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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Maniac Monday

Sigh. What was supposed to be another usual Monday morning, suddenly turned out to be a bad start to the week ahead. After my regular morning routine, I stepped out of the house bravely, ready to face the dreaded rush hour. I hopped on a bus out on the highway… and then it happened. The bus I was in stopped at the next corner, where several people climbed on. And there he was, a familiar face that made me cringe with discomfort. My Maniac Monday began.

This guy was familiar because we had met this same way the first time – on a bus – a couple of weeks before I found out I was HIV-positive. I remember he sat beside me, tried hard to show he was interested, and started rubbing his crotch beside me. One thing led to another, and I was reminded why my Yahoo! user name is pinoycumeater. Let’s just say the closest I got to Bayani Fernando’s Urbanidad, was not leaving a sticky mess inside a public bus. Gulp.

I admit, it was exciting. And destiny seemed to be horny too, that we’d chanced upon each other on buses a number of times more following that first day. But after the fourth or fifth time it happened with this same guy, I just lost the thrill of having sex in a public place, and he just seemed to suddenly turn me off in a dirty-old-mannish kind of way.

So being on the same bus this morning was more torture than anything else. I just greeted him with a nod, and thanked the heavens there wasn’t a vacant seat beside me. I didn’t look his way after that, fearful of unknowingly sending hormones rushing to his loins. But his persistence was admirable.

The moment a space became available beside me, he slid into the seat, and started engaging me in some small talk, all the while rubbing whatever part of his leg he could against mine. Believe me, I was in no sexual mood. So I was ready to shoot down whatever advances he was going to make.

When he elbowed me and suggested we retreat to the rear of the bus, I knew what he had in mind and I declined, and just stared out the window. He then asked if I was mad at him, which I wasn’t. I couldn’t blame him. He’d developed an idea of what a rePUTAtion I had. Yes, rePUTAtion. That’s a reputation with a capital P-U-T-A. After a few minutes, he tried again, asking if I no longer craved for what we used to do. I apologized and said no.

I was just sooo tempted to just blurt out my ultimate excuse of having HIV, but didn’t. And although technically it’s not an excuse, this would’ve been one of the few situations where I would’ve wished the person I was talking to actually did feel some stigma against HIV.

I’m not sure if he finally got my drift, but thankfully, his stop had come up and he got off, leaving me with some room to heave my sigh of relief. I’m really the type of person who has a difficult time saying no, so this was absolutely out of the ordinary. So am I just overplaying my new virginity thing?

Absolutely not. I don’t know either what got into me, but I just felt offended all of a sudden, being expected to give sexual pleasure on a public bus at a moment’s notice. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it again, but think of it this way – giving blowjobs inside a public bus is NOT my obligation, it IS your privilege.

As much as I’d love applause all around for my taray moment, I had absolutely no clue that I still had some pride left in me. But I do believe that was part of it – pride. I also may have been trying to deceive myself into thinking that I’m saving what’s left of my dignity for my special someone – without the assumption, of course, that I am my special someone’s special someone. But that’s a whole other story whose ending remains unknown. Sigh.

For now, the curtains on this particular chapter, the one of my Maniac Monday, finally draw to a close. When will our characters’ paths next cross? Dreadfully, only heaven knows.

read more...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prophet-lactics

image from www.hivplusmag.comI’ve kept quiet about it long enough. But I can only take so much nonsense. Go ahead. Call me seditious. Call me an atheist. Call me whatever you frickin' want. May lightning even strike me right now, just based on the thoughts running through my head.

A bit O.A.? Okay, just let me say my piece.

The Catholic Church has been at it again. Pope Benedict, on a visit to Africa, boldly says that encouraging the use of condoms aggravates the problem of HIV and AIDS, rather than helping contain the virus. WTF?!

And I said "again", because I’d already heard something to that effect last year, from our very own Catholic Church here in the Philippines. In articles on the website of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines or CBCP entitled CBCP Hasn’t OK’d Condom Use for HIV/AIDS Patients and Church: Condoms Don’t Stop AIDS, Fr. Melvin Castro says there is no directive from the Vatican that married couples infected with HIV and those with AIDS can use condoms. He also goes on to say that the claim that condoms can reduce the number of HIV-infected persons is a "myth".

Whoa?! No one ever said that condom use is a cure to HIV. It will not reduce the number of HIV-infected persons. What it can reduce is the number of HIV-infections. What’s that supposed to be? A play of words? Hmm.

The CBCP follows up with statements backing claims that condoms are permeable. And when the DOH says those claims are untrue, Fr. Castro once again speaks up saying "They are wrong about that... this is an easily recognizable fact". An easily recognizable fact?! An easily recognizable fact just like immaculate conceptions, walking on water, and turning water into wine?! Okay, I know, that was below the belt, but shouldn’t we all be wary of making sweeping statements? Hmm.

