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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boy Friday on a Monday

calendarIt was a Monday. And I had a date first thing in the morning.

A date?

On a Monday?

First thing in the morning?

Five years ago, I met this guy through one of the personals sites. His apartment just happened to be halfway between where I lived and where I used to work. I remember it was a Friday morning that I first agreed to go to his place to meet him. And again, it was another case of sex on the first date. We were a perfect match... which wasn’t surprising because we had settled all the sexual logistics already online. So it was natural that that first meeting would not be our last.

We continued meeting almost every Friday after. I remember getting so attached to him, thinking it was something more than just sex. So much so that when he warned me not to fall in love with him, I admit, I did shed some tears… but I made sure he never knew. I understood. Well, not really... but it was clear from the beginning that no promises were made between us, and no expectations needed to be justified. It became clearer later on when he admitted... that he was in a relationship. Yep, I was a third party.

So what? I think we enjoyed each other’s company enough to continue seeing each other. I respected that he had a boyfriend on at least six of the seven days every week, but yep, he was still my boy-Friday.

So this went on for a number of months. With week after week passing by, it became apparent it indeed was more than just sex. I remember he’d confide in me about the relationship he was in, and come to me when he had problems, but he also did his part, even coming condole with us at my dad’s wake. I definitely didn’t feel like I was just a mistress. We were friends.

Even when boy-Friday left to work abroad, we were able to keep in touch. The world-wide web made it easy. He’d share with me how homesick he was and how tough a time he was having, and I just listened. Until the time came that I needed him to listen too... I told him I found out I was HIV-positive.

Of course the ease with which I told him may have been brought about by the relationship we had built, plus the fact that we hadn’t been with each other for years, making it was almost impossible for me to have put him at any risk. It was just an FYI. An honest answer to the question "How’ve you been?".

I still haven’t erased the message he sent after I told him. "Well, for what its worth, di ako nandidiri, and it hasn’t changed my attitude towards you. You’re still one damn hot guy for me." (insert blush here...) "And above all, I still care for you... and of course I still would want to see you... Hello?! As if naman I’ll get AIDS if I touch you or kiss you... not ignorant here." This guy... he was just the sweetest.

Latest news, he was back in the country. We still were in touch, and he did still express interest in seeing me again, but I admit, I was skeptical. Another is-this-guy-for-real moment. So for over half a year, I’ve managed to avoid meeting up with him. But his persistence was admirable. He finally caught me online this weekend.

"It’s making me think hard, _____. We have a lot in common... and in most respects we are compatible. Hay... I hate myself for what has become of us... I know it was entirely my fault. Darn!" he said. I was drawn aback. Regret? No way. Blaming him was the farthest thing from my mind. I admit thinking that if we had gotten together back then, things may have been different. But I have no regrets. This was meant to be. We were meant to be where we are now.

After a short chat, we’d established that he now lived nearby to where I now work. And with that, I no longer had an alibi. I admit, I did want to see him... half to be with him and make sure he was doing well, and half to show him I was doing well, too. But it just wasn’t that easy for me. I’m glad he was persistent. I needed that push.

So Monday morning, I went my usual route, but got off a few blocks from where I usually do when on the way to work. I walked up to his building... but not without assessing how I was feeling. Nope, unlike my usual EBs, I wasn’t nervous. I was relaxed, surprisingly... and excited.

I buzzed his door and waited... there he was in just a white shirt and a pair of shorts… dressed down but hot as ever. Even with five years added to the board, he was still hot as hell... hotter even. He led me into his bedroom, and sat me down on his bed... and we got to do it... we got to catch up, that is. We were just sitting there, watching So You Think You Can Dance on the tellie, just talking, reminiscing, giggling, and laughing. At times, we held hands and lay in each other’s arms... just like we did before.

If I was to say we were totally wholesome, I’d be lying. But other than some playful teasing, touching, licking and kissing, I can swear on my father’s grave that we did not have sex... of course, to me it’s just not officially sex if no one ejaculates... so there, you have an idea. TMI? Oopsy.

Anyway, after about an hour, I made my gracious exit. I needed to report to work, of course. So we sealed the morning with a huge, tight hug... and with that I was to have a great day and week ahead.

Looking back, I can confidently say that I wasn’t there to look for romance or demand for a commitment or anything of that sort. It was a different kind of commitment, I guess... just two people reminding each other that they remain... two people rekindling an old friendship... two people continuing their journey through thick and thin.

Boy Friday on a Monday... I love it.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


D'oh!You’d think taking ARVs once a day at 9:30 in the evening would be simple enough, right? Of course!

But prepare to be amazed.

Leave it to little ol' me to really screw things up... big time.

