Yeah, yeah, everyone’s talking about it being Christmas. Technically, this isn’t the first Christmas I’m spending as someone living with HIV. It’s actually the second. Just the second. Although it’s still like before – glazed ham as our toka for Christmas dinner, Christmas eve with my mom’s side of the family, and no real plans Christmas day. But breaking it down, my Christmas this year has been... uhm, different. Quite, quite different.
Honestly, the Christmas spirit didn’t hit me this year. Being busy with work and the Power of You campaign of DepEd up to a week before Christmas, it wasn’t like before that we’d be buying gifts and checking off our Christmas list as early as November. One factor to that might be that all of us cousins are all grown up now, and Christmas no longer revolves too much around the gifts. This was also our first Christmas without my Ninang, who was there in ashes and in spirit, but I’m sure everyone felt the void she left.
While before, I used to really take time to send holiday greetings to my fuck buddies, this year, the only fubus I greeted didn’t even reach a handful. Granted, these were people who I used to play with and hadn’t gotten to the point of disclosing my status personally, but they were the ones who I felt were friends as well.
Aside from those few former fubus, Christmas greetings this year have revolved more around those who I took into my “positive” side of life. My ex-bf who I disclosed to. Shola, of course. The guy from the Think Positive documentary of GMA. My “kids”, those who I had helped either get tested or brought to RITM. Fellow bloggers, both pozzie and poz-friendly. My “kumare” who I haven’t seen in a long time. A new friend in leather. A guy who caressed my calves from Alabang to Ortigas. Some of my alphabet friends, L, O, E and My RITM angel, U. Jinjin and Odin. Kuya DepEd.
Of course, Papi had special privileges. I called him shortly past midnight just to greet him and get the scoop on how his Christmas was going. We were both at our respective family gatherings, so we made the most of whatever short conversation we could manage.
Before, especially during the times I was single and not yet HIV-positive, I would’ve honestly taken the time off from work to schedule meet ups, sex EBs and all those raunchy things. You know how we all need to warm up those cold December nights... and days. Or is it just me? Anyhoo, I honestly did get a couple of indecent proposals this year from some old buddies, but I had every excuse in the book. Busy, out of town, sick, tired. Of course, knowing Papi is there is the biggest thing that keeps me on the right track. I know... schmuck.
But you know what, I wasn’t exactly staying home and sulking. On Christmas day, I took a trip to visit my sister at her new place. She didn’t show up at our family thing Christmas eve, which really wasn’t a surprise. So I went to her instead to bring all her gifts. I hung out with her for several hours, watching a marathon of Will and Grace, wrestling with her dog, and feasting on the macaroni and cheese she prepared. I actually thought I could tell her about my HIV thing, but decided against complicating her new life minus her husband... long story.
Yesterday, the 26th, wasn’t dull either. Noting that most of the pozzie get-togethers happen in the south, some of us RITM pozzies from the north thought of organizing something of our own.
With others not being able to make it, there were technically just three of us from the north. GreenFrog, who I met for the first time during the RITM Christmas party, one of my “kids” who I actually introduced to the RITM on the day of the Christmas party, and myself. The three of us, and another newbie who I’ll be taking to the RITM this week, met up early in the afternoon to catch a screening of Avatar. I finally, finally, finally got to watch it, and in 3D at that. Allow it to be a big deal for me because I think the last movie I watched was Kimmy Dora. Argh.
After the movie, we had some coffee while waiting for some guests from the south. I know, right? One word: kaladkarin. Hehehe. Two of them showed up, both bloggers, LuckyTrese and Positive’sStory. LuckyTrese, I’d met before, but it was my first time meeting Positive’sStory. So the six of us went for dinner, in the midst of which GreenFrog got a text message that one other guy was going to show up. And show up he did.
And then there were seven. Not exactly seven dwarves. Having seven people sharing such different HIV stories is a big thing. I think it helped my newbie to be exposed to others like him as he was about to embark on his own HIV journey. I don’t think there was any drama at all, more laughing actually, laughing at everything from rashes and Avatar characters, to McDonalds, Manuela and Marcella. Oi.
After dinner, the last guy who made it needed to leave for work. The six of us left decided to hang out some more, as one by one our ARV schedules elapsed. Most of us had a few drinks... okay fine I had more than the others... it ain’t called a bottomless margarita for nothing! By around 1 in the morning – I know! – it was time to go. Actually, I didn’t think I could drink another drop, so it was really time to go.
Four of them shared a cab to their destinations, while GreenFrog and I got left behind, mostly because we didn’t live very far away from where we were. I was honestly a bit tipsy, thanks to both the ARVs and those margaritas. GreenFrog is actually my new Papi-approved BFF, so he thought he owed it to Papi to take me home. Argh. Sweet.
You all know I’m a big boy and have never gotten drunk enough not to be able to handle myself, so I compromised, had him take me halfway home, at which point I assured him I was okay. So we ended up turning around as I took him back out to the main road and saw him off. Bwehehe.
It was hilariously a lot of unnecessary walking, but it was nice as we evaluated the evening that just passed. Seven pusits. Four bloggers. North, east and south represented. We were happy with how it turned out. Positive in all senses of the word. This is one night that will not be the last. Hopefully, there’ll be even more of us next time. Until then.
Christmas 2009 is over. It’s different. It’s positively different. And it’s all good.
- 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, December 27, 2009
Yeah, yeah, everyone’s talking about it being Christmas. Technically, this isn’t the first Christmas I’m spending as someone living with HIV. It’s actually the second. Just the second. Although it’s still like before – glazed ham as our toka for Christmas dinner, Christmas eve with my mom’s side of the family, and no real plans Christmas day. But breaking it down, my Christmas this year has been... uhm, different. Quite, quite different.
Friday, December 25, 2009
It's not easy getting up in the chilly mornings.
There are so many things to do.
My back just hurts.
I have a cold.
Hehehe, okay fine. I'm gonna stop ranting. Chika lang! Drama lang yun.
Although all of the above are true, I know there is much to be thankful for. I'm alive, I'm healthy (well sort of, hehe), I'm happy, I love and am loved. And maybe the only thing I could wish for is for everyone out there to realize the things in their lives they can be thankful for.
Personally, I'm thankful for everyone who has become a gift to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And Merry Christmas to everyone as well. :-D
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Yesterday was a Monday. We all know how Mondays are. The first day of the week. A battle to recover from the weekend that just passed. An attempt to jumpstart the week ahead. This Monday didn’t seem any different. The cold December air made things worse. Morning showers are much harder to get into these days, aren’t they? I left the house realizing too late that I’d forgotten the bracelet and the ring that I wear every single day. The first time it’s ever happened since I got them. That was just not a good sign of things to come.
Morning rush hour was worse than usual. Must be a Christmas thing. Of course, since I’ve been daring to ride buses to work for some time now, I experienced every minute and inch of that traffic. My only consolation would’ve been the cool weather. But midway during the trip, I started cursing the cool weather when I felt the need to pee and had to hold it in until I got to the office. Good thing I made it. I got to work half an hour later than usual.
Work was not any better. It was a slow day, and everyone seemed like they were in vacation mode already. And sniffing and snorting my way through the day didn’t help either. The sniffles that I brought back from Cebu still haven’t gone away totally yet. Argh.
At about 5:00 pm, I got a text from a friend in the neighboring office asking if we could leave together. He’s not exactly a new friend, but an unexpected one. He actually heard that I was HIV-positive and approached me one day with much curiosity, and we’ve been close ever since. Everyone else seems to think that we clicked because something romantic is going on between us, which just isn’t the case. And today, since I’d been wanting to go check out a mall that was on his route home, I agreed to his proposition.
We were chatting in the jeep the whole way to the mall. There, we leafed through the huge collection of bootlegged DVDs – shh, don’t tell the OMB – and we ended up buying a couple of movies each. From there we headed out ready to go our separate ways. We were walking to where we were going to get separate rides, when he asked me if I was in a hurry. He wanted to buy something at the grocery and asked me to go with him for another few minutes.
We were walking to the entrance of the grocery when I spotted someone I thought I knew. This guy happened to be walking beside me to the door. I actually wasn’t 100% sure it was him, but I don’t know what got into me. I put my hand around his shoulder, which prompted him to look at me. He smiled, not because he recognized me, but because of the gesture. Seeing his face, I was a bit more convinced he was the guy, but I was quiet, trying to recall his name. It came to me quickly, just as the guard was about to inspect my bag, “Ikaw si _____, diba?” Silence.
“Yes,” was the next thing I heard. It was clear he was wondering why I knew him. “Ako si _____,” I said, reminding him who I was, and offering a handshake with it. A sigh of relief. We’d finally met. We’d finally, finally met.
This guy is actually a fellow pozzie who I’ve been chatting with for over a year already I think. We’re linked on Facebook and other places, so we did have some idea of what the other looked like. Oh I’ve even seen him on webcam... nope I just watched him sleep when he forgot to turn his cam off.