I’m just absolutely dumbfounded at how the Catholic Church can make statements such as these. What’s the real issue with condoms anyway? What do these prophets have against prophylactics? Is it some tool of the devil? Hmm.

They probably think it encourages sex outside the context of marriage and all that immoral stuff. But how come even married couples aren’t allowed to use condoms to keep the uninfected partner safe? Hmm.

Oh yeah, they probably think it breaks the link between sex and procreation. So does this mean that they are willing to sacrifice their followers’ health and well-being just for the sake of procreation? Hmm.

But then, two guys fucking can only bring themselves as far as pagdadalang-tae. So as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never been in any sexual act that could result in any procreation whatsoever. Geesh, we’re still not allowed to use condoms? Hmm.

Of course, that just brings us to the subject of homosexuality being a sin. Yeah, right. Why doesn’t that ever ring a bell whenever the priest at my local parish ogles and flirts at me whenever he’s not in church or wearing his habit? Hmm.

The Pope and the CBCP then both agree that marital fidelity and sexual abstinence are the only failsafe ways of preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS. Clap, clap, clap. One question though... Is this the same fidelity and abstinence that some men of the cloth themselves forget about, causing them to father kids, make sexual advances, abuse women, and molest children? Hmm.

So at this point, I still don’t understand why the Catholic Church is so against condom use, and reproductive health in general. I’m completely aware that I’m walking the fine line between righteousness and blasphemy... but only in the same way that the Catholic Church walks the fine line between spirituality and self-righteousness.

So I say, go ahead. May he who is without sin cast the first stone.

read more...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

HMO? HMP!

It's that time of year again. The time of the year when the company that I work for needs to renew its sanitary permit with the city government. Not such a big deal, really, considering that all they usually need done is a chest x-ray. I'm not sure if they're looking for tuberculosis or pneumonia or what, but so far, I haven't encountered any real problems associated with HIV. So why exactly am I blogging this? Let me tell you why.

This is also the same time of the year that the company chooses to have us, its employees, go through our annual physical exam. The APE is actually part of the benefits we get from our Health Maintenance Organization, or HMO.

Considering my fear of needles, I never really got to go through an APE. The pre-employment medical exam, yes. But the APE, never. Not even before I found out I had HIV. I would always rather go to a private clinic and have to pay P200+ for a chest x-ray, just so I wouldn't have to go through the rest of the tests involved in the APE.

So you can imagine, all the more now, that I know what I have a gang of STDs, I will do absolutely anything to get out of having to go through an APE. I know, I know, R.A. 8504 protects me by prohibiting mandatory HIV tests. But that’s all it does. When it comes to my hepatitis B and my syphilis, anything goes.

I’ve actually sworn off accessing my HMO benefits altogether, until such time that I absolutely no longer have a choice. Why so? Am I wasting the freebies that I might possibly be entitled to? For now, I choose to waste them.

You see, part of my work has me involved in some administrative functions in the office. And part of that entails handling transactions with our HMO service provider. Not everyone may know how the HMO system works. I’ve been fortunate enough to.

HMOs charge a monthly health insurance fee per employee. A fee which, in my case, is shouldered by our employer. Up for annual renewal, the fee paid for health insurance gets recomputed, based on the previous year’s usage of benefits. Ergo, the more health insurance benefits that the company’s employees avail in the previous year, the higher the health insurance premiums charged for the following year. It’s a business, after all. They need to make money.

As part of this reassessment of their services, HMOs send a summary of usage to the administrative unit of our company. It’s a summary, but it’s detailed. Complete with the names of employees who availed of medical benefits, dates, consultations, and findings. Now if you’ve got nothing to hide, then all is good. But for me, I’d rather not be prematurely and unnecessarily disclosed for needing to consult my posse of STDs.

Basically, there’s no fine line dividing the transparency between the HMO and the company as client and service provider, and the medical confidentiality between doctor and patient. A line, or the lack of one, which not everyone may be aware of.

Now if you’re paying for your own medical insurance, then it’s fine. But in some cases like mine where the employer pays for the medical insurance of the employee, then they become part of the equation. Of course, I’m not saying others like me should forego medical insurance benefits. Just consider yourself more equipped to make an informed decision. My personal opinion? HMO? HMP!

Alright? Ok, you can lighten up now. Just stay healthy, my friends.

read more...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Once, Twice, Thrice

ThreeI don’t exactly have a radar for it. But due to some funny, ridiculous, fortunate or unfortunate circumstances, I seem to always be in the right place, at the right time. Once, twice, thrice, it’s happened. Once, twice, thrice, HIV has been in the news repeatedly in the past weeks. Once, twice, thrice, the Filipino masses have been bombarded with thoughts and ideas of HIV and AIDS in the span of just a week.

