I apologize. I’ve been meaning to blog since yesterday, but never got the time, nor the energy, until today. Finally.
I do have something big to write about. Well, it's big to me, at least.
Yesterday brought some news, the best I've gotten in the very recent past.
Let me introduce… H. This H guy has been part of my journey ever since. A silent party maybe. He’s the first person I told when I got my results. I don’t even remember how it happened, but it was something like we got tested the same week, and while he got his results a day after, mine had taken a while, as you can recall. He told me his was negative, and was eager probably to share my relief when I was to find out I was negative. But that time never came. He knew I was waiting for the results, so I had to tell him. He’d figure it out somehow if I didn’t tell. So I told him my bad news.
Now, the catch is, H and I had been buddies for a couple of months before we got tested. Yes, buddies. Yes, we were a perfect match. Yes, we were doing it. And yes, at times unprotected. So he has been hanging in the balance since mid-March, waiting for the three-month window to pass before getting retested. We’d been regularly chatting during this period. I updated him on my check-ups, and he updated me on his paranoia. Some days he’d feel some things that he thought could be symptoms, other days he’d tell me he felt he was negative. I don’t know how much of this blog he’s read, but he knows about it definitely.
Finally, he was able to get tested this last Wednesday. The three month wait to get tested may have been torture for him, but I’m sure the 24-hour wait for the results was worse. I told him I’d be praying for him, and pray I did.
Finally, the day came. A Thursday again, coincidentally. Big day Thursday. He sent me a text message, saying he didn’t know how it happened… but he was negative. Negative! OMG, that’s the best news ever! And I’m sure I had a my share of a sigh of relief at that moment.
I always thought his next steps would be to head on off, go on with life, disassociate himself from me, and just be more careful in the future. But he surprised me. In the next message he sent, he told me to take him off my guilt-list and add him to the reliable-buddies-list… It was just really, really touching to hear that. Something I didn’t ask for or expect at all.
I’m truly blessed to have encountered someone like him. I knew before that we were good together physically and intellectually, but now emotionally as well. I’m sure he knows it’s him I’m talking about. And I’m sure he’ll agree, this was a very unusual, but great start to one hell of a friendship.
At least I know one person is celebrating this weekend… And so I say, STAY SAFE!!!... in every possible way… wink, wink…
- 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.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I apologize. I’ve been meaning to blog since yesterday, but never got the time, nor the energy, until today. Finally.
Monday, June 23, 2008
It’s been a neutral weekend. With the typhoon that just hit Manila, it more or less kept me cooped up at home, which is not such a bad thing for me. I spent most of the weekend lazing around and stuffing myself. The power outages didn’t help though.
I realize that the weather will now be a constant battle for me. There will always be the fear of being more susceptible to coughs and colds due to the HIV. I will need to stay dry, stay warm and stay healthy. Not quite far from my usual.
I’m the type of guy who always has an umbrella in his bag just in case. I am also the type, though, who will wade through floods, not afraid of getting wet. That will probably have to change. Just this weekend, being the “man” of the house, I needed to do some work outdoors, sweeping up the debris and clearing out the drainages in the middle of the rain. I tried to keep dry with an umbrella, but with the wind and all, a tough act. I don’t currently have an alibi to get out of the work around the house, that won’t make me look bratty or lazy.
I started pondering on the issue of adjustments when someone asked me what changes I had made since finding out that I had HIV.
Strikingly, sexual activity has taken a steep decline. Unsafe practices down to zero. Flirting on the net is now confined to mere flirting. Just trying to keep my online persona alive, fading out slowly in the following months, I expect. Other forms of sexuality, more focused on self-satisfaction continue as usual, or have probably increased as substitutes to actual contact.
Other lifestyle issues like vices came to mind. Smoking is not a problem with me, as I don’t smoke. I’ve never been the type to be disgusted with smokers, and have never had problems hanging out with them. I will just have to be cautious probably of second-hand smoke. I’ve never been a frequent drinker. Although I did inherit and develop a high tolerance for alcohol, thanks to my father’s habits. So a big drinker, I am, but a frequent drinker, I am not. But still I’ll have to cut down further. Probably have to have an excuse ready, like allergies or something.