We’ve probably talked about everything under the sun already, from family to poz life, and from love to sex. He mostly likes to tease me about my YM id. And I tease back. Sexually, we would be a match. But I see him more as a little brother. He’s a couple of years older than I am, but looks-wise, he could pass as someone a decade younger. Amazing, right?
What really prompts me to see him as a little brother is his stature. He’s a petite guy. Petite, but all man. He’s always said he’s a shy and quiet guy, but talking with him, his maturity shows and his huge heart shines through his mysterious exterior. I always knew we would get along well.
We had actually just been chatting earlier in the day, talking about how we should finally meet for the first time, before he left the country end of the month. Of course he didn’t let the chance pas to tease me again about my YM id. He dared me to meet up. No reason why we shouldn’t meet. We just never thought it would happen so quickly and so unexpectedly.
It was a really quick meet mostly because it wasn’t really planned. But the quickie was enough to keep me smiling all the way home. I found it hilarious how the heavens work sometimes. What if my friend from the office didn’t suggest we leave together? What if we got there a minute earlier or a minute later? What if I didn’t accompany him to the grocery? What if I brushed the guy off as just a look-alike? What if I didn’t muster up the guts to put my arm around him? What if I chickened out of talking to the guy? What if the world wasn’t that small? What if, what if, what if?
The right time, the right place. It was all really just fate. Destiny. Serendipity. A hell of a stroke of luck. I’ve mushed myself all over him already yesterday via text messages, telling him how happy I was that we’d finally met, and how everything was meant to be, and how absolutely adorable he really is. I know, right? I’m a schmuck. But really, if you saw my face the whole ride home, you’d know it really made my day. Hay... ain’t Mondays and life just grand?
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The Cebu leg of the Power of You campaign organized by DepEd, commenced last week. I just got back to Manila Thursday afternoon, and I’m honestly a bit pooped. But it was all worth it. The fulfillment I got supporting the advocacy was just amazing.
Amazing, amazing, amazing.
Actually, I almost didn’t make it to Cebu. Work wouldn’t allow me to take a leave for it. But I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass. Honestly, I was willing to go AWOL if I needed to. I thought the cause would merit it. Luckily, a compromise was struck, and I was off to Cebu as planned Monday morning, and in exchange, I’d fly back earlier than expected and report to work before the week ended. Better than nothing, right?
So as early as 7:00 am Monday, E and I had met at the airport, my first time at the NAIA Centennial Terminal 2. I sat with E through breakfast at the canteen, after which we met up with the DepEd guys and gals to check-in together, so they could use our available check-in luggage weight for the other equipment and supplies for the seminar. After a couple of hours of feigning elitism surfing on our laptops, it was boarding time.
We were taking the 9:35 am Philippine Airlines flight to Cebu. I was a bit bummed to be seated at the aisle, and worse, next to strangers. But hey, who am I to be choosy? The three DepEd ladies were seated in the row in front of me, while E and the two DepEd guys were in the row behind. E had warned that he was a nervous wreck when it came to heights and flying, so I couldn’t help but turn to see his reaction during takeoff and landing, as well as every time we hit some turbulence on the flight. It was refreshing to see someone with a worse fear of heights than I do. Hehe.
But of course, we got to Cebu safe and sound. It was the first time in Cebu for both E and I. The trip from the airport to the hotel left us both realizing that Cebu was a lot like Metro Manila. There were rotondas like the one in Tomas Morato, rows of shops like those in Manila, streetscapes like those in Marikina, overpasses like those in San Juan, and of course traffic that is characteristically Metro Manila. Cebu was very much like Metro Manila, but a tad cleaner.
The hotel was a quaint little building along the country’s oldest street in downtown Cebu, which would serve as both lodging and conference venue for us and the participants. We checked in, and this early, a day before the conference itself started, E made it clear that the stay in Cebu would be unlike that in Subic. Subic was more of my style, where we retired to our room early and spent a great part of our spare time in the hotel. Cebu was to be more of his style, late nights out and all... but that’s a whole other story. More about that another time.
The next day, Tuesday, was the official start of the conference. And the afternoon was ours, for the sensitization exercise and our testimonials in front of the assembly. Kuya DepEd was super apologetic upon reading my Subic entry about how his introduction pre-empted our disclosure. Hehehe. But of course, we were really okay with how it went in Subic. But this time, in Cebu, he did heed my request to keep the suspense of our HIV statuses until the appropriate chapters of our stories.
Although I told my story the same way and used the same visual cues to accompany it, my spiel honestly went smoother two weeks ago in Subic. In Cebu, I was panicking, sweating bullets, and stuttering like it was no one’s business. That’s my normal, actually. The confidence I had in Subic was the fluke. But nevertheless, I got through it.
After, I passed the microphone on to E for his story, after which we sat up front with the doctor for the open forum. I found the questions in Cebu to be actually quite tame compared to those in Subic. More of them actually were addressed to the doctor. But the one thing I noticed was that I could not dodge the bullet of being asked how my family took the news of my being HIV positive. It’s inevitable to be one of the first things one would wonder about. So again, I explained how it’s still a sensitive issue for me, and how Cebu is finding out my HIV status even before my family.
The DepEd people have been getting the flak from the Catholic Church for discussing contraception, so E and I censored ourselves a bit in that field. We barely mentioned “condoms”, and just grazed through with “protection” and “safe sex” instead, focusing more on abstinence for prevention. Very unlike in Subic, where I proudly proclaimed that I always have condoms in tow just in case. So sue me, I was just being honest.
Fortunately, there weren’t any Nazis in the crowd this time. The worst reactions probably included suggestions to do devotions to Father Pio and Father Suarez, getting asked whether we knew if we were going to heaven if we died right that moment, and being told how HIV made my achievements seem like such a waste. Hmm. Granted, they were all said in a nice way and in good faith I believe, but there was no proper way to answer comments like that. So we just ended up smiling and thanking them for the prayovers.
The kids meanwhile were extremely open-minded and receptive. Just after our testimonials, we had already gotten hugs from a couple of the girls before the session wrapped up. We also spent time with them during the socials one evening, where I dared dance Nobody as a consequence to their game. Argh. And more than a handful of them even visited us in our room Wednesday night to chat with us and Kuya DepEd, where it was once again apparent that E had charmed his way into the hearts of some of the kids. Two words: puppy love. Hehe. Three more words: menor de edad. Hehehe.
Really, Cebu was a great experience and a great opportunity. I mean the teams from DepEd and UNICEF could’ve well gone with the usual pusits from the usual NGOs, but our Kuya in DepEd took a chance on E and I just based on what they knew about us from our blogs. Granted, ours were not the usual pusit stories and dispositions, but that didn’t mean we would not try to get our intended message across.
I know the effort seems like such a small drop in the ocean, but knowing that these are kids – the future – and that they will be sharing their experiences with their peers, we do believe the advocacy will make bigger and farther waves and ripples. If I die now, no matter where I end up, I can confidently say I’ve done some good for future generations. Just allow me to be proud of that.
Right now, the trainings are over, but after just two weeks spent with them, everyone from DepEd has become like a family to us... Oi, you won’t believe how protective they’ve been of us. Miss Thelma, Miss Mel, Miss Salie, Miss Flora, Sir Junel, Sir Joseph, Sir Noli, and of course, Sir Edward, who was the man behind our being a part of the Power of You training. Again, we thank you for the huge opportunity, and whether you like it or not, we’ll see you again soon. Hehehe.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
It’s been days since getting home from Subic after the Training of Implementers on the Power of You Campaign for HIV/STI Prevention. But still I’m reeling.
Although the whole thing was better than what E and I expected and overall, a very successful event and a positive experience for both E and I, it was far from perfect. There still are some things that I need to get off my chest.
During the first day of the seminar, December 1st, we were able to witness as one school official claimed quotes from the Holy Bible saying how Adam and Eve were punished by God because they engaged in premarital sex and how HIV came about because Cain was a bad son who copulated with different animals. Hmm.
I know I’m no Bible fanatic, but think about it. Was it not something about an apple that led Adam and Eve into temptation? And who exactly was supposed to wed Adam to Eve if they were the only two people around? And Cain sexing it up with animals... hmm, that’s a new one. Thankfully, neither E nor I needed to speak up, for it was the other school officials who refuted her claims, saying nowhere in the Bible is any of that said.
But the little old lady wasn’t done. She proudly expressed her disgust at the immorality of society today, leading her to prohibit holding of hands in her school, be it between opposite or same sexes, as well as campaign against homosexuality among students and faculty. Hmm. E seemed to think it’s a classic case of an old dog and new tricks. Okay, from this point on we shall call her Nazi lady.
Luckily, we hardly heard a peep from Nazi lady after her outburst that first day. She didn’t even interrogate us about our immorality or stone us, even after E and I told our life stories. I was surprised actually. She was reduced to giving us mean looks and sneers that might be her way of telling us, “You got what you deserved”. Deadma na lang. So was this the end of the Nazi lady chapter? Hell, hell, hell no.