Once...

Friday, the sixth of March, I just happened to passed by a little news stand on the sidewalk on the way to work. Something caught my eye. "A.I.D.S." in bold letters. AIDS?! In a tabloid headline? Hmm, not really a very common occurrence.

It was on the cover of Tempo, a tabloid, that I spotted the headline. I opted not to buy a copy and search for it online instead. I found it. Entitled "A.I.D.S. Protection", it was an article by Reuters, which told of researchers investigating glycerol monolaurate, or GML, a cheap ingredient used in ice cream, cosmetics and found in breast milk, that helps protect monkeys against infection with a virus similar to AIDS and might work to protect women against the virus.

Ashley Haase and Pat Schlievert of the University of Minnesota, who were heading the team working on the project, added that even if the if it was only 60 percent effective, such a gel containing the ingredient could prevent 2.5 million HIV cases over three years.

I know, I know. I don’t exactly fit into either of the categories of monkeys or women. But I think, the more glaring fact for me is that 60% effectiveness is already considered a success. I’m sort of hoping that people read that as a 40% chance of still getting infected. Now that SHOULD be a risk one should still NOT be willing to take. Anyways, the study is still ongoing, so let’s wait and see how things turn out.

Sadly, Tempo does not keep archives of their past issues on their website, www.tempo.com.ph, so if you want to know more about the article, I’ve saved the content.

Twice...

I think it was Wednesday night that I got home just in time to catch a segment on ABS-CBN’s early evening newscast, TV Patrol World, that talked about the increasing prevalence of HIV among returning Overseas Filipino Workers.

In the segment, they interviewed Mila, who returned to the country with HIV, after being raped repeatedly by her employer. The report goes on to say that in January alone, 20 OFWs have come back to the country HIV-positive, a third of all the diagnoses for the month.

Although the report does say that it will be more challenging for these former-OFWs to job-match locally, it does go on to show an interview with someone from the Department of Labor and Employment, or DOLE, who says they are taking action by approaching Philippine consulates in these countries, as well as supporting these former OFWs by providing skills training and support through the Technical Education Skills Development Authority, or TESDA.

I just hope this doesn’t magnify the thought that HIV is still something foreign. Remember, OFWs accounting for a third of the occurrences for January, only means that two-thirds of the month’s occurrences are local transmissions. Now that should be more alarming.

Thrice...

Yesterday again, Friday the 13th, the acronym HIV caught my eye at the news stand on the way to work. I honestly said to myself Ano na naman? It said something like "HIV CARRIER BUMULAGANG BAN..." I couldn’t make out the rest of the headline because another tabloid was covering it. I just took note of the particular tabloid from which I read it, and continued my trek to the office.

Finding it online, Abante Tonite turned out to have "HIV CARRIER BUMULAGANG BANGKAY". Geesh, who was it? Was it someone I knew? But all my excitement got doused when I read that it was an African who was found dead in his residence in Makati. Apparently, upon being asked, a friend of the victim could not confirm if HIV was the cause of death. Of course! How many times must I say that no one dies of HIV?!

HIV was really not worthy to be headlined in this case, as it just seemed to be a pathetic attempt to scandalize the situation. Very tabloidish, in the Philippine sense of the word. Read the whole story on www.abante-tonite.com.

Once, twice, thrice. Once, twice, thrice in a week that HIV has been in the news is a really amazing thing. Pathetic at times, but still amazing. If anything, the least this rare occurrence could do is get Filipinos talking about HIV and AIDS. If they aim to flesh out the true learnings in these news items, then better. But in the plain aim of awareness, might it be a case of any publicity being good publicity? Heaven knows.

read more...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shola Luna

Shola Luna. You might not have been aware, but I’ve mentioned her several times before in previous posts. Maybe not by name. But she, or he, is the “resident counselor” at the RITM that I’ve always been referring to. And I'm sure she has been able to counsel a lot of other pozzies by sharing her own plight with HIV

I don’t really remember how it was the first time we met. I recall she was there when U first brought me to RITM. But of course, I was my usually shy self, and I hardly spoke to anyone other than U, and the doctor, of course. So I don’t really recall my first impression of her.

I do remember, though, the day that I brought a new guy to RITM to get him started on his HIV journey. Shola was there with Ate, and that was the time that they were talking about other pozzies not being pleased about some people disclosing the hospitals, doctors and terms related to HIV via the net. Of course, they weren’t aware just yet that I was one of the culprits.

