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 03, 2008

Burn the Notebook

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.


big said...

why no send an advise to them? let us see if they will listen.

PinoyPoz said...

The damage has been done. Serbisyong Totoo pala ha?! I doubt if they had anything else in mind other than the need to chuck a story out and make money. The more scandalous, the better.

You know what, it might even be my fault for expecting too much from them.

Julius said...

di ko pa napapanood ang episode but i'll try sa pinoy channel sa internet. reporter's notebook is well acclaimed right? may natatanggap pa nga silang (mga) international awards.

baka ang gustong ipoint-out ng tv program is to be more aware of the disease (manakot) lalo na sa mga di pa infected, hehehe... peace!

dubai, uae

PinoyPoz said...

Well, critical acclaim doesn't give them the right to rest on their laurels. Kung gusto talaga nilang manakot, the better point to make would be that anyone - di lang nambababaeng seaman, di lang kolboy, di lang ang makakati pa sa higad - anyone, anyone, anyone can get infected by HIV. Peace talaga!

Anonymous said...

Hi there. It sucks that the topic was presented that way. Have you tried writing a feedback to the show? Not only would they know how they could have presented the matter, but you would also be speaking for thousands of others.

E said...

i havent seen it yet pero i guess they should have interviewed a point of view of a female or a mother or a person who was born with the virus....

i think the angle that they are going for is its easier for people to get the virus when your promiscuous....

PinoyPoz said...

Yes, but that will have the tendency to put people into a false sense of security of i-don't-consider-myself-promiscuous-so-i-won't-catch-it. The drive is to encourage everyone who's been exposed to the risk, no matter how small, to get tested... and to get tested without the fear of being judged as promiscuous.

Anonymous said...

Be patient partners, POSITIVISM will be out as soon as it is possible.

We are trying out best :)

ethan h said...

I think that the show has just gotten complacent and did not do much research. Maybe an advocate who happens to be positive should have been included, but they chose not to. Lazy. It airs past midnight so who is really watching?

In fairness, I recall a TV special several years back on AIDS by Channel 7 too. The segment featured a woman, who was infected by her first husband. He eventually died from complications. She remarried but didn't think of telling her second husband because she thought is was not important. She thought she couldn't infect others. Second husband got infected and decided to leave her for not having informed him. While he was gone, she found out she was pregnant. Again, she did not know that she could pass the virus to her child. She gave birth. The husband returned, telling himself he has no other place to go and who else will take him in in his condition. Their daughter is a bundle of joy and their inspiration. The daughter is negative. The couple's main worry is who will take care of their daughter in case they don't live long enough to see her through adulthood and independence. It was a very touching story and I welled up.

What I didn't know was that the chances of a positive mother passing the virus to an unborn child is around 70%. So, in this case, the daughter fell within the 30% window. I was so inspired with the story.

By the way, BBC is also running a series titled, "Love in A Time of HIV."

PinoyPoz said...

ah yeah! thanks for reminding me, ethan h! i think they started that series end of november. i forgot about it hehehe.

my friend tells me if i really wanted to be harsh about it, i should've instead suggested to burn the reporter... hehehe ;-)

ruby said...

Haay. I don't know what to say. I was glad they featured HIV awareness (albeit only have of the show) but at the same time all I can think was I can get all those info and statistics online. I want to know the emotional part and the difficulties an HIV person is undergoing and how nonpos people can help... Awareness is not just info and numbers... it's how you can be of help to eradicate the stain HIV has on the society.

Anonymous said...

HIV has many faces, to assume that we can understand fully what the virus is in a 25 minute documentary is an ignorance and was insensitive to the plight of the many people who has the virus.

HIV is not about promiscuity, its not about homosexuality, its not about unprotected sex only. HIV also affect the people who takes care of people with HIV.

I am one of the many pinoys who's here in the US and who is at high risk for HIV.

A few years back, a nurse was featured in the inquirer who contracted the virus from needlestick, who died from the complications of HIV and was denied reentry in the US, a country she adopted and had served and dedicated the most productive time of her life. A country who claimed to be the bastion of freedom and equality but a country who denied one of its most dedicated worker equal opportunity in healtcare. This is the time when ARV's is not yet available back home. She died still being ostracized, she died at a time when people regard her as an outcast. She died still hoping that she will still see the day when her family can finally immigrate. She died without seeing this day when finally we are opening up and we are aware of what the virus is.

HIV is not a death sentence, with the right medications and a healthy lifestyle, anybody with HIV can outlive those who has diabetes and heart diseases.

Worry not, maybe in 2012 a more potent and more effective regimen can be discovered to fight the virus with maybe a lesser side effect.

I have been reading your blog but this post had me thinking twice about giving my little opinion about the matter.

If anything, i will just be here. Im praying for you and E and those who are in the same circumstances.