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!
- 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, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (yeah, yeah, I saw your jaw just drop...), while E can be contacted through email@example.com 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.