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.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Day w/o U

RITM, day 2. This entry may as well have been entitled another day with… needles. Imagine me cringing.

It just happened to fall on another Thursday. I had been scheduled by Ate and the doctor for my lab tests at the RITM. I had planned on taking another day off from work, but reconsidered, thinking I’d save my leave credits for other more important appointments. I had been given the option of showing up early at the RITM. And I mean early. As in 6:00 am. Early enough so I’d be able to make my way back in time for work at 8:30. At least that was the plan.

Instead, I mistakenly left my cellphone in silent mode, missing my wakeup call by about 45 minutes. Instead of getting up at 4:45 am, I ended up realizing my mistake at 5:30 am, and just rushed to get out of the house. I had planned on making the first trip of the MRT, but obviously missed it. I was able to take the train at 6:00, not too bad. I love traveling that early in the morning. It was still pre-rush hour, a big advantage for the claustophobe like me. It was around a 20-minute train ride, from which I rushed down to street level to hop on a bus plying the Alabang Skyway route. I was just trying to recall how U took me to the RITM last Monday. Plus it made sense, it was a route straight to Alabang via the Skyway, meaning less stops, making for a faster trip.

It was a long but quick bus ride, and I tried to take note of landmarks on the way. We passed by the Nichols Exchange, the farthest south I was really familiar with, since that was where my first boyfriend was from. Further on down, we entered the skyway, and passed the Raya residential development which looks amazing. We passed the Hapee Toothpaste plant, the SM Mall in Bicutan, an finally exited at what looked like a newly constructed Alabang Exit which led into the Filinvest Corporate City. I got down where U and I did previously, at he Alabang Central Terminal.

I decided to walk towards the RITM instead of riding, primarily because I get a better sense of direction when I’m on foot. I retraced the steps we took last Monday, walking towards the Festival Mall and up towards the hill where the RITM was situated. It was a long walk, and I made it before 7:00 am, but remained unconvinced that I had taken the shortest way.

I first walked towards the comfort room, to relieve myself of the pee I’d had brewing in time for my urinalysis. I needed to keep it in almost the whole way, since I’ve been known to suffer from a shy bladder at times. I whipped the bottle out and filled it up mid-stream as advised. Then off I went to the Laboratory Department, which U had pointed out to me during our earlier visit. There was still no one answering the doorbell, so I sat down on a bench in the hall trying to cool off after the long walk. A few minutes later a lady passed me and walked into the lab, shortly after peeping out the window asking if I was a client. I handed her my lab referrals and the urine sample as she ushered me in. I sat down in the torture chair, putting my arm down on the armrest ready for my sentence. She looked at the list of test to do… viral load, CD4 count, genotyping, CBC, hepatitis profiling, and urinalysis… and whipped out four vials to fill. Four vials? That’s worse than the three I filled up at the Manila Health Department months earlier. This would be a record for me. Or so I thought. I looked away as she started to push the needle into my arm. I’m getting used to the feeling, but still can’t stand seeing it. Next thing I know, she’s asking me to hand her two more vials from the table next to me. Four? Plus two? Another record broken… but I have to admit it wasn’t that bad. So there I was, six vials of blood lighter, a survivor.

I walked next door to the X-ray Department, again no one was there. There’d been a sign saying the personnel were at the canteen, so again I sat down and waited. The old lady in charge soon showed up, and I was in and out of there in a flash.

Last stop, some test called PPD. Research now tells me it stands for Purified Protein Derivative, a skin test for tuberculosis. I had been pointed to the emergency room for it, from where I was pointed to the Pharmacy. I showed the referral, and I was given a box of something called Biocin, and told to return it after. Weird. Not something I’d usually hear at a pharmacy. So I returned to the E.R. and handed it to the nurse, who asked for my chart. Chart? What chart? I had nothing else with me but the referral, but was told they couldn’t do the test without the chart. I tried texting Ate, but received no reply. U had given me her number beforehand in case I encountered some problems. So I had to wait, thankfully she arrived early, around 8:30 am.

Needless to say at this point, I didn’t make it to work on time. So anyways, Ate accompanied me back to the E.R., and gave her personal referral in order to push the test through. So apparently, PPD is a skin test. And I must say skin tests hurt. I got a bump full of the medicine in my arm, had the nurse draw a circle around the test site, plus a note on a piece of tape on my arm with the date and time it was administered. Bad enough that I couldn’t wet my arm for three days, but I had to have the pen mark and the tape on me at work. Hmmm. I have some explaining to do.

Take note again, that all the tests I had done were free at the RITM, except for the P120.00 I paid for the Biocin thingy. I’m told the test will be free everytime, as oppose to that at San Lazaro, where follow-up CD4 counts cost something like P4,000.00, and viral load tests P6,000.00. That should be more than enough savings to pay for the additional transport to the RITM.

I realized I didn’t bump into any other fellow clients, Ate being the first and only person I encountered from the OPD that day. I was out of the RITM by 9:00 am, already having sent a text message to work saying I would be late. I walked back to the highway, but this time following my instincts and passing a road I hadn’t tried before. I think I got the right and shortest route this time. I made the trip back, via the bus and the MRT again, and reached work past 10:00.

Another amazing day, not even half through, but already got a lot done. Just two tests left, a fecalysis and RPR titer. A stool sample would spoil in the length of the trip, while the latter test, they didn’t have at the RITM. I’m thinking of going back to Dra. Malou at the Manila Health Department for those tests, as well as to pay them a visit and update them on my status. I’m planning to do that Tuesday morning, another day I’m taking off from work. A bloody and shitty Tuesday, literally.

I have another visit to the RITM scheduled on Tuesday afternoon for a consultation with the doctor. I’ll find out the results of the tests, plus my options for ARVs. So it’ll be another busy week again for me. My verdict is coming… again. Wish me luck!

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