We were eating a late breakfast on the third day when we saw Nazi lady come out of the conference hall. Honestly, I kept my head down, not wanting to show any interest in her, nor daring to make eye contact with such an omnipotent being. We just were not worthy.
Of course, if anything can go against the plan, it will. E was whimpering beside me, as he noticed her approaching us from across the room. I thought he was kidding, but when I looked up, there she was, asking if she could join us. Like we had a choice, right? Hail, your highness. So, fine. We let her.
If I remember right, she started off telling us that she had allegedly been speaking with the student leaders from her school, and their reactions were that they were pleased to realize that we were okay in spite of the virus. Too pleased, in fact, that she was concerned that it would create complacency around the risk of contracting HIV. As in, “Why should we (her students) be so concerned about HIV if they (E and I) are doing alright with it?” Hmm.
We tried hard to be nice. First of all, I seriously doubt the veracity of her allegations. I really think she once again misinterpreted what her students were expressing to her. It pissed us off that she obviously wasn’t paying attention to the synthesis of that first day, which explained the objective of our telling our stories.
My story was an extreme polar opposite to E’s plight with drugs, dropping out of school, vices and prostitution. I was the typical kid who studied in a Catholic primary school, an enviable science high school and a prestigious university. The objective was to show that whatever background one comes from one can still be put at risk of HIV. Just like it doesn’t know gender, race, religion, sexual preference, and social status, HIV has no respect for educational attainment. A risk is a risk.
We explained that to her... again... and really, my thoughts were that she really underestimated the intelligence of her students. These are student leaders, mind you. They aren't stupid. And kids these days deal with more things that we or she did in our time.
Then she wanted to know whether we still were living the same lifestyle even after HIV. For my case, I knew what she was referring to. Homosexuality. But E was smart to ask what she meant by “lifestyle”. She elaborated. Homosexuality, drugs and prostitution. The drugs and prostitution part, I never dealt with, and I know E has passed that phase. But the homosexuality part, I chose to speak for myself. Yes, of course, I still practice homosexuality.
She countered, “Then what’s the purpose of this seminar if you still go on with that lifestyle?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I think I had DUH! written on my forehead. I explained that I am a homosexual, and having HIV doesn’t mean that I should go straight or stop having sex. E added how HIV is not a homosexual thing, and even straight sero-discordant couples we know can still have sex with the proper precautions.
Was she done? Hell no. She clearly was not digesting what we were saying. As she started to leave, she gave us the consolation of hearing that she did think that it was admirable how positive we still were despite our conditions, but she made clear that she hoped we had repented, and that “she did not consider us heroes”. Wow. And E and I were supposed to be the judgmental and self-righteous ones respectively?
Was I offended? Hell, no. We were not there to be patronized or made heroes. Ours was, after all, according to the programme, a “testimonial”. And that’s just what we did. What bothers us is how this Nazi lady is going to teach students about HIV. And hearing her repeat later on at the assembly that she would still campaign against homosexuality in her campus told us exactly how she was going to. Nazi style.
With all that had been said, E and I kept as cool as could be. We did tell the organizers about what happened, and they decided against letting us speak for ourselves to make sure things didn’t get personal. Instead, they took it upon themselves to reiterate that it was an HIV prevention seminar, and not an issue about homosexuality. I hope Nazi ears were listening, and Nazi minds understanding.
HIV is a disease that can affect everyone. Campaigning against homosexuality won’t help. Even if all her students were straight, HIV would still be a threat. Campaigning against pre-marital sex won’t help. Even if all her students were already married to one another, HIV would still be a threat. Banning holding hands won’t help either. Even if you cut off everyone’s hands on campus, HIV would still be a threat.
This type of martial rule does nothing but encourage rebellion. Risks do not only exist within the four walls of a school and do not end with the ringing of the school bell at the end of the day. They abound everywhere and every minute. Nazi lady is really not that omnipotent to be lurking behind each student their whole life, is she?
The title of the course is The Power of You. It is not the power of Nazi lady. It is not the power of B.I.T.C.H. and E. It is the power each one has over his or her life. It is the power in every one of us. And that explains the objective precisely. We are not here to make absolute rules to do this and not do that. We are here to empower the youth of today with the knowledge and skills to enable them to make the right decisions for themselves – about the risks of HIV and life in general – and live by whatever decisions they make. And that is The Power of You.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Subic. It’s December 2, the crack of dawn right now. We travelled three hours by bus from Manila Monday night to be here in time for yesterday, the first day of an HIV Awareness campaign training thing for school officials and student leaders, organized by the Department of Education with the support of UNICEF. E is sound asleep in the bed next to mine, while I’m sitting up in bed right now... blogging. Freaky, huh? Yes, E, gising na si lola. Hahaha.
Yesterday was just the first of three days, but it was so overwhelming... so much so that I was too speechless to blog last night, but at this break of dawn everything’s coming back to me and I don’t even know where to start telling you about it.
Basically this all started way back in April when they aired the interview I granted to GMA’s World View on HIV. Yep, the one where some of you watched the back of my head talking. Mr. DepEd just happened to be watching, and contacted my through the blog after that. Little did he know that he’d be having a project like this dealing with HIV.
The DepEd and UNICEF came up with Power Of You, a youth-targeted interactive video about HIV and STIs. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure thing, where users are immersed in the lives of fellow youths and asked to make choices in life surrounding the risk of HIV. And they gathered school officials and student leaders from Luzon here in Subic this week to train them in the usage of the video and how to get the messages across to other kids. Enter E and I.
Mainly, our role was to be resource persons for the sensitization and testimonial part of the program. We were to give a tangible face to HIV. And knowing what kind of a face needed to be given to HIV, we were up to the challenge.
Okay fine, we were up to the challenge until just before our part. But after a morning filled with the prospect of a hundred unfamiliar faces staring at me and judging me, not knowing how things will turn out, my innate stage fright kicking in, and one hell of a biblical debate that crucified us sinners which left E brimming with feist... well, needless to say, I was shaking in my boots and preparing to sweat bullets.
Kuya DepEd Introduced E and I, and actually prematurely gave away that we were indeed HIV positive. I had had it worked into my presentation to give as much shock value as possible, but hell, it’d be too late to back down now.
Basically, E and I were on the opposite ends of the spectrum. He was pasaway boy, who lived a pasaway life that led to HIV. I was geeky boy who lived an almost ideal life that still led to HIV. So we were opposite ends of the spectrum that met in the middle. Point be told, HIV is everyone’s concern.
I breezed through my life story unexpectedly easily actually. I’m the type of person who is terrified to stand before a crowd, but once I get going, I take on a whole new tougher me. I was lucky to have gotten to that phase. I stood there proudly sharing my wares of where I studied and what I accomplished, but hopefully showed how I humbly accepted and coped with being HIV positive.
E followed with his life story. And though his life story involved such shocking times as smoking at age 10, drugs and prostitution, he just had to flash his pearly whites – his teeth, not his briefs – to win the crowd over.
Really, I think the biggest shocker for the audience was that for most of them, they would not have fathomed ever meeting anyone who had HIV in person, let alone two in a day, or in their lifetimes. And with an open forum to follow, we were prepared – or more like we needed to be prepared – to handle these curious young ones and young once.
The questions thrown to us were a spectrum in themselves, from everything from treatment, discrimination, life changes to love lives and sex lives. As usual, I think we painted the kind of HIV positive picture we wanted... a positive one. The liberty at which the students and even the school officials expressed how they “commended”, “congratulated”, “admired” and were “inspired by” us was every bit of flattering, touching and overwhelming. If I’m not mistaken, someone actually shed a tear listening to our unexpectedly happy stories.
People came up to us after to shake our hands, ask for contact details, and even have pictures taken with us... I know, right?! Good luck to us with how far those pictures will go, hahaha. I mean we weren’t celebrities or anything. But neither was this the venue to show how paranoid someone with HIV could be. We were here to empower the positives and enlighten the negatives. Roar!
But it was still just all so overwhelming. This is technically my first major “coming out” experience to date, and believe me, I was prepared for the worst. I was surprised some biblical lady didn’t take a stone from her bag to have a swing at us with. So as a first, this was the best it could ever get. And I’m surprised to hear myself saying... coming out ain’t so bad after all.
So is the title “Back In The Closet” nearing the end of its useful life? Well not quite. Not until I muster up the guts to tell my family. But this is a good step forward, right?
So on behalf of E, I thank the participants for opening their ears and minds to our stories. We hope we got our message across. Yep, even we have and need our “Power Of You”. To the guys and gals of DepEd and UNICEF, thank you, thank you, thank you for this opportunity... and see you again later for more. Hehehe.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
It's December 1, 2009. Today is World AIDS Day. No real celebration for me. I'm here with E in Subic. Nope, it's not a vacay. We're here for a seminar organized by the Department of Education that will work towards the integration of an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign into school curricula. We're here to share our stories with some students and school officials... I know... Yikes. Wish us luck!
