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.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Close Encounter

ETA Monday night out?! It’s the first working day of the week. Very unlike me. This Monday was different. Not for a date, not even for sex.

I had finally gotten some use out of my account. Prior to this, I had my profile up in the personals, but not much replies from the other Pinoys there. I encountered C on the site.

C and I exchanged e-mails and contact numbers, and agreed to meet Monday night. I have no idea where my fear, paranoia and shyness went at that time. I jumped right in. He said he’d be in the Ortigas area, where I work, so we could meet there. So C and I met. We clicked right away, just while walking to find a place to eat. Living with HIV just gave us so much to talk about. We settled into a table at McDonalds for dinner.

At 36, he’d been living with HIV for 5 years now. He’s on ARVs, and is doing ok. Although he did have to resign from his previous job because of the stress. I wasn’t sure if the stress had affected his health or not. But he’s in the process of applying for a new job now, which is always good.

My two and a half months being poz is nothing compared to his 5 years, and I knew I had much to learn from him. Some of the things were affirmations of what I thought. Others were totally new to me.

He shared with me how he was diagnosed in the Middle East, and even jailed for a year for being HIV positive. I could not help but realize how lucky I was to be here in the Philippines.

He told me about Pinoy Plus, which according to him is a non-government organization which serves as a support group for PLWHAs. He offered to take me there one of these days when I was ready to meet people and had some free time.

He told me to watch out for depression, and explained to me how my acceptance was not the end of depression phase. He recounted how he has been through several cycles of depression and acceptance, noticeably triggered by some unfortunate day to day events or situations.

I complained to him about the doctors practically “requiring” me to have my family with me when I go for my ARVs, and he told me to take my time telling the family, to seriously consider and limit the persons who need to know, and to just settle for the support of friends if telling the family was too big a hurdle towards my ARV medications. It was a relief to receive that affirmation.

We talked about the H4 ward at the San Lazaro Hospital, as well as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, or RITM, an alternative venue to the H4 located in Alabang, where he is registered. C explained that whereas it’s free at the H4 ward at the San Lazaro Hospital since it is a government hospital (I wasn’t exactly sure whether everything was free or just services or accommodations or what), at the RITM, discounts of 75% are apparently given to HIV patients.

What interested me most, was the information he shared with me regarding benefits available to people living with HIV in the Philippines. Regarding Pag-ibig benefits, or the Home Development Mutual Fund, he said something like it is an option for people like us to retire and withdraw all accumulated contributions to one’s name. Even better for the Social Security System, apparently, SSS members infected with HIV may opt to file for disability and qualify for a monthly pension. Something he is able to count on while he is unemployed. Very interesting. He warned, though, that filing for disability while I am employed or still connected with my employer may as well mean I’ll be coming out of my closet whether I like it or not. He says it would be more advisable to file when one is no longer connected to any employer. It made sense. He didn’t mention anything about Philhealth, or the Philippine Health Insurance Company, but I’m guessing they have to have something for us as well. This was all good news for me, to know that there are these opportunities for people like me. It might make the future less daunting. But I’ll do more research on it and tell you more.

We ended the evening walking towards the bus stop and going our separate ways on different bus routes. But everything was good. We bid goodbye with hopes of keeping in touch and meeting again.

All that, and more, left me with so much learnings. It was exciting. I was truly fortunate to have encountered and met C. I realized there were so many facets to this “new life” of mine. Much, much more to learn for sure. I’m up for it.


thonnibg said...

Great to hear you met C!
We just need to talk to somebody sometimes esp when he had experienced the same problems like you.

Hope you`ll meet again.


Beau said...

Hi Pinoy! nice to hear about your good news...hope you get along well with C..hehe I enjoy reading your posts...hope we can be friends too :-)hugz hugz hugz!!

PinoyPoz said...

thanks beau! i could always use a friend... and some of those hugz too! :-)