It was a regular Thursday morning. I was up and about by 6:00 am as usual, awoken by my wretchedly reliable body clock. I stepped out of my room and went to the kitchen sink to wash my face. I headed to the dining table and took breakfast while watching Umagang Kay Ganda. Rice as usual. Today, it was chorizo and fried egg. Yum. Nope, no coffee, just water

When I was done, I took my plate to the kitchen sink and let it sit in some water so it’d be easier to wash later on. Meanwhile, I went to my room and popped a handful of something in my mouth, and finished it off at the fridge with a tall glass of water. Ahhhhh. I then headed back to my room to get my towel, ready for my morning shower. And then I was stopped dead in my tracks.

Nope, not by anyone or anything. Just a freaky realization echoing in my head. What the hell did I just do? Did I just drink my ARVs? Did I just drink my ARVs?! Oh... my... gosh!!!

I’m not really sure why it took me that long to realize it. I’m not even sure why I had to realize it at all. But instead of my daily dose of vitamins C & E, I actually grabbed one of my little pill cases and downed a day’s worth of ARVs 15 hours before I was supposed to! Oh... my... gosh!!!

I don’t think I was panicking. I was actually shaking my head and laughing at how stupid I was to make that mistake, repeating to myself, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh!

I was wondering if I should stick a finger down the back of my throat and force it out, but I just couldn’t. It would be such a waste. And not to mention gross. This is it. I had officially overdosed.

Considering I usually feel lightheaded between one to two hours after drinking my ARVs, I was doomed. I now had one to two hours to go through the rest of my morning routine and make it to work unscathed. Otherwise, I’d be walking around like I’d been left with a hangover from the previous night. Great. That’s a really great impression to leave with my old office in Ortigas, where I had planned on reporting for the day. Trust me, I was worried.

And I don’t know for sure, but I think all that paranoia just brought the side effects on even faster. I was on the bus with my mind spaced out, my face flush, my eyes getting heavy, and my head in the clouds. Fortunately, I managed to get to Ortigas safe and sound... and still wide awake.

So what was I supposed to do now? Should I still drink another dose later tonight? Or should I skip it and just wait for my next one tomorrow night? Argh, my doctor will kill me if she reads this. I can only hope she’s laughing with me... Imagine me with a guilty smile on my face. Ooopsy... I just never meant for it to happen.

As much as I’d like to deny that it happened, I won’t. As much as I’d like to convince you that I did it as an experiment just so I could share the experience with you... I can’t. It was just another of my D’oh! moments. This was just a hugely embarrassing but funny mistake that I hope everyone can learn from, including me. Note to self: Try not to do this again. Again I’m reminded... I’m just human. D’oh!


Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Oh-My-Gulay July

This month of July has been absolutely... ohhh, what’s the word?!

Ghastly? Well, maybe not that negative.

Unexpected? I did know it was coming.

Overwhelming? Yes, yes, that sounds more like it.

Well it started off at my old office, where I successfully stunned everyone with the prospect of my leaving the company after almost 5 years of service. Of course no one knew of the complete story as to why I was leaving. I just summed it up as "an opportunity presenting itself".

I got asked to rethink my decision, but my mind was more or less already made up. I did think about the situation, though. But more than rethinking my decision to move, I just found myself thinking if there was any reason not to.

Of course, no one seemed to take my plan to move seriously. No one wanted to receive all the work I was turning over, and everyone who thought they were my bosses were still trying to dump more work and new projects onto my lap, seemingly oblivious of the fact that I was soon leaving. Was I flattered that they weren’t letting me go that easily? Not really. More like it was starting to piss me off.

July 15th, I woke up and went through my usual routine, but this time taking a different route to a different place. I prepared myself for a new life. New people... well, not really new... these are people I’ve been able to work with since last year. A new place... I was to become an avid MRTer, and an official Makati boy. A new job... definitely. I had no idea what to expect.

Getting there to spend my first official day was amazing. I already had a desk waiting, a laptop, and even business cards. It seemed like they had sealed my fate already, but I was cool with it. But I sort of noticed that the heavens were taunting me.

Certainly, I knew it was going to be a longer journey to Makati than Ortigas. But with the rain and all, it was like all the pros and cons of moving were presenting themselves to me early on. But for my first three days, I’ve been able to survive. I’ve been braving the jungle of people on the MRT every morning, battling the elements successfully with my health intact.

I still get to work early, aiming to maximize the morning person in me. The rest of the day is usually spent behind a desk writing, my fingers and my brain going through their paces. Thursday afternoon, though, I found myself attending to some official business in the Manila area for a change. I was game.