For now, happy World AIDS Day!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Some weeks ago, I got a text message. An unknown number said something like, “Your schedule for CD4 will be on November 17. Please do come as your slot may be given to others.” Nothing else followed, but it was signed with a couple of familiar names from the RITM.
You’d think I’d had enough CD4 counts done for this to be something routine. But... it was the farthest from it.
I didn’t doubt the veracity of the message, even though it came from an unknown number. But my first instinct was that this message was just missent. Why? Basically, I’ve fallen into the routine of having my CD4 count monitored every 6 months. So since I started my ARVs at the RITM, I’ve had it done August 2008, February 2009 and August 2009. So my logic was telling me November 2009 was not next in the series.
So I chanced upon Red Apple Black Mark online, a blogger friend who happened to be at the RITM one time. So I asked him to confirm with the personnel whether they had really scheduled me. I remember telling him to point out that my next CD4 wasn’t due till February next year. I thought it’d be easier to have it clarified person to person.
After a few minutes, he came back and confirmed that, yes, I was indeed scheduled for a CD4 count November 17th. When I had him ask why, he was told that it was complicated, and would just be discussed with me when I got there myself. What the?!
That’s when my paranoia kicked in. Why couldn’t they tell me why they needed to monitor my CD4 just three months after my last? It was a valid question, I believe, right? So knowing my personality, I needed to know. I needed for it to make sense. Was there something wrong? My CD4 did go up a number of points last time, from 484 to 493. Was the improvement not enough? Was it a concern? Did they find something else? Why was I not told? Believe me, my mind was going berserk. Was it the funding problem? Did they need to have tests done while supply lasted? Were they unsure that they’d still be able to do the tests next year? I just had too many questions that needed answers.
I talked to E about it, knowing that he is aware that I can be paranoid sometimes. He mentioned he’d be going to the RITM the following week to visit. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to have him confirm... yet again... whether I indeed was scheduled for a CD4 count. And I asked him to badger them with whys. I just needed to know why.
So he went, and he asked... At first he irked me saying it was something that needed to be discussed in person. Good thing he took his joke back. He was told I was one of those who was undergoing special monitoring as part of some research of Doktora. Some sort of Taser or Genotyping ek-ek. Hmm. Two words came to mind: Guinea Pig. But having a scientific background myself, it came across more like an honor. Those two words were enough to answer my questions.
So from that time on, November 17th was marked on my calendar. I was joking with E and GreenMan that I was part of a special group. If RITM was a school, I was a Dean’s lister. The chosen one. Proud, proud, proud.
So November 17th came, and my morning routine commenced an hour earlier than usual, so I’d be sure to get to RITM before the 9:00 am deadline. I think I got there at 8:30, with Ate pointing me to the back office to get my lab request from the people there. As I did, the lady there said she’d do one final check on her computer records. Nuneenuneenu... yes Madam, you should find me on that Dean’s list.
With her back still to me, she pointed out that I was still updated on my CD4 counts. Of course I am, I said to myself. And then she said I wasn’t due for another CD4 till February... and that I could go.
WTF?! My jaw dropped. The worst part, she was too matter-of-fact... very unapologetic. I don’t know exactly what expression I had on my face, but I was trying hard to stay positive. Did I just waste my morning for nothing?! Were my instincts spot on from the beginning?! My mind was spinning again, I was borderline angry already. Angry but trying to keep a smile on my face. I'm sure this mistake wasn't unavoidable. It’s no joke travelling from Quezon City to Alabang for nothing.
I made my way to the front office to Ate. Why? Because that was my comfort zone at the RITM. Getting there, she was surprised that I had had my test done so quickly. I told her what I was told. Ate sighed, and sat down and explained. She gave me the apology I needed.
She explained that the task of scheduling CD4 counts had been taken from her and passed on to someone else, which apparently wasn’t going too well. Just that day, already three of us had made unnecessary trips only to find out that a mistake had been made. She was just sooooo apologetic about the whole thing, even though it wasn’t her fault. She was apologizing for the glitch in the system. I felt her sincerity. And with that, I cooled down, just happy to have an excuse to visit the RITM.
From there, I headed off back north... late for work for a reason that was valid but totally unnecessary. Fine. This was one day that half of me wanted to forget. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have experienced this. So just be forewarned. They’re undergoing some administrative changes right now at the RITM, and may, may, may just need some extra patience from us. My lesson learned? Trust your instincts... and patience is suuuuuch a virtue. Hopefully they’ll get through this glitch soon enough. Peace out...
Monday, November 23, 2009
I found this on Youtube a couple of weeks ago. The video itself is supposed to be a summary of the HIV & AIDS situation in the Philippines as of July 2008. But what really caught my attention was the song that served as background music to it.
A rap song about HIV & AIDS is interesting enough. But a Pinoy original rap song about HIV & AIDS? Very interesting.
Composed and performed by Alexis & Jerry of a group called QC Peer Educators, the song is part of the video which is a project of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement - HIV & AIDS Prevention Project, and sponsored by UNICEF.
I took the liberty to transcribe the lyrics of the song as best I can, so we can all digest the message further. Check it out.
HIV & AIDS Theme Rap Song
Composed and performed by Alexis & Jerry
May sasabihin ako
Tungo sa tamang daan
At para sa pangkalahatan
May mga sakit na lumalaganap
Kaya't ingatan ang sarili
Ito ay ang HIV, AIDS
STI o STD
Talagang lubos na nakakapinsala
Ang sakit ng kapabayaan
Na walang pinipili na estado
Mahirap man o maging mayaman
Kaya't iyong matatamo
Kapag sa kamundohan ay hinayaan
Na maagaw ang iyong kalooban
Na ang punto'y kamatayan
Kaya aking maipapayo
Di lamang sa mga kabataan
Ay umasta ng wasto
Upang di nyo pagsisisihan
Ang magagawang kamalian
Upang di na pamamarisan
Ang tinuturing na kamalasan
Ng mga kabataang nababahiran
Hindi dahilan ang kahirapan
Kung iwawasto ang pangangatawan
Alam ko na alam mo rin
Ang tunay nitong kahalagahan
Kaya laging pakatandaan
Upang sa isipan manumbalik
Kalinisan ang itatak
Huwag agad makipagtalik
Hinalina ang iyong sarili
Sa wastong tinanda
Sa'ming awit ng kaligtasan
Na aming tinakda
Buksan ang isipan at puso
At ang iyong kamalayan
Na tuluyan nang mawakasan
Ang ganitong kalagayan
Repeat REFRAIN 2x
VERSE SET 1
Mga sakit na nakakamatay
At lubos na nakakahawa
Sa tinagal ng iyong lagay
Kundisyon ay nakakaawa
Sa maselang parte ng bahagi ng ating katawan
Kailangan buksan ang ating isip
At dagdagan ang kaalaman
Wag kang maging padalosdalos
Para sa ikakabuti
Lagi mo lang tatandaan
Nasa huli ang pagsisisi
Siguro naman ay alam mo na
Kung pano mo 'to maiiwasan
Isa lamang itong mensahe
Para din sa ating kaligtasan
At huwag hayaan sa ating lipunan
Ay tuluyang lumala
Gawin natin ang makakaya
Para ito'y mawala
At huwag ipagsawalang bahala
Ang ganitong sitwasyon
Marami nang sakit na ganito
Kaya malaki na ang populasyon
Kasi pag umatake na ang libog
Kahit may AIDS hindi na bale
Ito ang mga pananaw
Na dapat alisin sa'ting sarili
Kaya't ang iba'y nagkakasakit
Dahil sa kanyang maling pananaw
Yun ang naging resulta
Repeat REFRAIN 2x
VERSE SET 2
Iwasan na ang ganitong kalagayan
Ito'y sakit ng ating bayan
Na dapat nating puksain
Upang hindi na pamahayan
Ang ating lipunan na
Sagad sagad sa kahirapan
Kaya tuloy hindi nabago
Ang ganitong kaganapan
Sa isipan ng mga
Walang malay na kabataan
Na maagang namulat
At maaga na nabahiran
Ng ganitong mga sakit
Pagiwas ang aming komento
Aminado din kami
Na kami ay di perpekto
Kailangan lamang pakatandaan
Iwasan ang ganitong sakit
Kung ayaw mong maranasan
Ang kapalaran ng pagkapait
Bakit dapat iwasan
Ayon sa pananaliksik
Ay sa kadahilanan ng maling
Ito'y kalbaryo sa kalusugan
At isa sa mga delubyo
Mahirap na malunasan
Pag napasukan na ng mikrobyo
Sa listahan ng mga may sakit
Ilang milyon na ang nakatala
Kaya kaibigan magingat ka
At yan ang aking babala
Repeat REFRAIN 2x
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Yes, I dare say it... LOVE.
He’s my type. Nice built. Clean cut. Those eyes. That smile. Discreet, but carefree. An amicable aura. A great sense of humor. He’s so much my type that he was the type that could easily intimidate me. The type that I’d usually consider way out of my league and just settle on admiring from afar.
