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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Real Man

ManCome to think of it, Fathers’ Day came and went this year with hardly a hint of a fuss. Had I not gotten the call from L that day and heard his son in the background, I could’ve possibly completely forgotten about it. I know I seem like such an ungrateful son to have only greeted one person and it wasn’t even my own dad. But that's just how it went.

Growing up, I didn’t really have my dad beside me. His profession required him to be out-of-town most of the time. He did, however, show up around once a month if I remember right. During those once-a-months he’d come home, I would run out to meet him and hug him around the waist, my little arms unable to wrap around his fully-developed beer belly. Yep, my dad was a Pale Pilsen person, and he was a real man.

I remember the lingering scent of a smoker, as well as his signature smokers’ cough that filled the house every time he was around. I don’t even wonder why I never felt the need to get hooked on cigarettes. Yep, my dad had his own carbon footprint, and he was a real man.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I used to sleep in the same bed my parents did. And waking up beside my dad without his shirt on, I would wonder why there were stray hairs around his nipples, which I’d try to tug at, eventually waking him up every time. Yep, my dad walked around without his shirt on, had armpit hair, nipple hair and a full mustache, and he was a real man.

But of course, my dad was a real man in all the other senses of the word.

He would go hang out with his drinking buddies out on the street corner, usually coming home so drunk that on some occasions that he’d fall asleep right on top of our school books, and on one really bad day, he pushed my mom around and left her in a heap on the floor right before our very eyes. Yep, my dad was an alcoholic, and he was a real man.

He was always right. He knew how to use any product ever manufactured, even better than the manufacturer. And not even the scientific knowledge that we, his children, would bring up was enough to overturn his own know-how. Yep, my dad was a know-it-all, and he was a real man.

He was one hell of a driver. He had a habit of running female drivers off the road, and honking them to jitters. He hated being overtaken, and loved cutting in. Yep, my dad was king of the road, and he was a real man.

He was a man of few words. When I told my mom that I was gay back in 1999, she actually forced me to tell my dad. So I did. I admit it scared the shit outta me, but hearing him say Just let him be in a matter-of-fact way just shocked the hell outta me, too. Yep, my dad seemed void of emotions, and he was a real man.

So my dad may have seemed like as much of a real man any man can ever get. But it took a real man to put my dad down... he succumbed to himself.

In late 2003, my dad felt the need to once again be a real man, as he ignored advice from his doctor-cousin to go for a checkup. By the time he couldn’t bear the pain, which was when he finally went for a checkup, it was too late. He was diagnosed with terminal stage cancer.

Of course, being a real man, he still didn’t follow everything his doctor said. Yes, he went in for chemotherapy, which would seem to say he still wanted to live. But he still ate what he wasn’t supposed to be eating, drank what he wasn’t supposed to be drinking, and did what he wasn’t supposed to be doing.

The fact that he outlived the 10 months he was given didn’t even help. He just became more stubborn. I felt how it was to have a child... and a brat at that. He couldn’t see that we were just trying to take care of him. He wanted to live, but wasn’t willing to make the sacrifice.

I remember thinking to myself, Is this what it takes to be a real man?... If it was, then I was rather relieved that I wasn’t one.

Finally, his moment of humility came as he was lying helpless in the hospital. With his wife and all us kids around, he confessed that he fathered two other sons with another woman, both of whom shared our family name, as well as our initials. Oddly enough, we were far from shocked, having known about it since years ago. But the way he said it... the first ever time I may have seen him cry... was a breakthrough. It redefined what I knew of what a real man was supposed to be.

Sadly, about a week after that, we were awoken by the dreaded call that rushed us to the hospital. Other than the doctors trying to resuscitate him long enough for us to get there, it was too late. My dad had died.

Time flies, and it’s been almost five years since. I still will openly admit that we hardly had a real relationship, and still think that he was an arrogant, stubborn ass most of the time. But hell... I had to get some of it from somewhere, right?