As for other activities, nothing much has changed. I still take the commute to work. I still am able to walk 30 minutes a day to and from the transportation routes. I still eat the usual stuff, although I’ve been advised to stay away from uncooked food, such as Japanese stuff and even fresh salads. My guard is up, though, against any signs of diarrhea. I need to be cautious of that. Hygiene will also be important. More than before, that is. I’ve always wanted to work out, but never had the guts to. This might just be enough reason and opportunity for me to consider it seriously. Rest has always been important to me, and being a true blue eight-hour sleeper is a huge advantage for me now.
Looking through my list makes me look shallow and so short-sighted. But that’s how it is now. I can’t be so far-sighted. Long term plans are virtually non-existent, as my whole existence itself hangs in the balance. So for now, short term seems to be the immediate concern. I work to eat, and eat to live. And I live in the day. Because essentially, that’s what I want to do, just live. Even if it happens to be a short life, I will live it.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I’ve just had my first official sleepless night. Did something happen? Definitely. Good or bad? I can’t really say.
I’ve been quizzing myself every so often with my What-ifs. One of them was What if I didn’t break up with my last boyfriend? I always wondered if things would’ve been better if I swallowed my pride, just gave him the liberty to fool around behind my back, and stayed together with him. Would this have prevented me from catching the bug? Last night, my question was suddenly answered.
Let’s just say I heard it through the grapevine. A little birdie told me. Well, technically, not exactly little. Impressive actually. I had bumped into this little birdie a couple of times before, but never really became more than just acquaintances. We really had only one real common link between us, which was my ex. The little birdie told me we needed to meet and talk in person, the sooner, the better for me according to him. Next week wasn’t even soon enough. Hmm. The little birdie really got me thinking what this was all about.
So last night, we decided the quickest way was to talk over the phone. After the initial pleasantries, the little birdie came to its mission. I had heard from my ex that he was recovering from a medical procedure performed on him. But the little birdie had more to the story. Apparently, the medical personnel were baffled by the ex’s infection that wasn’t responding to the medication. So baffled that they needed to rule it out. So they did the test. And yes, he was HIV positive. Although the thought had grazed my mind due to the little birdie’s sense of urgency to meet, at that point, I still was a bit shocked.
It was at this point that the little birdie said that I should get myself tested as well. The little birdie had gotten its test too, which was definitively negative since they had not had contact since years and years ago. So I then blurted out that I was done with the test, and admitted I was positive as well. I may just have shocked the little birdie a bit, but definitely made its job much easier. He now understood why I knew so much about HIV and was less shocked than expected.
Apparently the ex was tested around the end of April, shortly after I got my result. He had also been to the H4 Ward at the San Lazaro Hospital. But I imagine that I may have gotten my patient number before he did. My mind went back to the medical chart of 059 who got confined at the H4. Maybe that was him.
He wasn’t simply just positive like I was. He was positive to the point of infections in the mouth and lower extremities. So bad that he was in crippling pain. His CD4 count was in the double digits. In other words, he categorically had AIDS. He was still too weak to start on ARVs. I know my chest was throbbing just trying to imagine his condition. It scared me to be honest.
I haven’t really been pondering too much on who I possibly got this from, but it never struck me to go as far as my last ex. We had known each other since September of 2005, and split up after almost 2 years together. It was after that I decided I’d enjoy singlehood for a change and let loose. So it was always that time after that relationship that I considered as my most risky.
It’s definitely presumptuous of me to think that I got it from him. For all we know, he may have gotten it from me. Or our infections may not even be directly linked, and just be coincidental. Only heaven knows.
For now, nothing much changes. I'm even more thankful now for the relatively fortunate condition I am in. Just a lot more to think about. I appreciate the effort the little birdie made to tell me. It was just concerned and bothered by its conscience. But don’t expect any confrontations to take place between me and the ex, because technically I should not know anything about it. I just hope he gets better. As for the little birdie, just as my secret is safe with it, its secret is safe with me.