It was funny how Papi and I started. Like I said before, I’d seen him at the RITM a lot, but hardly ever got to talk with him. He was just too bibo for a shy guy like me. Although, looks-wise, he did always get my attention.
The only real time I got to know him was when he was out of the country. I don’t recall exactly how, but we became avid chatmates on YM. Nothing romantic. I was a friend. No showbiz. He was going through a cool off with his boyfriend at the time, and was set on wooing him back. I was trying to coach him through it, especially during the times that he was down.
Evidence of our friendship was the fact that he was totally honest with me… about his good and bad sides. I felt his remorse and his sincerity. He became someone who I just wished to see happy. And at that time, I knew getting back together with his boyfriend would make him extremely happy.
Sadly, it didn’t seem likely. It broke my heart hearing how sad he was. I remember, on my birthday, he poured his heart out online to me. It didn’t ruin my day. I was just glad to be there for him, and appreciated how he shared his feelings. Somewhere along the way, I knew I loved this guy.
Upon his return to the country, he was planning to meet his new ex-boyfriend one last time at the same place where they first met. It was one last chance to win him back. I imagined that, at best, it would be so kilig to the bones. But he had one request… for me to be in the area on that same day and time, in case things didn’t make a turn for the best, and he needed to be “saved”. I was honored.
But as things turned out, that day never came. Circumstances brought him to realize he had done enough wooing. So instead, he promised we’d go out together sometime, his way of thanking me for the support that I had given him.
It was August that we first met since he came back. I was at the RITM with some newbies, while he had an appointment with the dermatologist. We didn’t spend much time together because I couldn’t leave my troops. But Papi and I did hug, and I got a peck on the cheek to my surprise. It still makes me smile to read the text message he sent after that. He used the words OA and sobra to describe how happy he was to see me. I may just have been happier.
After that, we sort of played around online. He told me to add him as my in-a-relationship-with guy on Facebook, and he added me too. It was funny how people were so surprised by that little move. We were honestly just playing around. But when asked if it was true, if we were serious, and how it happened, we just honestly attributed it to love. Friends should love each other, right?
I wasn’t going to fall in love with Papi. I already was. I know at some point, I questioned myself. Was it all really just a game? Why was I secretly wishing he’d love me for real? I was. I really was. And getting messages from Papi saying, “Walang divorce sa Philippines. Lagot ka.” just made me more confused. Were we, or weren’t we? No courtship ensued, no questions were asked, and no answers given.
A time soon came when temptations were coming my way one after another. Invitations to have sex with this guy and that. But I was happy with Papi. Would it make sense to prematurely commit to exclusively dating him? Was I assuming too much?
I took a chance. I sent him a message. “Ok lang ba kung loyal na lang ako sa iyo?” I cringed upon sending it. I feared that I’d look stupid and that he’d laugh at me. But looking stupid and being laughed at is nothing new to me. So I said how I felt. His reply almost made me cry. “Dapat lang!” And with that, B.I.T.C.H. was a good boy... and for good reason.
Our Kimmy Dora date came along in September. The misunderstanding we got into before our date was a milestone. I was shocked at how affected he was. And I was shocked at how affected I was that he was. Friends shouldn’t be like this, I remember thinking to myself. So many questions needed answers. And the kisses, hugs, and other displays of affection that peppered our Kimmy Dora date gave me some answers.
If you noticed, I never ever said we were in love. Or that we were a couple. We were dating, yes. Certainly, I had fallen for him. I loved him. And he loved me... as a friend at least. It wasn’t my assumption to make whether he was in love with me. But I was sure I was happy.
I am happy. Even if we live on opposite ends of the metropolis, I’m happy. Even if, as evidenced by Ondoy and Pepeng, the heavens always ruin our plans of meeting up, I’m happy. Even if we didn’t see each other for more than a month, I’m happy. But I missed the guy. And it takes a lot for me to miss someone. Despite that, I admit, this was still the most secure I’ve ever felt in any relationship. “Patience, my love,” he’d remind me.
Thankfully, we got a chance to see each other again at the RITM Halloween bash. Take note, this was just to be our second “date”. I could’ve seriously broken down upon seeing him after such a long time. But I kept it together.
Though we couldn’t stop our usual PDA, I could say we weren’t too clingy. Yeah, I sat on a beanbag with him sprawled between my legs for a time. We did hold hands and did manage a number of smacks in public. We only kissed torridly twice, I think, first behind a closed door with one other person in the room, and second out in the moonlit parking lot before we parted ways. Of course, I admit I racked up enough hugs to make up for the more than a month’s wait. But we were far from clingy. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to send winks and kisses from across the room, right?
It’s weird. It’s different. We haven’t exactly been celebrating monthsaries, nor giving flowers, cards or chocolates. And we haven’t even gotten to the sex part either, which for me, is sooo different. But the attraction is there… on my part at least. Roar!
But still, it’s nice. We each have our own lives, but I cherish what time we spend together immensely. It’s comfortable. No pressure. No burden. No leash. It’s happy. I think it all boils down to the fact that I just want him to be happy. And if I would be an instrument in that happiness, I’d be honored. And the happiness, his and mine, does make things all worthwhile. Hay... I love the guy.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
God, Jesus, Mama Mary, the Holy Spirit, Saint Joseph, Saint James, Saint John, Saint Francis, Saint Peter, Saint Catherine, Saint Bernard, Saint Ignatius, Saint Andrew, Saint Gregory, Saint Josephine, Saint Therese, Saint Charles, Saint Paul, Saint Patrick, Saint Jude, Saint Dominic, Saint Vincent, Saint Matthew, Saint Margaret, Saint Louis, Saint Claire, Saint Michael, Saint Genevieve, San Lorenzo Ruiz, even Santa Claus and San Miguel, please help us call on them now.
A fellow pozzie is in need. I got a text message from Ate earlier in the week asking for prayers for a certain person’s recovery. I sort of just guessed that it was probably a pozzie, but it didn’t seem like it was someone who I knew personally. It would’ve just made me sound like an ass to have to ask who the hell this person was. So whoever he was, I had him in my prayers.
Again, I don’t usually pray, and when I do, it’s almost never at times when I need something for myself. It’s usually during times when I have much to thank Him for, or when I have other persons’ intentions in mind.
Last night, I got a text message from E also asking me to pray for the same person. I replied to his message asking who the person was this time… plus I was curious too as to why this person was seemingly worthy enough for E to take him on as his personal cause. E isn’t usually the mushy type to just forward text messages for no reason. There had to be a story behind it.
So I managed to catch E online later in the evening, and I got the answers to my questions. Apparently, this person was one of the readers of E’s blog, who had the guts to get tested. Unfortunately, he turned out to be HIV-positive. Worse, his baseline CD4 count revealed a result in the double digits… in the line of 20s. I know, tragic.
Now, a low CD4 won’t always mean that you’re suffering. Just that your immune system is really down and really susceptible to infections. I’ve seen some pozzies with CD4 counts also in the double digits, but who were in generally good physical health. But this person, apparently, wasn’t that lucky.
Aside from the low CD4 count, he was now confined at the RITM, afflicted with some sort of infection that is still yet to be identified. It has already wreaked havoc, causing him to lose his ability to speak, and I think even his eyesight has been affected. It’s such a mystery what’s causing it, and I’m tempted to think that it’s some infection that might be affecting the brain… trust me, having been diagnosed with syphilis has forced me to read more about neurosyphilis, a severe complication if the infection remains unchecked, and I realize that certainly, anything that can affect the brain is scary.
So with that, we ask for your help. Nope, no need for money or medicines. E has already been able to round up some support to have the guy undergo an MRI, hopefully to identify what’s causing everything.
E was saying that more on emotional support and prayers are needed, both for the guy and his family who is at his side. Personally, I advice against flowers for now, considering that they might harbor some allergens and stuff that might not be good for the patient and his present condition. E was thinking more on cards or letters with words of encouragement, and maybe balloons to liven up the stark room at the RITM.
We seriously doubt if it would be possible for hospital visits to happen. He’s pretty new to the whole HIV thing, so he might not be comfortable having random strangers drop by. I’m thinking maybe to course stuff through Ate, or through E, who did say he’d be dropping by sometime.
So there. I really felt how much concern E had for the guy, and how hard it was for him not to be able to do anything that could really ease the guy’s suffering. And so if this is any help, I’m with E in this campaign. Please do at least pray that he recovers. Thanks everyone.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
I grew up primarily as part of the MTV generation. I remember watching the music video of "What's Going On" back then on MTV, and recall thinking how cool it was. Catchy and stellar. So many artists coming together for one cause, reminding me of the We Are The World era prior. I never really knew back then that "What's Going On" was recorded to benefit AIDS programs... nor did I ever fathom that it would hit so close to home.