For lunches, I still bring ulam from home, and just buy rice at the canteen... basically just like before. Difference now is that almost everyone eats around the dining table at the office... aww... parang family. I can’t always relate to topics at the table though, which touch everything from movies and restaurants, to nightlife and alcohol. But hey, it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t aloof, right? So bring it on!

Physically, work is still tiring... more because of it being a longer trip to and from. But it’s been tolerable. I know my body is pooped, but I find that my mind and my spirit are alive and kicking.

I even managed to attend a blogger birthday bash Friday night after work, despite just claiming it was tiring. I didn’t even have to force myself to go! Of course, I again was my old aloof self, and still managed to leave an imprint of my ass on the couch. Woohoo! I was still up and about at midnight, no thanks of course to my ARVs, and that one glass of vodka I mistakenly downed thinking it was an innocent glass of soda. Happy birthday, by the way, to OdinHood, WanderingCommuter and ToiletThoughts!

Saturday was spent grocery shopping, as usual, and just lazing around and recharging, while on Sunday, I managed to squeeze in lunch in Megamall with a new fellow-pozzie friend. I’ve really been unusually busy, huh?

It’s Monday again tomorrow – back to work – but I’m not exactly dreading going to work. That’s a good sign. So gotta go beddy-bye in a bit.

So there, that’s been my past week... and my month so far. Like I said, overwhelming. The month is far from over, but I do expect the rest of it to follow suit. Oh-my-gulay July!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Stigma Enigma

Chicken or Egg?I’ve said it enough times. I’ve felt it enough times. I’ve worried about it enough times. I think it’s safe to say that everyone does acknowledge that there is stigma that surrounds HIV in the Philippines.

But is there indeed an enigma behind this stigma?

Hell, just going to get tested, or even thinking of getting tested, you might not have realized you’ve experienced the stigma as well. What will they think of me?, Will they judge me?, Will they think I’m gay?, Will they think I’m promiscuous? and so on. It’s sad that you have to worry about things like that, rather than just acknowledge the importance of knowing one’s HIV status.

But I’ve come to realize that the stigma experienced by those living with HIV is not the same for each and everyone. Some have it bad, some have it worse. These variances along the stigma scale can stem from the smallest things, and certainly HIV being regarded as a gay disease is just one of those things.

Certainly, babies and children who most probably contracted it through modes other than sex have no need to be defensive. And women have absolutely no chance of being mistaken as a gay man, not unless they have masculine features or something. And either way, I don’t think it will be as detrimental to their reputation.

For the not-so-straight guys, it’s less of an issue, because granted, they... I, included... supposedly fit the bill, right? But then of course, there’s the whole spectrum of gayness that we need to deal with. From the bisexual to the gay, from the flamboyant to the discreet, and so on. It’s one thing to disclose that one is HIV-positive, and a whole other issue to disclose one’s sexual orientation.

Straight guys have it worst I believe, because they actually need to battle the stigma of HIV being a gay disease.

So far, here in the Philippines, faces and most stories that have embodied the HIV-positive have been women and homosexuals. And certainly, it must be this representation that fuels the stigma of HIV being an anything-but-straight-male virus. But seemingly, it must not help either that no HIV-positive straight guys are coming forward to represent themselves as faces of HIV.

So it seems like it’s a draw. An enigma. A classic example of a chicken-and-egg situation.

So which should come first? Can we just sit and wait for the stigma to fade? Or can this serve as a challenge for some Filipino man to be a real man and say “Hey, I’m straight, and I’m HIV-positive”?

- republished from Ka-Blog by Positivism


Monday, July 06, 2009

The HIV Card

The HIV CardIt’s been more than a year now. More than a year since finding out I was HIV-positive. A year and four months to be exact. A year and four months since discovering my secret. My new powers. I’m like one of the Xmen now. A mutant trying to protect the world and fighting for acceptance. Like Gambit... with an HIV card... sort of.

Change. For someone like me, it’s scary. And frankly, this HIV thing has been the biggest and most shocking change in my life... ever. Now I won’t readily say that I’m getting the hang of this change thing, but lately, having been faced with another prospect for change, I went for it.

Having been with the company I’m currently with for so long, I’d certainly fallen into a comfort zone. The same place, the same people, the same culture for five whole years. But I took a leap of faith. I turned in my resignation letter. It’s time for a career change.

Rather than have any rumors circulating around the workplace, I kept my plans to myself and took the initiative to make sure it was our HR-in-charge who found out my plans first.

She, of course, didn’t let me go without a short chat. I shared with her the opportunity that had presented itself to me which had triggered my move. And in trying to be as honest as I could, it wasn’t far from my mind at the time that I might just have to play my HIV card.