Remembering my dad and my own challenges today, I will have to say that I got more than my tolerance for alcohol, my thinning hair, and my skin color from him. If he could see me now, I don’t exactly think he’d be proud, but he can definitely rest assured that some of the better points of his “real man” legacy may just have rubbed off on me.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jamming With Jinjin

Let’s call him JinJin. He had found me through this blog several months ago, and from there, we became chat buddies on YM. During the course of our chatting, he had gotten together with his current boyfriend, Odin, who just happens to be a blogger, too.

Jinjin had always been like a baby brother, as he shared with me most of his ups and downs, and ins and outs. Though we hadn’t met, he knew most of my dirty little secrets, and didn’t keep much from me either.

Even at just the prospect of meeting up, he was sooooo incredibly hesitant. He always said he was really shy and really quiet, which could result in a severe panisan-ng-laway episode if I was in a similarly anti-social mood myself... something which, as some may know, is not very foreign to me.

I actually had proposed to meet him along with Odin, just so they’d be more comfortable together. But as luck would have it, Jinjin finally gave in, and agreed to meet up and hang out for dinner this weekend.

Considering how we chat in YM, I imagined our meeting to go something like this: I would be waiting with my back towards the crowd. Someone would walk up behind me, and whisper, “Huy, pekpek...” Turning, I would be startled, saying “Putang inang kapre ka!” Then we would hug and maybe even beso-beso. Hahaha. But, of course, that would just be in my crazy world.

Saturday, shortly past 5:00 pm, I found myself waiting near the entrance of the mall nearest to his bus stop. He had told me he was tall. I knew he was of Chinese descent. So I was eyeing every guy that passed who fit that description, wondering to myself every time, Ito na kaya siya?

Finally, I noticed one guy approaching, but ended up thinking to myself, this can’t be him. This huge Chinese guy looked like he was going to beat me up. I was ready to run. Thankfully, he flashed a tiny smile, at which point I had my sigh of relief. Finally, Bitch met Jinjin.

As agreed, we headed off to find a coffee place to just break the ice and chill out. Indeed, he was really quiet to begin with. I could feel the tension and discomfort. Fine, I will be the not-so-shy one today. So after two hours filled with activities such as sharing the inside scoop on his relationship with Odin, testing our gaydars, comparing notes on blog hopping, even twitting a bit when wifi was available, he slowly crawled out of his shell, and pretty soon, he had lightened up and was more of the same chatty person that I had been communicating with online.

From there, we headed off to dinner at The Old Spaghetti House, something we’d already agreed upon a week before we met. Tucked safely into a far corner of the restaurant out of earshot of most of the other customers, we were again free to talk about anything and everything under the rainbow.

An appetizer basket, a classic lasagna, a baked ziti, and a supremo pizza later, without a single morsel of food left to spare, we were full and happy. After our waiter, Mark, brought us the bill... oh, don’t ask why the need for the first-name-basis... we headed off to do some walking, some more chatting and a bit of window shopping, even if the stores were already closed.

From there, we shook hands and went our separate ways, not forgetting a you’re-the-man thump of the chest just before we lost sight of each other. Hehehe. At the end of it all, it was great to finally meet the biggest baby brother I’ve ever had. Not to worry, there will be a second “date” sometime soon, with Odin this time.

To Jinjin, thanks for accepting me for who I am. You should do the same for yourself as well. You are a great guy, so quit undermining yourself. And with that, I dedicate a little tune to you... Here goes...

Boo Jinjin... Boo Jinjin... Ang lake lake...
Kung kumilos... Kumilos... Parang lang kapre...

Hehehe. But seriously, allow me some room to be cheesy.

To Odin, you got a big, sweet guy in Jinjin, with an even bigger heart. And aminin mo, he's hot! Hehehe. He really adores and loves you sooooo much, so just take good care of each other, and stay happy together for years and years to come. Awwwww... And see you soon!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I always found it such a huge and funny coincidence that the acronym for Back In The Closet was just one letter shy of BITCH. So what was the H supposed to stand for?

Horse? Neigh. Hunk? Sus.
Hung? Shhh! Heart? Aww.