It was apparently written by Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye and became the title track of Gaye's groundbreaking 1971 Motown album What's Going On. Designed with a somber jazz-inspired tone, "What's Going On" was initially conceptualized to address the political and social troubles of the world and black-on-black crime in a soulful, introspective way.
The song has also been covered by other artists, notably Cyndi Lauper, whose version reached #12 on the pop singles charts in 1987. It was the third single released by Cyndi Lauper from her second album True Colors.
In October 2001, a group of popular recording artists under the name "Artists Against AIDS Worldwide" released an album containing multiple versions of the song to benefit AIDS programs in Africa and other impoverished regions. The album contained that single along with 8 additional remixes. Recorded just before the September 11, 2001 attacks, it was decided that a portion of the song's proceeds would benefit a September 11 fund, as well as the Artists Against AIDS Worldwide.
Back then, the more recognizable faces for me were Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and Gwen Stefani. But they were just the tip of the stellar iceberg. Other artists who shared the advocacy were Bono, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, N Sync, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Eve, Nelly, Darren Hayes of Savage Garden, Monica, Nelly Furtado, Nona Gaye, Ja Rule, Lil Kim, P. Diddy, Tboz and Chili of TLC, Usher, and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, among others, altogether sending messages that included Stop Global AIDS, Treat the People and Drop the Debt. Check it out. Be amazed.
What's Going On?
What's Going On
People dying, people crying, Lord help us
Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying
Oh, brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today
Oh my father, father, we don't need to escalate
You see war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today
Barricades, can't block our way
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh what's going on, what's going on
Yeah what's going on, ahh what's going on
What's going on in a world filled with pain
Where's the love for which we pray
What's going on when our children can't play
Homeless can't eat there's got to be a better way
What's going on when we’re politically blind
Can't see the signs of endangered times
What's going on
Ah tell me
What's going on in the world today
I'd rather be dead than turn my head away
We gotta first world vision to complete
To lift our hands in the air and cry for a switch
Father help us, come on
Everybody thinks we're wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Together we can all be strong
United we stand, divided we fall
Oh you know we've got to find a way
Mary J. Blige:
To bring some understanding here today
Barricades can't block our way
Don't punish me with brutality
Baby talk to me, so you can see
Yeah, what's going on, hey, what's going on
Somebody tell me what's going on
I'll tell you what's goin' on-uh
What's going on 'cross seas, every minute a child dies by this disease
In record numbers indeed, got momma's crying out please
My baby hold on, my child ain't done nothing wrong
Still I want to holler, ask them why they don't bother
Oh no, oh no, make me turn to my father
And ask him why they all got a trapped soul
I can feel what was bothering Marvin, why his words forever remain
Dealing with these modern day problems
'Cause of ignorance surrounding me and my constituents
Too many infected too many lives diminishing
Nobody say Protestants, Jews, Blacks, and Whites, Latinos and Asians
Pray together, less fight, we better unite
As genocide chemical war and the rich and the poor
Know that God delivers a cure
It's a shame our reality is devastating, people praying for a cure
Dying while they're waiting, ask the Lord for the comfort
And strength to face it
All the kids with dreams won't get the chance to chase it
Makes me sad, think about the lives they would've had
Think about the orphan babies got no moms and dads
How can we sit back and not try to make it right
We gotta come together, we gotta fight for life
Somebody tell me what's going on (what's going on)
We got human beings using humans for a bomb
But everyone wanna live, don't nobody really want to die
You feeling me right, I can't be watching people die (die)
And watching people cry, let me break it down for a minute
If there's enough room here for you and me
There's plenty of room for some humanity
Somebody tell me what's going on (what's going on)
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
I have a new phone.
I... have... a... new... phone!
It shouldn’t be a big deal, but the last time I had a new phone was two years ago.
Wawa... I know, right?
Back in my college days, my first ever mobile phone was a Nokia 636. It was back in the day when text messaging was still non-existent. It was when there was still no such thing as pre-paid. It was when persons on one cellular service provider could still not contact those on other networks. It was when the biggest perk was that Donita Rose was on my network too. Okay...
So that was like ancient history already. I needed to have my subscription cut because I couldn’t say no whenever my classmates asked to make calls on it, and I couldn’t explain to my mom why my bill was costing so much. Sigh.
Surprisingly, that was the first and last time I owned a Nokia phone. Nokias just always seemed so blah for me. It was such a turn off to me that everyone has one, especially during the days of the 5110s and 3210s. I recall that whenever the signature Nokia ringtone sounded off, everyone would have to check their phones to see if it was theirs. So since my first and last Nokia, I’ve had instead – in chronological order – a Bosch, a Motorola, a Mitsubishi, a Panasonic, an unfamiliar Chinese brand, and finally, a Sony Ericsson.
I’m not really the type of person to need updated phones. As long as it’s user-friendly, it’s good enough. The Bosch, I gave to my mom because my sister gave me a Motorola for my birthday. The Mitsubishi, I needed because my Motorola battery conked out. The Panasonic I bought when my Mitsubishi fell from my bag somewhere. My little Chinese phone, I bought when I got a second sim. My tiny Panasonic, I had to retire when I could not find a replacement for its busted charger. And the Sony Ericsson came free with my post-paid line.
The Sony Ericsson was my first ever phone ever which had a camera. Too bad I lost it to a pickpocket just months after I got it. So I got demoted back to my Chinese phone, while I was still tied to my two-year contract that came with the Sony Ericsson. It was the longest two years ever, during which I felt I was paying for someone else’s phone. And just this month, I was scheduled to renew my contract, and thus was again eligible for a new phone. Finally!
So as my final errand some Tuesdays ago, I dropped by the friendly neighborhood outlet of my phone network to claim the prize for my loyalty. Initially, I was looking to go back to a Sony Ericsson because I really liked the last one I had for that short time that I had it. Sadly, they didn’t have any available. They were offering me a Nokia, which I still didn’t like. Samsungs were available, but Samsungs never really caught my fancy. I asked if there were any other options available, of which there was just one.
It was a slide-type, which I never imagined I would go for. Aside from all the features that I had with my Sony Ericsson, this had some pluses. It had upgradable memory, an FM radio, a free headset, plus a 2 megapixel camera. Whoa! Compared to the Sony Ericsson’s VGA camera, this was really more than enough! I didn’t need to give it much more thought. It had me at “hello”. So now, let me introduce to you, my new phone… it’s an LG this time!
Nope, I wasn’t paid by LG to promote their phone. No, no, no, I’m not bragging about it at all either. Trust me, the phone that it replaced was already begging to be put to rest. It was no longer charging properly, and was the most basic phone you’d ever see. If someone stole it from me, I seriously think he would take pity and return it to me, and probably even give me some money to jumpstart a new-phone-fund. Sigh.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s the cutinest rootinest phone I’ve ever had. It was the most basic phone ever, but it certainly got the job done. But by now, the battery no longer charges fully, I’ve lost the headset that came with it, I’ve cracked the outer screen and replaced it with a fraction of a CD, and all the peeling and the scratches are hideous. But I loved this phone. Two and a half years with it was no joke. I don’t think you’ll find another one like it.
So if I’m not just out to rub my new mobile phone in your face, why exactly is this story in this particular blog? Well, this is my story and this, my blog. But other than that, if you think about it, my getting a new service phone meant that I needed to renew my contract with the network provider for another two years. Still not getting it?
I renewed my contract with the service provider for another two years. Ergo, I do NOT plan on dying out anytime soon, not in the next two years at least. Neither do I plan for this to be the last time I renew my phone contract. Hehe.
That should give you a basic idea of my state of mind right now. I will need to pay for the monthly dues on this phone bill, aside from the rest of my bills as well, so I do plan on continuing to work. Having a phone means I will be communicating, and thus, I’m not planning on isolating myself or disappearing from the face of the earth anytime soon. I’m going to be living… and I will be living a productive life at that. I plan to keep on keeping on for as long as I can, and not let this HIV thing mean the twilight of such a big thing called life. Roar!!!
So with that, on to more phones... and more years to come! LG... Life’s Good!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
I think we all know the common but mistaken notion that HIV is a gay-only disease. Lately, even the Department of Health came out with statistics showing that HIV infections among MSMs, or men who have sex with men, have been increasing in the Philippines. Could it be the fact that Filipinas are more conservative that makes heterosexual transmissions less likely? Or could it just be that more homosexuals are getting tested than heterosexuals? Or it is just one complicated pyramid scheme?
Conservatism and unknown HIV statuses will be difficult to quantify. But since the philosopher and the scientist in me have been acting up again, I’m so tempted to try to figure out some idea as to why HIV is linked to homosexuals. So banking on pure logic, let me try to analyze.
For this analysis, let me zero in on sexual transmission. And for both heterosexual and homosexual acts, let me focus on insertive sex, meaning vaginal and anal sex, since these are considered higher risk acts as compared to oral sex and other forms. Let me also make the assumption that the people involved are not consciously protecting themselves from HIV. Also, let’s factor in the statistics that say that the possibility of an insertive partner passing the virus to a receptive one is ten times more likely as compared to the other way around.