Certainly, I did not have to tell her about it. But frankly, it was this advocacy that was the most compelling reason to move. It was this supposedly wretched virus that steered me onto this new direction and which was fate’s instrument of choice to enable me to encounter the people behind Positivism.

A few minutes after that chat with the HR-in-charge, I got a call from the owner of the company, a lady already in her 70s. She was surprised, and wanted me over so we could talk. And so we did. Over dinner, I was touched to realize she didn’t want to let me go that easily. I was shocked, honestly... and speechless. But I was ready to whip out my HIV card... if I needed to. Fortunately, the evening ended with her final request for me to just give it some thought. I did not have to play my HIV card to her either.

Certainly, this move I’ll be making will be a leap of faith in all aspects.

First, it will be a huge change in terms of my job description. A total shift from left to right brain. I’d like to think that I’m enough of a creative person to be able to do this new job. Yeah, I may have been doing some creative stuff for the company I’m leaving, but they were never really part of my job description.

Can you imagine what a heartbreaker it is to do something you’re asked to do, and then hear these same people say you can’t be commended for what you do because it’s not part of your job? It’s an enigma, isn’t it? Then they wonder why you no longer do it after that.

Second, it will be a huge change of environment. I’m talking about people. This group of people I’ve been working with, some of whom for almost five years, isn’t something that’s easy to turn my back on. Again, it’s a terrifying change. I’m gonna be with new people... well, relatively new, considering I’ve been working on Positivism with some of them for the past six months... which means new relationships. That’s scary, right? Or am I just paranoid?

One major difference will be that this new group of people knows that I’m HIV-positive. It’ll be one less secret I’ll need to hide. And starting off on an honest note will always be a good thing. I’ve actually been prepared to get asked whether my HIV thing will ever be a problem. Well, if I take good care of my health, I know it shouldn’t be. But I think more importantly than HIV being a problem for me, I would rather ask back whether my HIV will ever be a problem for them... which, ideally, it shouldn’t. So again, my HIV card is safe.

The HIV card isn’t something I can actually use indiscriminately. I certainly won’t be asking for any special treatment or anything because of my HIV status. If at this new job, I just happen to screw up, then I am the one that screws up. I can’t blame HIV for it. Wish me luck.

More than any professional advancement, with this move, I look forward to my personal growth. More focus, less spreading myself too thin. It will also be a chance to make Positivism and my advocacy a greater part of my life. As it stood, Positivism was something outside of my fulltime job. Working with people who know fully about my status and my advocacy will be a big change. It will still be an HIV card, but I will have that card laid out on the table, so to speak.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Michael Jackson & HIV/AIDS

Michael JacksonMichael Jackson. The King of Pop. May he rest in peace.

We know of his music. We know of his moves. We even know of all the controversies surrounding his life, from plastic surgery, to alleged child molestation. But did you know that Michael Jackson was dealing with HIV & AIDS as well?

No, no, no. Michael Jackson did not have HIV nor AIDS... as far as I know, at least. But knowing how much of a philanthropist he was towards children and communities around the world, I was just struck with curiosity. Was HIV ever among Michael Jackson’s worthy causes?

Googling here and there, I found what I was looking for.

Ryan White was a teenager who became the face of HIV and AIDS in the United States after being discriminated against because of his HIV status. He contracted HIV from infected blood products he had received as treatment for his hemophilia.

Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1984, a time when it was very poorly understood, White was expelled from his school because parents and teachers considered his infection as a threat to others. From there stemmed White’s mission to educate and enlighten people about HIV and AIDS. And that’s where Michael Jackson came in.

Along with fellow celebrities Elton John and Phil Donahue, Michael Jackson brought the nation’s attention onto Ryan White’s mission. The greatest result of this mission came after White’s death in 1990, when the Ryan White Care Act was passed by the US Congress.

Now other than the spotlight that Michael Jackson brought, as well as the red Mustang he gave White as a gift... yeah, yeah, I can already hear the kids-and-Michael-Jackson jokes ringing... Michael Jackson also wrote and sang Gone Too Soon as a tribute to Ryan White and his cause.

Gone Too Soon

Like a comet blazing 'cross the evening sky
Gone too soon

Like a rainbow fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon

Shiny and sparkly and splendidly bright
Here one day, Gone one night

Like the loss of sunlight on a cloudy afternoon
Gone too soon

Like a castle built upon a sandy beach
Gone too soon

Like a perfect flower that is just beyond your reach
Gone too soon

Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight
Here one day, Gone one night

Like a sunset dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon

Gone too soon

So sans the controversies and eccentricities, Michael Jackson leaves behind more than just his music and his moves... he leaves behind a legacy which can literally heal the world. Gone too soon... Gone too soon.