Fly away little birdie… and thank you.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Exactly two months ago today, I found out that I am HIV positive. Not exactly something to celebrate, but maybe just reason enough to be happy that I’ve survived this long and managed to remain sane… for now.
My HIV journey has slowed down a bit, after hitting that speedbump of needing to tell someone before getting started on the ARVs. Someone to help me on my journey. Easier said than done. I’m still numbed at the proposition, and still trying to figure out what to do next. I’m tempted to ask how urgent it is for me to start on my ARVs.
I was talking to a Swedish poz guy I encountered on one of the gay personals sites I frequent. In his opinion, I wasn’t doing too badly, and he didn’t think I needed the medication too urgently.
He may not be a medical expert, but he speaks from experience of living with HIV for 4 years now. So I have to admit that what he says does carry some weight with me.
So I’m tempted to think. What’s the real deal anyways? What’s really going on? Do I really need to start on anti-retroviral medication? Or is this sense of urgency merely a ploy to try to fasttrack my “coming out” to my family? That’s just playing with my emotions, and really not very much fun. Emotional blackmail, to be harsh about it.
I hate having to bother to think such sinister thoughts, but I’m left with no choice. If I am advised to start my ARV medication, why was I not counseled further while I was there, or even given a date for counseling or starting the medication? It would be really, really tragic if my condition was aggravated just because I was not able to start my ARV medications earlier, right?
I’m left with a lot to think about, but fortunately it hasn’t exactly been causing sleepless nights and restless days. Now you know why I need to celebrate my sanity at this point. There might not be much of it left. Get that straightjacket ready.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I've been so stressed out these past few days. So much of my days have been spent thinking, and thinking, and thinking. An after-effect of the last consultation I had at the San Lazaro H4 Pavilion. And it's not even about the result of the CD4 count itself.
I still can't wrap my head around having to admitting to someone in the family that I'm HIV positive. It's just been barely two months. I'm still not even completely back on my feet from the news that I have HIV. And now this?!
I remember Dr. Malou of the Social Hygiene Clinic specifically say I should stay away from stress and depression because it in turn stresses and depresses my immune system. Something not good for someone with HIV. So why are the doctors at the H4 practically forcing me to tell someone in the family?
I honestly got the impression that they were indirectly saying something to the tune of If you don't tell, we won't start you on the medication. I mean if this were really a life and death situation, regardless of who knows or does not, they should give me the medicines I need, right?
I'm expecting everyone will find out eventually, but I'd appreciate being told that I could take my sweet time. I need to be reassured that it is not a requisite to being treated. I believe it is my health that is important, and that does not directly revolve around who I am able to reveal to.
It's just really really not that easy. It's easier said than done. Dealing with HIV, I can be pretty brave. But when it has to combine with interacting with other people, I'm chicken shit. I realize that the less I know a person, a stranger to the extreme, the easier it is for me to tell about my condition. Adversely, the more I know someone, the harder it is to tell.
I've been trying to analyze why this is the case with me, and I guess the difficulty to reveal is proportional to what reputation I've built with the person. I'm not saying I have some flawless reputation which I need to protect. I've always been flawed to begin with. But telling someone I've shared years with would retrogress to the very start of the acquaintance, I imagine. It would snowball into other issues and other skeletons in my closet, like how I got it, what I've been doing these past years, when I got it, how gay I am, how promiscuous I am, how I could have hidden my alternative life, and so on. Too many questions I might not have enough time to backtrack and answer, assuming I have answers at all. Multiply that with the number of people I have to come out to, and that just scares me. I just hope it doesn't scare me to death. That'll just put me out of my misery, huh?
Friday, June 06, 2008
Yesterday was a lot to think about.
But come to think of it, this past Thursday at H4 was equally a workout for my brain, with all the thinking and paranoia, as it was for my ears, with all the chattering and cackling I witnessed there.
Just waiting by the door as soon as I got there, an old lady walked from the ward and sat down across from me, and started chatting with me. She was the mom of one of the patients confined there. I felt she needed someone to pour out to, so I even stood up to sit beside her. She just went on about her son's condition, that he was gay (I don't know if she realized I was gay too), that the virus had affected his eyes, and about how her other children had abandoned their brother. A bit depressing to hear their story. But I assured her that she was a hero for the good job she was doing.
