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, August 07, 2008

The Big Move

RITMI’m moving. Nope, not moving out of the house, just transferring. RITM, here I come.

I’ve had my online persona for a while now, and through it I’ve been able to meet a lot of different people. Mostly just online acquaintances, but some I’ve been lucky enough to meet. I’ve also been fortunate with the kinds of people I’ve been meeting. It’s been a risk and a great deal of trust every time I agreed to meet someone new, but so far, no regrets. Although they’re of all sorts, from poz to not, they’ve all been great experiences and learnings for me.

Of the poz guys I’ve encountered online, most if not all of them were presently registered at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, or RITM, in Alabang. I, on the other hand, am with the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

I never knew anything about the RITM before, except that it was in the south of Metro Manila. And it’s far. So I never even tried to learn more about it just based on that. But from these guys, I’ve heard a lot more things about the RITM. They never really told me not to go to San Lazaro or to transfer to the RITM. I am currently in the process of formulating that decision on my own.

Money-wise, San Lazaro is better apparently, since it’s a government hospital, providing most services for free. But I’ve been told that RITM does the next best thing, which is provide a 75% discount to HIV patients, should they need to be confined. I’m not sure if that covers rooms and/or services, but it’s significant enough either way. ARV medication is still free of course.

One other thing I’ve heard is that the atmosphere is better. You’ve heard me rant before about how depressing the conditions were at the H4 ward of San Lazaro Hospital. Apparently, things are more decent at the RITM.

I’ve mentioned before how I enjoyed immersing, or more like fading into the poz crowd during those big Thusdays I’ve spent at San Lazaro. I still do. It’s still an eye opener. But the contrast of that against the atmosphere at the RITM is… intriguing. Apparently, there, there are no crowds, no fiesta-like Thursdays, and as I’ve been told, it would be very rare for poz patients to bump into each other. Extreme, isn’t it? I’m told it’s a good thing, because there’s less politics involved. Politics? Hmmm, considering that we are a society amongst ourselves, politics shouldn’t be too surprising. But as I’m really a loner to begin with, the novelty of the H4 social experience might just wear off eventually. Either way, good for me.

So far, nothing really convincing for me to transfer to the RITM, right? So here comes my compelling reason.

Now you know how I’ve been ranting about the ultimatum that I had been given at San Lazaro, right? About how they let me off last time I was there, telling me I needed to start on ARVs, but that I should come back when I had family, or at least close friends with me for support? It was like the ball was in my court, only to find out I didn’t know the rules.

Granted, I acknowledge the urgency to start on ARVs. Ok, maybe some people would rant back that I’ve taken long enough and should tell my family, or friends at least. But it’s just not the right time just yet. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but haven’t convinced myself to do it. I can’t explain it, but it’s not that easy.

Now the RITM looks like it will be the answer to my problem. One of my “friends” who has become my insider into the RITM referred my problem to them. I didn’t ask him to, but he cared enough to take initiative. Their response? They’d welcome me with open arms. Apparently, I wouldn’t need a support system if I didn’t have it. The important thing was that I get started on ARVs. Furthermore, initial stages of ARV medication could be taken at home, unlike at San Lazaro where they require a two week confinement there when starting on ARVs. I was shocked. Was this for real?!

Okay, the down side is that I’d have to go through the process all over again. The forms, the interrogations, the pity, the stares, and the least I’m looking forward to, the blood tests. Arghhh. I’m still not over my fear of needles, but I guess I’m less stressed about it. I’m particularly looking forward to having my CD4 count tested again, to see how I’m doing so far, after over two months of no ARV medication, relying just on multivitamins and some old-fashioned virgin coconut oil. Wow, I never realized it's been two months. This will be interesting.

So there, I’ve stated my case. And as you may have guessed by now, I’m practically convinced that the RITM is the answer to my problems. I plan to go there next week for my profiling, or what I refer to more as a re-baptism or conversion. And even have a couple of offers from my fellow pozzies to accompany me there. I’ve been so blessed.

Read more about the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine at http://www.ritm.gov.ph/.

11 comments:

Gibo said...

i've been to RITM when i was doing an article on HIV/AIDS, this was ages ago, when i was still a student.

i find the place very relaxing, it makes one calm and relaxed.

thonnibg said...

Good luck,Pinoy!Sounds like a great option.

Hugs

Anonymous said...

maybe you could up your vco intake to 4tbsp. and i heard additional zinc helps too. just don't exceed 50mg/day. i think it is better if you can manage to stay off the ARV because once you take it, you take it for life. God bless.

PinoyPoz said...

Thanks for the advice, anonymous. I'll be waiting for the doctor's advice too. But I'm leaning more towards getting on ARVs as early as possible, rather than reach the point where my body would be too weak to handle ARVs. But anyways, we'll see. More to think about. More decisions to make. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I used to have my HIV testing in RITM (and some consultation to their dermatologist - who, in my opinion, are one of the best dermatologists in the country). Though i don't have any idea how is the atmosphere in San Lazaro, i really like the calmness and the tranquility of RITM's atmosphere. (The hospital is actually in a hill - it's kind of isolated in a good way). The last time that I have visited the HIV section (not sure what they exactly call to the dept which handles it) is last year. Unfortunately, the one who I know that is in charge before is in vacation at that time (i'm not sure if she had resigned - people call her Ate Ellen). It has been in that area where I met a lot of wise and strong people who have taught me to see life in a different picture... P.S. And yes, it's a little hard commuting in that area.

------ ANONYMOUS ME ------

PinoyPoz said...

Thanks AnonymousMe... Like everything, there are pros and cons. I'm hoping there will be more pros. :-) Thanks again. i haven't heard of "Ate Ellen", but I've been told it's a Dr. Ditangco that is in charge of the HIV section.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pinoy - wish you the best with it and look forward to hearing more about you and the place. I'm a real newbie in this (suppose I'd better start thinking of it is "our") world. Knew of San Laz and I think there is something at PGH as well, but this is new to me.

I'll be T (unless that's taken already :-)
Ortigas

PinoyPoz said...

hahaha, don't worry, more codenames will become available. i can't limit myself to 26 friends now, can I?

i'm sorry to hear you have become part of "our" world. if you need my help or any support or just someone to talk to let me know. i've been known to be around ortigas as well. pinoycumeater@yahoo.com.

i'll be working on my ritm entry in the next few days. thanks again, "t".

E said...

Hi you! Yup! RITM is waaayyy better compared to San Lazaro, cd4 and check ups are also free not just the ARVs

I find your blog helpful especially to newbies like me(HIV).

I hope you start to get back at your ARVs you know how important it is to peeps like us right?

Keep your head up! Love you!


---E---

E said...

UPDATE:

CD4, XRAY, STD/HEPA Test and some more tests that I can't remember Are for free! and yes-VIRAL LOAD is for free! well, I paid Php20 but whats Php20 compared to a lot of freebies! Ate Ellen is super cool! She invited to attend a birthday on Friday :-D but my gate crashing days are over...Make the move :-) I bet you won't regret it...Pls, go back to your meds...

PinoyPoz said...

Thanks for the info E! Been there done that! Hehehe. By the way, I CAN'T go back to my meds because I've never been on them just yet... :-) Yeah got invited to the party too, but have to work of course... U might be there... hehehe.