longer be regarded as a terminal illness or a killer disease. HIV is still a big deal. But it can be dealt with. We can still work. We can still love. We can still laugh. We can still live.
Your license is hereby revoked. So go on, quit the drama, and live.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Okay, before you think this is anything about sex or dating, stop. No malice, no hard-ons, no orgasms. This is way better!!!
I had taken a leave from work, because November 4th was a big day. Huge! We attended our first meeting yesterday with the rest of the Positivism team in Makati. These were the negative people who were, uhm, thinking positive. These are the people who have been furthering our cause. It was bound to be a wonderful day.
It was E, our resident counselor and I, who represented the poz side of the team. On the ride to their office, at first we were being told by our big boss not to feel awkward around the other people there. I had sedated the loner in me a bit since the night before, and was instead concerned that they would feel awkward around us. There’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?
So we trekked into the office, and sat ourselves down around the conference table. It was quiet, other than the three of us who were chatting the wait away. Okay, it wasn’t quiet-boring, but rather quiet-tranquil. It was comfortable.
It wasn’t long before the observer in me got into gear. Looking around, all I saw were a bunch of guys and gals, faces buried into their computers, all hard at work. I glanced at a board of what seemed to be a rundown of tasks of each person, and man, was it a work load. Noticeably though, the Positivism project wasn’t even on the board, so these people would be working on Positivism in addition to their usual tasks. Amazing.
Shortly after, our big boss came around and called everyone on the team to take a seat at the table. One after the other, seat after seat was taken, and additional chairs even had to be rolled up to the table. At the end of it all, only two people were left at their workstations. I was stunned. All these people are working on this project?! Speechless.
So the meeting ensued, and the ice was broken by our resident counselor, who shared a smidget of her long life living with HIV. Everyone was listening intently, but weren’t exactly wide-eyed or open-mouthed. They understood. I think it just put everyone into the proper perspective as to why this cause was so important. Trust me, tears were shed.
At the end of it all, it was their turn to churn out the ideas they had for the project. And churn out they did. They pitched to us a presentation to promote Positivism, just to see if we had any more input. We were supposed to be the experts on the subject, of course. It must’ve been like designing a terno for Imelda Marcos. Nerve-wracking for them.
But... to say that we approved was an understatement. It was like they knew exactly what we were fighting for, like they knew exactly how we were feeling, like they were reading our minds, like they were taking the words like out of our mouths... and that's a good thing. And taking words out of our mouths isn’t exactly an easy thing to do, mind you.
It was all absolutely amazing. I even reached the point of thinking the only explanation for their knowing us too well was... gasp... they were all HIV positive as well! Okay, so much for my powers of logic. They just really understood the advocacy. Pardon my moments of craziness. Hahaha.
Who knew I’d ever meet anyone who was HIV positive, let alone be one? And who knew I’d end up working so closely and comfortably with others who weren’t? Heaven knows.
So to sum the day up, it was us positives, working with negatives – and working well together at that. We’ve proved that over and above being HIV positive or negative, we are no different. We are all human. And that’s living the exact essence of Positivism.
See, in humans, just like magnets, opposite poles can and do attract... and not to mention bash heads well together. Positivism is green and go!
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I’ve teased you a bit in a previous post about it. It had me talking to God and saying Thank You for so many things. It left me excited and inspired. And now, finally, finally, finally, I get to tell you what it’s all about.
When I first found out I was HIV positive, I headed immediately to the net. I knew about HIV even back in high school, but I realized knowing about it was one thing, understanding it was a whole different story. So I got online, trying to find someone, anyone, who had shared his or her story on being HIV positive here in the Philippines. I never knew anyone who was HIV positive. So I searched. But other than some news articles, research papers, and statistics, I came up empty handed.
I felt I was left in the dark, clueless about the road ahead, if there was any. Fortunately, I left myself open to the experience, overcoming the fear of not knowing what lies ahead. And trust me, that’s a big thing for me. I hate surprises. I hate not knowing.
So I wondered. How many others out there wanted or needed to know how it was to be HIV positive in the Philippines? And so, Back In The Closet was born. It started out as an outlet for me, but became a chance for others to learn about HIV in the Philippines. And people do want to know. The HIV positive, the HIV negative, the guys, the gals, the straight, the gay, and even some from overseas were contacting me and thanking me for sharing my journey. At that point, this became my advocacy. Awareness.
Not everyone was pleased with my decision. Some of the pusits were disgusted that I was giving out all this information, treating it like a breach of their privacy. Even the so-called HIV advocacy groups here were in on it. If I was Back In The Closet, they were In The Panic Room. It was sad. No wonder there is so much stigma attached to HIV. The stigma is fueled by the lack of understanding. And how can we expect to be understood, if we don’t share our story?
At first, I felt I was facing the challenge alone. Little did I know, that there was a small group being formed, ready to fight my same battle. And due to some unexpected but fortunate incidents, this very blog brought me to Positivism.
Positivism is an e-magazine – a website about HIV and being HIV positive in the Philippines. Yes, there will be articles on the basics of HIV, but rather than being encyclopedic, it will be a lighter presentation of the facts, to make it easy for anyone, especially the HIV negative and new pozzies, to understand.
These basics will actually take a backseat to the main features, which will be stories about living with HIV – both being infected and affected by HIV. We aim to show that the HIV-positive person is not just someone suffering or bedridden. We want the Philippines to realize that HIV-positive people can continue working, laughing, loving, and living.
I think that’s what makes Positivism different from the other HIV advocacy groups. We don’t just cater to the HIV positive. We aim to help all of the Philippines, and the world, open its eyes to HIV, so they can understand it... and us... better.
Positivism is a project of an advertising and visual design big boss, who is the brain, and not to mention the heart, behind Positivism. He has put his company’s resources into this advocacy, and opened his doors to us, the HIV positive. So yes, we have writers, editors, art directors, photographers, designers, marketing people and every expert there is, working on this project. And yes, it is a collaboration between the HIV positive and the HIV negative. The perfect combination.
Now you know what I’ve been so excited about, and what’s been fuelling my passion lately. We’ve been working hard at meeting our deadlines, and hope to launch in time for World AIDS Day, December 1st.
Fellow blogger Chronicles of E, who was also getting the flack for his advocacy, is in on this, too. We’ll be updating you more about it in the coming weeks.
Watch out for the new brand of HIV advocacy. Stir awareness. Eradicate stigma. Promote POSITIVISM.