Another woman who passed us, the wife of another patient, was rambling about tests and blood donations needed by her husband.
Soon, with more than ten of us sitting out there, I was hearing about everything from the need for drinking water in the ward, ARVs they were taking, donations for school supplies for this coming school opening, to CD4 counts, Pinoy Plus meetings, and whatever else.
One of the guys was confined for a "re-trial", since the first ARV he was given caused him to get rashes and fevers. So this is what I'll have to deal with when I get to that stage, I remember myself thinking.
One other girl says she wasn't on ARV's, jokingly pointing out that her CD4 count should've shot up with her weight.
I even learned a new term. Everyone there kept mentioning the word pusit, which is actually tagalog for squid. I was tempted to ask What's with the squid?, but soon realized they weren't talking about squid. Apparently they use the term Pusit as a nickname for us Pusit-ives or Positives. I had to laugh when I realized that.
Several noticed the newly painted neighboring ward, and mentioned that we pusits should take over the building because it was nicer. A good idea, if only it weren't the Tuberculosis ward. Remember, we don't mix well with TB.
Each one had his or her own story to tell. So many different people, brought together by a supposedly not-so-good thing... it was amazing.
Too bad I was called away by the doctor, and didn't feel like sitting back down after the talk with the doc. But irregardless, still amazing.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
My Thursdays still have not managed to let my guard down. Again, it was H4 day. I was out of the house by 7:00 am, and a tricycle and a jeepney ride later, I reached the HIV ward of San Lazaro Hospital. It was just 8:00 in the morning, and lo and behold, I was first on the list!
I don't think they expected anyone that early, so the nurse just sat me down by the seats by the door of the building to take a breather, before they took down my vitals and while they finished their duties and reports.
After some time, more people poured in, and I gamely sat in their midst. It was not exactly in my comfort zone to mingle, but it was nice. I was finding it a bit hard to keep up, but I surprised myself by being comfortable in that crowd. There were around 20 of us there, and I got acquainted with a number of them, as they introduced me as "the new one".
I noticed a couple of them whip out what looked like white bank passbooks. I read what was written. Health Regimen Booklet. Hmmm, so I figure this is how their ARVs are monitored. I wasn't looking forward to getting one of my own though.
By 9:00 am, the doctors came. My usual doctor wasn't there. So the other doctor and a new one were on hand. They started off making rounds of the ward and checking on those confined. By about 9:30, they headed for the doctors' office and I was called in shortly.
She already had my folder on her desk, but still asked my patient code. She then flipped through another folder, where she was looking for my CD4 test results. Finding it and taking it from the folder, she sat down and looked at me sternly. She asked me some old questions again, like who knows, if I had a partner, and how I'm dealing. She reiterated the need to tell someone in the family. Rebriefing I guess.
At this point, she stared at my results, and asked me what I wanted to hear. Whether I wanted to hear the number flat out, or just if it was bad or good. I sort of giggled a bit at the question, and just said I wanted it all. She still held back a bit, looked at me, and said it was below 350. My mind raced at that point, but I kept a straight face. Normal is above 500, so it's not that good. But how far below 350? The critical 200 was below 350. Absolute zero was below 350, too. Tell me! Tell me!
Finally, she said it. My CD4 count is 343. Not entirely bad, but not good either. Almost midway between normal 500 and critical 200. She then said that she'd advise I get started on ARVs. But not before more counselling. And not before I have a support system behind me. Family preferably. Friends possibly. Anyone really. I said I was planning to tell my sister, and realized this development just made it more urgent. A lot to think about in the coming days.
The doctor then sent me off, but not before leaving me her mobile number, so I could contact her when I was ready to get counselling with whoever I chose.
I was honestly a bit defeated that I wasn't doing as well as I was feeling. I bid goodbye to my new friends out front before heading off back to work. I didn't even drop by the Social Hygiene Center. I was planning to just check in on Dra. Malou and the gang there, but suddenly didn't feel like it. Maybe another time, when I was less distracted.