Imagine starting out with one HIV-positive male at the top of a heterosexual pyramid. He has two choices, vaginal and anal sex. It may be safe to assume that vaginal sex is the more common practice, especially in a relatively conservative society such as that of the Philippines. And because of the potential of pregnancy, heterosexual encounters, unless done within the context of a relationship at least, will more likely be protected. As such, that lowers the chance of the top level male passing it on to the second level female, unless in cases of the less common unprotected anal sex or pregnancy-prone unprotected vaginal sex.
On the other hand, starting out with one HIV-positive male at the top of a homosexual pyramid, assumed in this case to be insertive as well, leaves him with no choice but anal sex. And with no risk of pregnancy, and the assumption of not consciously protecting themselves from HIV, he does not have any other reason to use protection. Let’s just say, if he really couldn’t stand the idea of a fudgy banana then he wouldn’t be go anywhere near that place.
So at this point, all factors considered, including the fact that anal sex is more risky because of the absence of natural lubrication in the anus versus that of the vagina, making the anus more prone to lacerations due to friction which then become possible sites for exchange of bodily fluids, it seems that there is a higher chance in the homosexual pyramid for the HIV to be passed to the second level as compared to that of the heterosexual pyramid.
From the second level of the heterosexual side, the infected female will always be a receptive partner, primarily because she has nothing to insert. Second level males on the homosexual pyramid, on the other hand, can be purely receptive, or able to swing between being a receptive and an insertive partner, more commonly termed as versatile. Thus, at minimum, the infected second level male on the homosexual side will be as efficient in transmitting the virus as an infected second level female on the heterosexual side. But, should the infected second level male on the homosexual side suddenly turn insertive, the chances then multiply ten times.
Am I making sense? Are you still with me? Or have you nosebled to death?
Anyways, if we go further down the pyramids, it should make sense that further transmission of HIV in the homosexual one will indeed be more likely. Could this analysis be a logical explanation to the higher risk of transmission of HIV among homosexuals? I don’t really know.
Now I’m not saying everyone should turn heterosexual to make it less likely to contract HIV. Nor am I saying that everyone should confine themselves to oral sex so they will be completely excluded from either of my pyramids. Because any which way you look at it, no matter how small of a risk a sex act is, it is still a risk. Even if you say that there’s only a one-in-a-million chance, I say you just might be that unlucky one. Comprende?
So, now tell me, are you willing to take that risk?
- republished from Positivism's Ka-Blog!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sigh. Remember the days. Those innocent days. The days when nice hair did the trick. The days when a deep voice sent your mind reeling. When beautiful eyes could melt you on the spot. When a sweet smile could make your jaw drop. When a gentle touch sent chills down your spine.
I remember those days. Those days are gone. I’ve dared to push past them. And past many of my limits, too.
Let’s just say I moved onto bigger things. My eyes would no longer be content with just hair, eyes and smiles. I remember the time when peeping into the sleeves of guys sitting across me in a jeepney and seeing their hairy armpits was one hell of a turn on. Then, when that wasn’t enough, I wanted to see guys in sandos or tank tops. And then I wanted to see more... bare chests.
From there, I liked seeing a guy’s treasure trail leading down into his pants or shorts. Then I came to savor every time I got a peek up the legs of a guy’s shorts. Remember those tommy-tommy days? And then I needed to see a guy in underwear or swim trunks, complete with the bulge and the pubes. And then even that wasn’t enough. I wanted to see them buck naked.
At first, of course, I would only get to see guys stripped down to the flesh in pictures. And then they were naked in pictures, having sex. Detailed sexual encounters were not far behind, be them in verbal or written form. And boy, could I picture every scene in my head. And then the pictures and stories merged, and I got to watch sex on videos. I didn’t even have to imagine anymore.
And from just watching them, I wanted to be with them… I wanted to be them. Seeing wasn’t enough. I wanted to touch them and be touched. I was mimicking what I saw in pictures and videos. And yes, I came to a point where I thought and believed I could even do better than some pictures and videos that I had seen. Oi, you’d be surprised…
Truly, I barely left anything to the imagination, and barely anything of me was left to the imagination either. I was pushing my sexual limits further and further. I would say I almost had no limits. I was just so game for anything. I dared. I enjoyed the dare.
I’m painting a picture of myself as such a daredevil right now, but believe me, I could’ve been worse. I could’ve pushed myself even more. When it comes to places I could go to, my limits were hardly ever pushed. When it comes to seedy and blatant places, I’m a wimp.
I have never been to a gay bar. Neither as a client, nor as someone who works there... just to make that clear. I just always thought that, unless I had money to “ipit in the singit”, it would just be a feast for the eyes, and it’d just leave me with blue balls and a heavy puson. Aside of course from the fact that I feel it’s going to be a waste of money.
I have never been to a bathhouse, or gay club, or whatever you call these F-, Q-, and E-type places. I always worried about being labeled as the new putahe of the place. Yeah, pretty paranoid, I know. Not knowing who I’m going to be groping with in the dark doesn’t help either. And again, there’s the fact that I think it is an unnecessary expense.
I’m proud to say that I’ve been to a massage place once. I already knew I was HIV-positive at the time, so I knew my limits. Plus I went with a friend, so I wasn’t going to be there cruising or anything. I was told that it was actually a legit massage place, even though it’s clear that staring at others’ nakedness is acceptable in the wet area, and the sauna has so many dark hidden corners very inducive to doing steamy stuff. But I was really just there for the massage. And that first and only body massage ever was great. Fine, I admit, I ended up giving a blowjob to the friend I went with, but honestly, 99% of the time there was spent just relaxing. Okay, fine, 90%.
Dance clubs are a different thing. Yeah, I’ve been to a couple. I don’t think sex is supposed to happen there, but, especially if it’s somewhere in Malate, it becomes pink and seedy nonetheless. I mean, yeah, people are there dancing, but you’ll notice that some guys’ eyes are dancing around more than their bodies are. Minus points for the paranoid and anti-social like me, and the taunting of my claustrophobia in these places doesn’t help either.
So far, I think my limits with motels are those which I pushed to the limit. The privacy they afford does wonders for introverts like me. I’ve been to a lot of them, especially prior to my finding out I was HIV-positive. The first time I was actually able to step into a motel was back when I was 17. I know. Menor de edad.
It can be awkward going into a motel as a same-sex pair, but several years ago, I realized that females going in with their boyfriends have much more to “lose” in terms of dignity than I do. I’m not sure if it was a turn for the better or the worse, but no longer was I ashamed to be seen walking into a motel with another guy. People working there know what happens behind all those doors. And hypocrisy and judgment were not part of their job descriptions. See, that’s how far south my mentality has gone.
So really, my limits have been getting pushed. Some of them, at least. I have dared. But I tend to question myself. When should one stop daring? When should one stop pushing his limits?
At this point in my life, post-HIV and all, I’m starting to notice I’m not pushing my limits – sexual limits, specifically – as much anymore. Of course, it helps that I’ve pretty much pushed all my limits already. And in all that pushing, I hardly have any regrets. I can almost confidently say Been there, Done that to most things. I may have tried almost everything at least once... sans of course sex with the opposite gender. Okay, I’ve tried at least everything that fits my principles. O diba, I have principles daw?!
So maybe I’ve stopped pushing my sexual limits. Why? It’s not because I’ve gotten too old for it. And neither is it because I’m HIV-positive. I could have sex if I wanted to. But that’s the thing, I no longer want to. I’m beginning to realize I no longer need to. I mean, I want to have sex, but allow me to be cheesy and say I want something much more meaningful this time. Okay, that really sounded cheesy.
Basta, it feels like I’m beginning to see that I no longer need to prove anything to myself. I don’t need to be constantly daring myself and pushing my limits... not sexually, at least. That’s not a bad thing, right? KJ ba? Baka kunin na ako ni Lord? Don’t worry. I’m still me... complete with all the fetishes, kink, fantasies and horniness. I’m just taking more control. I’m daring to limit. And I’m limiting the dare. But for life’s other dares, just keep ‘em coming! Push on! Push on!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The Philippines and HIV have made headlines again. International headlines at that. It’s just a shame that it’s not something good. And nope, it wasn’t even anything about the number of deaths, new infections or prevalence or anything like that. It was something even more controversial. I doubt if you could even fathom it.
But then again, in the Philippines, anything can happen.
Global Fund grants have been directed towards efforts for three major areas of concern: Malaria, Tuberculosis, and HIV. The Global Fund has given over US$200 million in grants to the Philippines, a part of which is instrumental in affording free ARVs to 636 of us Filipinos who live with HIV, as well as the provision of other services, programs and efforts in line with HIV. And now, this funding has been suspended. Yes, suspended. What happened?