Hoe? Derogatory? Not at all. Bad for my reputation? Hmm. Teka, what reputation?! Hoe? Hoe... HOE!!! And so B.I.T.C.H. was born.

All along, it's been a case of no-better-choice. But browsing through and its hilarious designs, a moment of brilliance came. Was this God's sign that it was truly meant to be?

and then this was the sign... O.M.G.... yep, Big Guy, I hear ya... BITCH it is.

Serendipity, man... serendipity.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Stop the Party

Remember that thing I mentioned about the Lifeline Emergency Quick Response Program? Well, I received their membership form by mail recently. I should be happy, right? SHOULD...

But now I realize that...

I may just have celebrated too soon.

Again, I saw the envelope as soon as I got home from work, and of course, I knew what it was supposed to be. So even before I changed from my work clothes, I sat down and took the form out, eager to see how easy it would be. And then my excitement died down.

Basically there were just ten groups of questions I needed to answer. Not too bad really. Let me take you through it.

10. Basic Information? Name; Date of birth; Gender; Civil Status. Expected.

9. Permanent Address? Complete address; Phone, fax and mobile numbers; E-mail address. Cool.

8. Employment? Company name; Designation; Complete address; Phone, fax and mobile numbers; E-mail address. Okay.

7. Hospital? Hospital name; Attending Physician; Complete address. I admit, I gave this some thought... Nothing wrong with naming the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Dra. Ditangco as my preferred hospital and physician, right?

6. History of Past Diseases? None.

5. Previous Operations? None... unless circumcisions count.

4. Allergies? None.

3. Family Diseases? Hmm, my dad had it all... Diabetes, Heart disease, Cancer.

2. Habits? Smoking; Alcohol; Drugs. No, yes, and no.

It was easier than I expected... until...

1. Present Illnesses and Medications? O.M.G....

Okay, I told myself not to panic. I needed to calm down. Putting down Syphilis wouldn’t be so bad. Listing Hepatitis B could actually explain my Lamivudine and Tenofovir medications. But HIV? Should I tell them I have HIV?

Somehow, reading that All information contained herein will be confidential just wasn’t enough. Can I actually withhold that information?

I hereby certify the truth of all representation made in this application, and acknowledge that the Lifeline service agreement may otherwise be invalidated with costs chargeable to me. Okay, that’s a huge risk.

I further authorize any physician, clinic or hospital where I have been treated to disclose and provide the company with the medical, dental or clinic findings relative to the medical representative above. Geesh, so they’ll find out eventually? There goes that option.

Please fill out the form at your earliest convenience, as it will provide us with accurate and pertinent information regarding your medical history and will greatly facilitate your efficient care. Hmm, admittedly, that’s a good reason to disclose.

Well, if they ever happen to fail on their provision of service just because of my having HIV, I can always cite the clause in their website that says No exclusion for pre-existing conditions. Or I can take them to court for discrimination under R.A. 8504. Interesting. Stressful... and extremely paranoid of me... but interesting.

So after giving it some thought, I decided. Fine. A few more people will be added to my those-who-know list... and I won’t even know who exactly these people are. This will be another case of the-benefit-of-the-doubt.

Will I regret doing this? I don't know. But I'll do it. I'm going to be holding my breath. Celebration postponed until further notice.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hell Week

With the party and all, I enjoyed last weekend. A lot.

But that being said, you know how after something extremely good happens, there’s nowhere else to go but down? Well, I think that’s what happened to me, as last weekend’s extreme joy ushered in one hell of a week.

I trekked to work Monday morning, recharged and ready to start the week. When I got to the office, early as usual, I was greeted by a handful of visitors seated in the waiting area. Odd... why were there visitors so early in the morning? And then I remembered they had posted an ad in the papers that weekend announcing job vacancies in our company. Today was recruitment day.

It was half an hour before our hours of operation, but fine... as the person up front, I started preparing the application forms and examination papers for the job applicants. I’m not sure how long I turned my back, but the next thing I knew, all twenty seats in the waiting area were occupied, and more people had come in the door.