I'm a bit glad that I have work to think about, and colleagues to laugh it up with and get stressed out by. But I won't be avoiding this for long. I'm left with a lot to think about right now. Head... hurts... hehehe.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I'm certainly the type of person who accepts criticism well. Hell, I spend most of my life laughing at myself. That's not bad, it's fun. I live on humility, and that's one thing I'm proud of.
When I started this blog, there was always the option not to allow comments to be posted on my entires. But hey, why the hell wouldn't I? Even now, each comment left has an option for me to delete it, something that I don't think I'll do unless it's something really really offensive or irrelevant.
So with that said, I'm not planning on deleting any comments posted... But that doesn't mean I can't react. Hehehe.
This morning, I opened the day with three new comments left on one of my entries, apparently by one and the same person. I just felt the need to... uhm, I don't know what better word to use... defend myself. Okay, maybe clarify would be a good word. So here goes my... clarification.
i am positive too, and i am very happy when the doctor told me that im positive. i didnt flt bad or had a regret for all the things ive doned. coz it has doned. so now, im on the stage of exploring things in life. the way you address your blog. it seems until now you still not accepted the gift you have.
by the way im from quezon city also. im 25 when i found out that im positive and now im 28. i told it to my frend when i realized that im positive. thats why sometimes, i have the time to share my life with her if i need to. coz i you need someone who can be there for you if you need somebody to cry on. somebody will say to you. "IKAW KASI" you know that. its more happier if someone will address it to you and made you realized that life is so great. so have a friend.
if you need someone to talked to. im here. hehehe. but i know you will keep it to yourself about that gift. remember its not a disease its a gift. you should be the first one to accept urself before someone will accept u. ako ung anonymous lahat sa blog mo
And PinoyPoz says...
Okay, I admit I wasn't exactly ecstatic to find out I was HIV positive, I mean honestly, who would be? But I was far from being depressed. Surprised a bit maybe... but I've been dealing with it.
Regret is not something I normally have, I'm not the type. I think I've mentioned that in one of my earlier entries. The nearest thing to regret that I feel right now is due to the reality of the possibility that I may have brought harm to those that I have encountered. I would rather die to keep them safe.
I can honestly say that I have not shed a single tear of sadness since I found out that I was poz. Just please hold the sappy song and the mushy movies, okay? As such, I haven't even considered the need to have a friend to be my shoulder to cry on. Why cry? Life is great! And I knew that long before I found out I was poz, and not because someone told me. :-)
Living with HIV still remains something that one cannot brag about or be proud of. Not in this world that's been brewed by generations that lack understanding, and that foster stigma and discrimination for our kind. So until the world has a major attitude change, or the self-righteous die out, confidentiality and anonymity are my friends.
HIV is a disease, but I regard it as a blessing. I mentioned it before in an earlier post. It's not normal to have HIV, but it's not abnormal. It's not ordinary. It's extraordinary. I'm special. And it's an honor to be able to share my life with you.
So there. I'm just not sure who misunderstood who. If Anonymous was reading the same blog I was writing. If he or she didn't read from the beginning. If some things were getting lost in translation.
I admit I'm no expert on living with HIV, but then give me a break. I'm just barely two months into this, I still have a lot to learn, but I think I've been doing great for a beginner. My whole HIV life is unfolding through this blog, so you tell me how I'm doing. If this isn't accepting it, I don't know what else is.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Thursday is coming up fast again. I’m not nervous. A bit excited actually.
I know I should be sleepless, panicky and paranoid by now. But hey, it’s just a CD4 count. Worrying about it won’t help. As the song says, Que sera sera, Whatever will be, will be.
There’s just really no way of guessing how good or how bad it’s going to be. At this point I do acknowledge that my paranoia can get its way sometimes, linking every pain, every rash, every pimple, and everything else with HIV. So unless I’m really bedridden or hospitalized for something, I have no reason to think my CD4 count will be alarmingly low.
On the other hand, I can’t confidently say that we caught the bug in its early stages. I can only guess when exactly I got infected and by whom. Which is why I notice myself scouting for some familiar faces at the H4 when I’m there. I don’t know exactly how I’ll react, but it might be along the lines of So did you catch it from me? Or did I from you?