The Global Fund has three Principal Recipients of its grants for HIV to the Philippines: Pilipinas Shell Foundation, the Department of Health or DOH, and the Tropical Disease Foundation or TDF. And one of them has racked up over US$195 million in grants, of which US$1,000,000 remains unaccounted for. You’d expect it to be the DOH, because of the reputation of the Philippine government and its officials... but surprisingly, it’s not the DOH.
I first encountered the TDF during my debut into the HIV world, back when I was still frantically searching online. I was searching for information, and individuals and groups that could possibly help me out. I chanced onto their website, and remember sending an e-mail to someone from their HIV program, whose e-mail address I found on the site. I was simply asking what kind of assistance they provided, and if I could be eligible for any of it considering I was just diagnosed with HIV. Sadly, I never received any reply from them.
As the Principal Recipients of the Global Fund, I’m guessing that from the TDF and the other Principal Recipients, the money gets distributed to the grassroots institutions like the RITM and San Lazaro, as well as organizations like our faaaaavorite NGOs. But then of course, as the top-level beneficiaries to the grants, it is the Principal Recipients who are held accountable for whatever money they received... an accountability and a responsibility that the TDF has allegedly forgotten.
According to reports, the TDF has failed to properly account for US$1,000,000 of the grants that it has received from Global Fund. The Global Fund has coined the amount as “unauthorized expenditures”. As a result, the Global Fund has opted to suspend further funding until the whole amount has been accounted for or reimbursed. US$1,000,000?! Almost PhP50,000,000?! Good luck with that.
Indeed, good luck is what is needed, especially for us who should be benefitting directly from the grant. Because of the controversy that the TDF has fallen into, Global Fund is said to have suspended enrollment of new beneficiaries into the program. New beneficiaries, as in new pusits. Which I think means no one will be starting their HIV journeys under the support of Global Fund in the meanwhile. Fortunately, the way I understand it, for us who are already under the programme, the support will continue. Whew.
I’m not going to go on ranting to whomever and at whatever at this point. I certainly do not know all the details. Of course, I do still hope against the possibility of the money making its way towards the personal gain of those who should not have been benefitting from it. We all know how money can make the world go ‘round... and how it can harden hearts and cloud minds. Hopefully, it’s just some administrative or accounting glitch that we’re dealing with here. Only heaven knows what really happened to that money.
One solution that is being looked into, I believe, is to replace the TDF as Principal Recipient of their part of the grant. Meetings for this have been scheduled for October 19th. It is said that the DOH is being eyed to fill the void. And if I understand it right, once the new Principal Recipient of TDF’s part of the grant has been established, the support will also be reinstated along with it. My fingers are crossed that it will really be that easy.
I’m running on my last month’s supply of ARVs. I’m scheduled to get a refill sometime November. Should I be worried that the next time I go to get a refill, I might not get any? Not yet. Not at this point, at least. Until someone comes up to me and says, “I’m sorry B.I.T.C.H., we’re no longer going to be able to provide free ARVs from now on,” I refuse to be bothered. Worrying just won’t help.
I see “suspended” as postponed, deferred, or delayed. Not stopped. Meaning it can go back to how it was before. I’m really trying to stay positive in all senses of the word. I’m just thankful that the Global Fund has not decided to completely cut its ties with the country and its beneficiaries here altogether... myself included. I know that as someone who may be directly affected by this problem, it should be easy for me to crucify anyone who may be the cause of this controversy. But you know what, if there is indeed anyone letting greed run his show, then I leave him to his karma.
Read more on this story from the Global Fund and the Philippine Star, and the response of the Tropical Disease Foundation to the allegations.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It's here! It's here! It's finally, finally here!
After a lot of delays and a long wait, it's here!
It's here! It's here! It's finally, finally here!
The third and latest issue of Positivism is finally out. And acceptance is the name of the game. Check it out at www.positivism.ph. Finally! Whew!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I took a day off from work this Tuesday that just passed. Nope, I wasn’t sick or anything. No emergency either. I just had stuff to take care of.
What can I say? I’m in demand.
Hehehe, just kidding. I just really needed to do some stuff, that’s all.
I woke up and left my usual time, but in just a pair of shorts and flip-flops. I was to take a trip to the Social Hygiene Clinic in Manila. The first time again since almost a year ago. I met up with someone who I encountered thru Positivism, to accompany him to get tested. Honestly, with his nursing background, he was at the point where he knew too much for his own good. That didn’t leave much for me to do other than give emotional support and lighten the mood. Seeing Dra. Diana and Nurse Malou there was great. They did recognize me and seemed happy to see me, too.
So I got my new friend pricked, and we waited an hour for the results of the Rapid Test, which really wasn’t too rapid. Ate Malou was saying it was the routing of the results for signature that took a while. We whiled away the time chatting it up with her and the volunteer who was on duty. After an hour, jubilance. He was negative for HIV. Woohoo!
From there, I headed home to take lunch and change into pants for an afternoon meeting. I had been corresponding closely for the past few months with someone from the Department of Education, who watched me on GMA’s Think Positive and contacted me through this blog. I could sense he understood and shared the advocacy. And soon he mentioned that they were coming up with an HIV module which they might need help with. I was game... but didn’t really know what exactly I was getting into. Hehe.
A couple of weeks ago, he told me they were setting up a day to meet with me and the other resource person. Wow, so I was a resource person? I was wondering who the other one would be, but soon found out it was none other than my good friend, E! We were pretty happy and relieved to realize we would be in it together. I dunno, there’s just a level of comfort that we get from going through new things together. Well, for me at least, that’s the case.
So we met up and headed to the DepEd compound in Ortigas. We really had no idea what the meeting would be about. Mr. DepEd had mentioned that an HIV Specialist from UNICEF would be attending too, which gave us an idea of how big and how serious this was going to be. Ergo, seeing E in pants and shoes for a change was more appropriate than hilarious. I was nervous, honestly.
Getting there, we finally met Mr. DepEd, and were asked to wait a while in the conference room. Soon after, we were joined by four other ladies from the DepEd, as well as the pretty, statuesque German lady from UNICEF. This is really is it. Gulp. It turned out, this was for a Training of Trainers thing on HIV issues, set for November and December, for faculty and student leaders of schools nationwide. I know... Whoa.
Apparently, with what Mr. DepEd had known about E and I, our reputations had preceded us. We were both known to be HIV-positive bloggers. I graduated from reputable schools, and was editor of Positivism. E was an opinionated dude who has braved all odds and was about to get published. All true, all true. But little did we know that this was just the start of our proving our cases that we would be good resource persons... resource persons who were going to give our testimonials, help to put a face to HIV, and be part of an open forum, speaking in front of crowds of at around a hundred. Yikes.
E and I both got grilled a bit regarding the stories of our lives. But knowing E and I, we could tell nothing more than what was the truth. We’re both pretty much at a point where we’re responsible for the mistakes we’ve made but still have much to be thankful for, so certainly we weren’t going to be sugarcoating anything we were going to say.
For E, it was pretty awkward to talk about his having to exchange money for sex, his drug addiction, and how he veered off track from his family. For me, the awkwardness was more about the issue of homosexuality and my apparent issues on disclosure, not being able to tell my family about my condition.
I wouldn’t say we were defending ourselves the whole time. We weren’t trying to be perfect. It was more of like we were trying to help them understand all the factors behind who we are. After all, this may have just been the first time for some of the people there to have met and talked to people who were living with HIV. So were we going to be perfect role models for the youth of today? Certainly not. But what I can say is that we weren’t bad images of people living with HIV to leave with an audience.
You should’ve seen us. We were handling the embarrassing questions, making our awkward confessions, shocking the hell out of the dignified ladies, making jokes, laughing at ourselves, but all the while making our points and, I believe, helping them understand. I realize now that it was such a light mood to be in, considering we were talking about HIV and AIDS. And that’s the way it should be. Very Positivism.
Leaving, E and I talked about what just transpired. We weren’t sure exactly how we did, but it was clear we were happy with what we did. We certainly had no regrets. Most would probably wonder why DepEd approached individuals like us instead of the existing NGOs. But for E and I, based on how we know the NGOs think and work, we doubt if it would be anything more than a pity fit if they were subjects.
Our bewilderment about whether we passed or not was put to some ease by a couple of text messages I received. Mr. DepEd said he was initially worried that we might have taken offense from some of the questions thrown at us, but was glad that we handled ourselves well. Ms. UNICEF meanwhile said she admired the positive attitude, and the patience with which the questions were faced. He added that he was now sure of the success of the event, while she hoped we would be indeed available for the training course. Wow, does that mean... I know, let’s wait and see. But I’m still amazed myself.
I’ve told E how über proud I was of us both, but really, I was über-düber proud of E in particular. Because other than the PSP he was carrying around yesterday, he was the man. He’s really come a long way, and he’s just such a changed man, I believe. And allow me to be a proud kuya.
So there, that was the huge adventure I had with E yesterday. At this point, it was a huge, huge opportunity offered to us. Humongous if we push through. So watch out, Subic and Cebu! The B.I.T.C.H.-E tandem might just be coming your way!