At that point, I started panicking. I packed as many people as I could into every available chair, as well as the conference room, but still that wasn’t enough. I was overwhelmed. And I was going to be overwhelmed... alone.

So I got thinking, the quicker they got through the application process, the quicker they would leave. I gave out application forms, conducted tests, checked and scored them, and forwarded them for interview, but I just could not do it fast enough alone. It’s like I was running... on a treadmill... getting nowhere. And while I was doing all that, more applicants just kept on pouring in.

At some point, I broke down. I didn’t know who needed what anymore. And I’d like to think I’m a pretty organized guy. But having to do all that, plus having to answer the phones, plus having to issue supplies, plus having to disburse cash, plus having to do everything else that I do... plus having to endure all those eyes staring as I panicked... I just lost it. It was absolutely inhuman. I wanted to cry. I wanted to faint.

I don’t know how attractive an ad they had put out, or if there are just that many people looking for the same job, or if we were the only job opening in the Metro or what... but it was insane. Would it have not been more practical to ask applicants to e-mail their applications and select and schedule them from there?

I was so busy that I didn’t have time to check my e-mail. I didn’t have time get online. I didn’t have time to check the incoming messages on my phone. I didn’t have time to take a snack. I didn’t have time to take a decent lunch. I didn’t even have time to pee, for heaven’s sakes!

If I wasn’t convinced before how badly stress could affect my physical well-being, I am now. I felt nauseous, had a headache, was coughing, was sniffling and developed back pain like I was doing more than a desk job. Trust me, I was just a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea short of all the Influenza A H1N1 symptoms.

Even my brain felt like it was on dimmers. Everything was just a blur. I sort of remember some of my colleagues coming to my desk to give me more things to do, but that’s it. I don’t recall what each of them said nor what I did. I must’ve looked like a deer in headlights.

At the end of the day, which actually went an hour past my regular working hours, the last applicant finally left. Finally, finally, finally. I had gone through almost a hundred applicants... and I was beat. I was both physically and mentally drained. It was miraculous that I could even manage to smile. But I was in a daze. I felt like I was on ARVs already. I felt like I had put in a week’s worth of work. But nooooo... this was just Monday.

Monday’s applicants were enough actually to fill up the six vacancies available. Yep, just six out of a hundred. But I was still told to entertain applicants on the days that followed. Sure, the days that followed weren’t as bad as the first, but by that time, Monday had already taken its toll on me and my body, so it wasn’t any easier.

Recharging just wasn’t as easy as plugging me into an outlet. Sleeping the full eight hours every night didn’t do it for me. I know sex is supposed to be an effective method to release stress, but being in an over a month-long drought, it didn’t seem like an option. I even had to beg the Hotbox team to postpone the Positivism meeting to next week because I was afraid I’d fall unconscious if I had much more of a load to take on. By Thursday, I got the permission from management to turn away applicants. Finally.

Yeah, sure, it was going to be a long weekend ahead, thanks to Friday being a national holiday in the Philippines, but still, it would take every minute of those three days to de-brief and de-stress, assuming of course that I had that luxury. I do have responsibilities at home, too, ya know.

So there, that should explain why I’ve been out of the loop for the past week. I’m assuming... and hoping... that it doesn’t turn out to just be the start of a Hell Month. If that happens, naku, Lord, kunin mo na ako. So for now, I declare... Hell Week is over.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Clipped At The Hip

It was Saturday again. And for the second week in a row, it was not to be my usually boring Saturday spent at home. It was TristanTales’ despedida. A sendoff. A going-away party. Another chance to show my social ineptitude. But I was darn excited.

And I wasn’t the only one. Hehe.

Arriving at Shangri-la at 4:00 pm and with RubyPurple still stuck in traffic, I held out for as long as I could, completely paranoid and wary of all the guys cruising the mall. I was not in a cruisy mood, nor was I looking for a pre-party date, other than RubyPurple, that is. So after fending off a couple of guys who were intent on making their interests known, I was relieved to get a Save na kita. Andito na ako. message from her.