I now realize that my sex life has been a huge game of Russian roulette. The only difference is that the gun was always pointed my way, and I didn’t know exactly how many bullets there were. And still, I would usually take the risk of not wearing the bulletproof vest. So eventually and expectedly, I got hit.
I don’t know if that classifies me as really brave or really stupid. But I always thought that each was a requisite for the other. But it was all my choice. I guess it was all in my personality to live life for the day, like I had nothing to lose and have no regrets. Extremely noble… if only I lived in my own world, independent and void of outside connections. But that’s too much to ask.
Everything creates ripples. Everything is connected. We live in a world ruled by laws which state stuff like Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, No man is an island, Energy can not be created nor destroyed, and Birds of a feather flock together. I won’t go as far as saying Misery loves company. I would never wish this upon anyone else.
So now, though the gun is still going around, I’m trying hard to handle my bullet responsibly. Bang, bang…
Monday, June 02, 2008
I just got back from a loooong weekend. After last Thursday spent at San Lazaro, Friday morning signaled the start of a big family weekend. From my dad’s side of the family, aunts, uncles and cousins already based in the US came home to the Philippines. Some of them I hadn’t seen in twenty-plus years. Add to that most of the clan based in the Philippines, most of whom I haven’t met or don’t even know. We all headed to the southeastern part of Luzon, to go home to our province in Bicol.
My mom and I were fetched at home Friday morning, and picked up some of my dad’s cousins and their families in the area. We totaled 16 in the van, including 4 kids, just right for the size of the vehicle. By about 8:00 in the morning, we were on our way out of the city. So how far away is it? Eight to ten hours. Loooong trip. I had planned to sleep through the whole trip, but with all the yakking and cackling of everyone else there, plus a special mention to the cousin I had beside me who kept tapping my shoulder telling me to listen to her, and slapping my back everytime she laughed, I hardly snuck a wink in.
So needless to say, we were there in no time. We got there before 5:00 that evening. Tired. I’m sure I wondered if this was HIV-related fatigue, but really it was just such a long trip.
I honestly had been dreading meeting all the relatives I haven’t seen or didn’t know. I’d much rather blend into the wallpaper. I sort of got used to being “just the other child”, but my brother and sister weren’t there at the time to grab all the attention. I don’t really have much to be proud of, at least not to the levels of my siblings. It’s all just same old, same old for me. But really, it wasn’t that bad. Save for a number who just wouldn’t stop asking if I was married or had a girlfriend or what, everyone seemed glad to meet me. I still half hate everytime people say I’m a carbon-copy of my father. But no permanent damage.
So what’s the big occasion anyways? It’s my grandmother’s birthday. Not just any. It’s her 100th. One hundred years. That’s like a double gold, or a silver-diamond. Wow. I know. She’s hard of hearing, almost blind, bedridden most of the time, but noticeably, her mind, wit and humor are still there. I know I inherited those from her.
Apparently women in our family have longer lifespans. My grandfathers on both my dad’s and mom’s sides are already gone, while both grandmothers are still around. My dad didn’t even make it to 60. And as for me, I can only be happy that I’ve gotten to 30. The odds of me even reaching 50 are grim. But that’s all me, my genes are not to blame.
I thought this would be a good time to pull my sister aside and tell her about my condition. But I never got the chance, not to mention I doubt if I’d have the guts to tell her. But all in all, it was not bad. I loved seeing my cousins from the US. Even the one I accidentally dropped from a flight of stairs when I was a kid. Even the one who used to tag team with my brother to bully me. I loved meeting the at least 200 of my relatives, thinking to myself that this might be the last chance they’d get to meet me.
I tend to wonder if this many people will show up when my time comes. And it honestly makes me sad that I can’t say for certain. So I need to change the topic.
So anyway, home by Sunday morning after taking the night trip by public transport, I’m happy. I’m proud, because I faced what was sort of my fear of facing people. Facing family. But this is only the beginning. They’ll find out about me eventually. And I realize that this is something that I should begin facing now, before time runs out.