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, January 16, 2009

Overflow

I took another day off today from work, intending to go for this month’s med reload. To beat a deadline, I spent the morning going to and from Pampanga to submit some reports for work. After having lunch at home, I was on my way to RITM in Alabang. I got there at about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Walking to the building, I saw Ate going towards the other office with a bilao of pansit. She didn’t notice me and I wasn’t exactly there for the food, so I still headed for the clinic, expecting someone else was there while Ate was gone. But it was locked. So I reluctantly headed for the back office in the other building, dreading that I might walk into a celebration of some sort. I got to the door of the office, but the shy boy in me took over and I chickened out. I turned and walked back to the clinic and stood out on the corridor waiting for someone to show up.

After about 10 minutes, Ate passed by and I lurked closely behind. She welcomed me and asked how I was doing, and relayed to me how thankful Baby Nathan’s Dad was when they last came in for a check-up. I just laughed and smiled, not knowing exactly how to accept credit that wasn’t completely mine to take.

She took my Regimen Card from a pile, and told me to wait while she got my ARVs from the pharmacy. I was enjoying the time alone, when a familiar face showed up. It was Y. He seemed to recognize me and after a few minutes of awkwardness, I reminded him that we’d first met at San Lazaro back in April. Apparently he’d been confused whether he really met me there or it was just his imagination. He laughed finally realizing we went way back.

A while later, Ate came back with my ARVs, and a couple of more guys I’d met before came in to hang out. Together we trekked to the other office, and I was comfortable to be going with someone I knew. Stepping in, there were around 10 of us there. And after introductions all around, it was time to chow.

I honestly didn’t get to eat much, just like at the Christmas party, and I think I get that way when there’s a lot going on. And with everyone breaking up into pairs or little groups talking about everything under the sun, the observer in me was trying to take all the information in.

At one point, Ate walked into the office with a bunch of ARV supplies, where I noticed some big green boxes that I could not compare to the ARVs I’m getting now. My eagle eye didn’t fail me, and I read the label which said Protease Inhibitor, another type of ARV which was not part of my own regimen. I’m not really sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. But seeing how the container was comparable in size with a can of Pringles made me think twice about being envious.

One of the things that struck me most came from one of the last persons to walk into that room. Let’s call her S. S is HIV positive, and she got it from her husband who worked overseas as a seafarer, one of the at-risk groups for HIV. If I understood right, she was single now, either because she was widowed or divorced. She mentioned she had also lost a child, but I wasn’t brave enough to ask whether the kid was also HIV positive.

I actually first encountered her back in May or June amidst the standoff I was having with the San Lazaro doctors, when an online poz friend suggested I transfer to RITM and gave me her name and contact number in case I needed assistance. I never got to contact her that time, since I met U soon thereafter, who brought me to RITM.

Apparently, S is part of one of the HIV support groups, and she discussed the issues with the ARV supplies with us who were there. Apparently, the Global Fund grant that is in motion today is meant to supply the Philippines with ARVs and support up to 2010. But the wheels are already in motion for the country to qualify for another round of grants for the years after that.

The worst case, she says, is that there is an agreement between the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Company, or PhilHealth wherein PhilHealth is to shoulder ARVs for a number of years. Although I didn’t understand completely, she kept mentioning the word cooperative, and how the cooperative would eventually become self-sufficient and self-sustaining in being able to fund the need for ARVs. I’m imagining it’s a cooperative formed by and composed of those living with HIV and AIDS. If that happens, it would be very empowering, don’t you think?

So anyways, with so many details to remember and so much to think about, I was about ready to head home. I hitched a ride with and a couple of the guys, and S and another lady from another HIV support group left with us as well. S told more stories, about how she recovered from to skin and bones, and about how she was part of the group that lobbied for the grants that now provide us free ARVs, and that back in 2002, there was none to speak of. It was humbling to be in the presence of one of our apparent heroes who paved the way for us who currently live with HIV in the Philippines to be able to do just that. To live.

I, S and her lady friend got dropped off at Shangri-la Mall, where we chatted for a good 20 minutes more right smack in the middle of the sidewalk. S and I exchanged numbers, and she said that if I needed help in disclosing to members of my family, they would be very much willing to help. She did, thankfully, acknowledge that disclosing was a difficult thing and should happen in my own right time. She was also convincing me to consider getting involved in the HIV support groups, oblivious to how much I’ve already been dabbling in the field of advocacy. She used the metaphor of stepping out of my locked box, which I took to be my HIV closet, and I wasn’t planning to brag about how far out of my closet I’ve been strolling either. She probably didn’t know that there were people from her side of the fence that actually tried to keep me in my closet.

I dunno if it was the Bikolano blood in us both, but I felt a good pure vibe in S, despite her being part of one of the now seemingly notorious HIV advocacy groups. I was elated at how she explained the issues behind the future of our ARV supplies, which she did much better than the wicked Remedios lady that I watched on TV back in December. So with that, we went our separate ways and I headed home with another day of information overload, my first for 2009.

8 comments:

Julius said...

being positive, med supply, advocay, stigma, health, family, friends, enemies, blogs, etc... ang dami na, share ka naman!!!

kayod kalabaw na ginagawa mo ah, ay mali... kayod ox pala. remember: dila ng ox with white sauce and mushroom is good.

hapi year of the ox!

E said...

hey bitch! you know, not all all from those advocacy groups are trash-nagkataon, halos lahat sila oo. I think I also met her before when i used to attend those meetings to get 200 and free food. Oh well, I'll really kill you if start joining their poz bareback orgy cult they call PINOY PLUS. ooopss! here I go again, oh well-i'd post the link of one of their groups g4m account that but I don't have it (YET....but I will)

PinoyPoz said...

I'd gladly give you my enemies, Julius... Hehehe.

Hahaha, I'm not joining just yet, E. Maybe we should pirate all the good peeps from them?! Hmm... You missed the pansit yesterday, DARN!

rubypurple said...

I just wished S was the one who got interviewed last Dec instead of that lady. Maybe I could have learn more from her.

But I'm still your no. 1 girl-friend ha. ktnxbye.

*runs away as fast as she can*

PinoyPoz said...

ASHOES! SELOSA! Of course! You had me at... Meiji... :-9

Anonymous said...

Tell me all about what S shared about the supllies :-D

We need a get-together soon :-D I am missing a lot on all of you :-D

Love,
Jaypee

PinoyPoz said...

Sure, sure! Hopefully soon... and frequent too hehehe.

Lionheart : Richard the Adventurer said...

Sa RITM ako ngayon nakaduty!