After a little snack along with a lot of catching up, we got permission from TristanTales to head to the venue... categorically, fashionably early. Okay, fine, we were just too excited to wait.

There were already two other guests there when we arrived. At that point we got comfy on the couch in front of the tellie. Little did we know, we had marked our territory for the evening.

One by one guests started to arrive. One by one by one by one. I estimate there were up to thirty of us there at some point of the evening. I tried to recall everyone’s names and blogs, but it was just an information overload. But lemme try at least.

Of course, BackInTheCloset, RubyPurple, JohnStanley, TristanTales, and TurismoBoi were present. Also there were ClosetGeek, Joaqui, DoctorMcFitch, DocMike, and MkSurf8. Making appearances were ManilaGayGuy, McVie, HerbsD, GibbsCadiz, and AkoSiAris. Also In attendance were WanderingCommuter, MugenBlue, CorporateCloset, Jaybeecc, and JamieDaVinci. There was DatsWhy, PugNosedFreakazoid, ManilaBitch, MrScheez, MrKumplikado and... hingal... wala, I lost it. I apologize to those I’ve failed to mention or gotten confused about. Tao lang po.

It was a bit weird when introductions were called for, as everyone got named according to their blog personas. But what about me? Was I ready to be outed as the HIV-positive blogger? I really had no problem with it. As always, the less I knew a person, the easier it was to disclose.

Some had heard of either this blog or Positivism, and one had even seen the Think Positive documentary of GMA. For some, it may have been the first time they would be meeting someone living with HIV. It was funny how I needed to egg one guy on with Sige! Sabihin mo! as he found it so awkward to even say the letters H, I and V. I did eventually answer some queries, but never forgot I was just there as a guest on TristanTales’ night, and not exactly planning on turning it into an HIV 101 seminar.

I really believe my advocacy for the night was, more than anything I may have said, my mere presence as an HIV-positive person in a completely normal, social setting. When GibbsCadiz said that I looked very healthy, I just said thank you, but knew it was a good thing for me and my ego, as well as for others living with HIV as I stood to give a less dismal face to the virus, and for those who weren’t quite aware of the grim reality that You just can never can tell.

Anyway, back to me and my girl... I’m not sure at what point it happened, but RubyPurple and I made a silent pact... a pact to be a couple for the night. Eating together, drinking together, even bathroom breaks together... okay, maybe not that much of a couple... but I don’t think we were apart for even five minutes of the whole six-plus hours we were there.

We were each other’s security blankets. We had our arms around each other, were holding hands, and may just have been sweeter than the few couples that were present. Trust me, the rainbow coalition may just have been ready to disown me right then and there. But I didn’t care. We were clipped at the hip.

It might take a couple of days before the mold of my ass fades away from that couch, but it’s alright. I got to hang out with old friends, meet new ones, and most of all, I got to spend time with my gal. Nope, no chills down my spine as I say it.

Of course, this was a fabulous gathering of bloggers of all shapes and sizes... I was square and malnourished, of course... from wacky to quacky... I apologize, that should've been Joaqui, but would not have made much difference... and of every color of the rainbow, that only the TristanTales could pull off or be worthy of. So I say... thanks and have a safe trip, TristanTales! Goodbye... for now.


Saturday, June 06, 2009


It was Thursday, and I’d just gotten home from work. I headed straight for my room as usual, but was surprised to find an envelope on my little desk. Hmm, I got mail? Not a very common occurrence. Just from the envelope, I sort of had an idea of what it was. And I was surprised. And excited.

Welcome to a privileged lifestyle! it said on the envelope. We find ways. O... M... G... it’s something from BDO!

It was a BDO Rewards card! I admit, I’m an SM loyalist, along with its affiliates which include BDO of course. I have been one ever since I was a child. Back in the day, I even had what I think was called a Junior Saver’s Account. In fact, I started so early with them that I needed to reopen my account because I could no longer mimic my childhood writing signature. So apparently, they’ve now decided to reward me for my loyalty.

I must admit that during the initial stages with this HIV thing, I did fall into the mentality that I should not make any major investments because of the perceived uncertainty of my future. But then, I’ve always been like that. I do want a lot of things, but it takes a real need before I buy things. I don’t shop a lot. I hate shopping. I’m not rich either. But I live within my means.

What I am able to do though because of this, is put aside a part of what I make into my savings account with BDO. Despite having to pay bills and spend on daily living, I still try to put aside around half of what I make every month. So, I do believe they’ve noticed the movements in that savings account, and that’s what prompted them to think of me as a potential Rewardee.

This HIV thing has also been more than enough inspiration to put aside for in-case-of-emergency moments. I just think of it as taking responsibility for myself. A lifeline, so to speak. Just in case. And along with this BDO Rewards thingy, came exactly that, a Lifeline. The Lifeline Rescue Program, that is.

With the coverage of SM’s Lifeline Rescue Program, P150.00 assures me of a quick connection to Lifeline Rescue’s medical emergency hotline for a whole year. As a Reward, I save P850.00 from the regular rate of P1,000.00. Not bad, diba?

This covers free ambulance service during medical emergencies. The membership provides free access to Lifeline’s medical emergency quick response service, but covers only from the time a member calls for an ambulance until proper endorsement to the emergency room of the receiving hospital. At least you stand a better chance, right?

Quick-response services are available within the Greater Metro Manila Area, including Antipolo, Cainta and Taytay in Rizal, Bacoor in Cavite, Meycauayan, Obando and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, and San Pedro in Laguna. More than enough, I think.

The membership also covers around-the-clock phone consultations during medical emergencies. You also get free use of ambulance equipment and medicines... aba, dapat lang.

Though membership is non-transferable, I actually noticed that the form I filled up had several more spaces available for other names or beneficiaries if needed. My mom already had her own so I didn’t need to include her in mine. Now that I’ve paid, all I need to do is wait for and fill up the membership enrollment form which they’ll be sending.

Sooooo, friendly friends, if something bad happens to me... knock on wood... call Lifeline Rescue Services’ hotline at 16-911. Other hotline numbers are 839-2520 to 30.

Pusit or not, maybe you wanna get something like this for yourself, too? For me, it’s just one thing less I need to worry about. At least for a year. Now that’s a reward in itself.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Dying Young

A nineteen-year old nursing student made the rounds of the media to tell his story of testing positive for HIV the year before, and expose how he contracted HIV from an internet chatmate-slash-boyfriend with whom he had unprotected sex.

The age of nineteen and the apparent certainty from whom he got it is shocking enough. But consider this all was happening... way back in 2006. Gasp.

It had been two good years before I tested positive myself. I had not read or heard anything about this kid, nor his story. Not until last year, at least. Let’s call him DyingYoung.

A name like "DyingYoung" sounds fatalistic indeed, not something I personally would encourage others like us to call themselves. He actually christened himself as DyingYoung on one of the gay personals sites which he haunts regularly, spreading information about HIV & AIDS. And that’s exactly where I first encountered his odd username.

Unbeknownst to him, I actually credit him in part for my getting tested, because I had seen some of his postings in the forums about the free HIV testing at the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic. I never got in touch with him personally, but I saved all the information I needed from his posts.

God bless this kid for sharing all that information over the internet. Most of what I remember from his posts about HIV was geared towards medical information, statistics, and really in-your-face shock-you-silly stuff, which was honestly a bit much to swallow at times, especially considering I may have been ignoring the risks at the time. But it was a good start, I guess. Someone had to do it.

Now, our paths have crossed again, as he has stumbled upon Positivism, and is thankfully elated with the work that’s been done. He had sent a note which we published in this latest issue, which one of our other writers was actually hesitant to include just based on the name "DyingYoung". But I just needed explained how much of a recall DyingYoung had, and how much of an advocate he was, over and above the fatalism that his name seemed to send, and I had won her over. I was honored to have the chance to answer that letter.

Visit DyingYoung’s blog, where, although not recently updated, he has posted the newspaper articles and even a radio interview that featured him back in 2006. You can also listen to the radio interview here.

Watch out, we might be lucky enough to see and hear more from DyingYoung soon...


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

First Hello, Last Goodbye

Hello & GoodbyeOn most Sundays, I’d just stay home and rest. But this particular one had me anxious. The kind of anxiety that only unconsciousness could stop.

But... I was on a mission.

I was to meet a fellow pozzie for the first time. Not the kind of eyeball you would expect. I would be meeting him... at his own wake.

I’ve been chatting with an old friend abroad, and someone to whom I had disclosed my HIV status. I just really trusted this guy enough to tell the truth when he asked how I was doing, but was relieved as well to know that he and his partner had been getting tested as well. Negative, thankfully. Yep, I had had sexual contact with them both when they were still in the country years and years and years ago.

It was late April that he asked for advice, saying a friend of his had a CD4 count of less than 100, but whose HIV test result had not been released yet. A CD4 count of less than 100? I remember thinking, AIDS?! At first I found it odd that his CD4 got measured before an HIV screening, but apparently a low CD4 count can also happen in cases of autoimmune diseases like lupus and in organ transplantees.

So at the time, it wasn’t confirmed just yet, but I gave him all the information needed in case some bad news came in. But sadly, shortly after, it did. In May, his friend had been hospitalized with a number of infections like meningitis and tuberculosis, just some of what are known to be opportunistic infections.

Though I didn’t know him personally, I had been able to text the guy to introduce myself, in case he needed to talk with someone in the same situation. I had also been able to get in touch with his sibling who was taking care of him, sharing my own story of living with HIV. I reassured her that people with HIV have been known to recover from such infections. But alas, last week, I received the news that he had passed away. He was, like me, just in his 30s.

So Sunday, I dropped by his wake. I was anxious because I’ve never been comfortable being at wakes, in addition to this one being that of someone I really did not know personally and one that I was going alone to. I know, paranoia again. But I was hell bent on meeting his siblings, as well as representing his friend who could not be there.

Getting there, the sibling I was in touch with was not around. I introduced myself and chatted a bit with the dad. He expressed how happy his son would be to know that his friend sent a representative, and it was really touching for him to acknowledge that. He told me about how his healthy and athletic his son was, and how unlikely his demise had been.

I was not rambling about anything HIV just yet, as I didn’t really know who knew what. I waited quietly for the sibling I had been in touch with to arrive. The ambience was light, apparently upon request of the deceased. After about half an hour, I finally shook the hand of the person I was waiting for.

Apparently the immediate family knew the truth about the condition, but as to who understood, the only ones I am sure who did so were his siblings. We talked in lowered voices amidst the other guests and relatives, but I was pleased that the siblings were really opening up about the situation. They were open-minded and it was evident that HIV was not an issue for them in their brother’s death. I never heard any judgment.

As I understood from his sibling, this guy may have already had an inkling up to a year ago that he had it, but didn’t take action. As such, he may have found out too late. It still scares me a bit to realize it was just a month since confirming he was HIV-positive that they lost their brother. But the battle is far from over. The virus hasn’t won.

As I shared with them my own story, which is nothing compared to what their brother went through, they shared with me that they realized how much more advocacy is needed for the issue of HIV. And that was one thing that they, as well as some friends, were willing to be part of. It’s ironic that this person’s fight against the enemy will probably be more vigilant after his death.

After staying for about three hours, I mustered up the courage to leave. It was raining hard outside, which just helped set the mood to get my mind to process all the information for the day.

If it indeed was true that this person may have known that he possibly had it up to a year ago, I think the lesson to learn here is that there are certain attitudes to dealing successfully with HIV. You may be athletic, strong and healthy, but your body can only take so much. You either eat your humble pie and get the help that you need, or you continue to act like a superhero and beat the hell outta the virus. Either way, you gotta acknowledge that there is an adversary. It’s when you take the deadma approach that this virus can really get the upper hand.

So there, I didn’t know how much I can say without endangering the privacy of the family, so thanks for bearing with my lack of details as I tried to tell my story. I was his last eyeball. Our first hello was also our last goodbye. Condolences to his family, and may he rest in peace.