I thought I was safe, until the new guy I brought let it slip that we had met thru my blog. I felt Shola’s suspicion as she asked what the URL was. I felt I’d been exposed and had no choice but to guiltily give it. My friend and I were laughing at my getting exposed as we headed home, but I just shrugged it off. What’s done is done. Bahala na, I thought.

The next trip I made to RITM, Shola was there again, and started me off by saying she’d read my blog already. Like a little boy, I was ready for a scolding, but surprisingly she said she liked it and thought it was okay. That was like a load off my chest, and that’s when I knew for sure, I wasn’t doing anything bad.

Since then, I got to hang out more with her at the clinic and play assistant to her when talking with newbies there.

She was the one who introduced me to the Positivism.ph team, and I can’t thank her enough for that. Shola is also part of the Positivism.ph team, and not to mention the first cover story of Positivism.ph.

I enjoy her company because, like me, she likes to laugh a lot. Very Positivism.

I remember one time when we met at Glorietta from where we were to head to the Hotbox office for a Positivism meeting. While waiting for E, who was late as usual, she suddenly needed to go peepee. I pointed out that she had the advantage of going to either of the men’s or the ladies’ rooms, and jokingly suggested she go to the restroom for the disabled instead. She laughed and said she hated lining up at ladies’ rooms, and thought it’d be more fun in the men’s room. Gulp. Yikes

It was hilarious how guys needed to take a second look if they were in the right comfort room upon seeing Shola there. I was just thankful she chose to go into one of the cubicles, rather than stand at one of the urinals. That would’ve been more outrageous! I admit, I was ready to put my dukes up in case anyone had any problems with the situation. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything more than a good laugh.

At one point during the Positivism.ph thing, I got tasked to try and manga-nize Shola for the magazine. But I was stumped! I couldn’t even get past the first option of choosing whether she was male or female. Hahaha. She might kill me when she finds that out.

Although most of the time I’ve spent with her have been more fun and comfortable than anything else, behind her now peace-loving and happy fa├žade, lies a cluttered past which she’s been able to overcome.

Watch more of her at Positivism.ph, where she’s featured in the Reel Deal segment.

read more...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

You Changed My Life

I never really got used to watching movies at cinemas.

First of all, with the tickets and the food and beverages, it can get quite expensive. Nope, I don’t buy pirated either. Second, it just seems like such a waste of time to spend over two hours just watching the movie, when I could eventually catch in on the boob tube and do something else like cut my toenails at the same time. Third, I just can’t decide on the best time to watch. There are times with huge crowds, which makes me claustrophobic. On the other hand, there are off peak showings, where sex-starved excuses for human beings prowl in the shadows of the theater.

But lo and behold, I swore to myself that I’d watch You Changed My Life at the movie theater sometime soon. I know I’ve expressed my Kapamilya tendencies before, but not being overly fanatic about John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo, what really caught my attention was the theme song of the movie.

I’ve always loved the song, ever since The Company did their rendition more than a decade ago. But lately, its spell over me has been revived, and I’ve been humming and singing it for the past few weeks.

Why this song? I can relate to it, right here, right now. Lines like...

The nights the sky was filled with clouds
My worried mind was filled with fear
...

I never thought that I could change
Could change so much in so many ways
...

I'm still surprised when I look in my mirror
To see that I still look the same
...

and

You changed my life in a moment
And I'll never be the same again
...


just make me reflect upon where I am in life, and gasp in amazement at how perfectly this song fits me and my life. I can’t wait to see the movie.

Hey, wait a minute. Before you go kilig-kilig on me, let me just explain, why exactly I can relate.

You Changed My Life... HIV. In a good way, of course. Hehehe.

read more...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The TV Virgin

InterviewYesterday was it. The day I was to be interviewed. I was to lose my virginity. Again. I had fled work half an hour early just to make sure I made call time for the interview. Though I did try to make a joke out of it, considering that it would just be the back of my head or my silhouette that would be seen, I thought it pointless to go have my hair and makeup done. Teehee.

Shortly past 8:00 pm, I was out on the corner of so-and-so, waiting for the unmarked vehicle to pick me up. After a few minutes, some flashing lights told me it was them. When the door slid open, I was surprised to see J, one of the poz guys I had met at the RITM Christmas party and who I’d been chatting with since. J had gotten interviewed earlier that afternoon, but I didn’t expect to see him there.

To make a long story short, all I could say was "Oh, you’re here!" I swear I was surprised. And I hate surprises. I know J will kill me when he reads this, but I bit my tongue to keep from running away. I’m sorry if it makes me seem like such a bad friend, I’m just being honest.

On the ride to his place, G, the researcher who had pulled me into this thing, was even more paranoid than I was, pointing out how I could possibly be recognized by the pair of shorts I was wearing, my watch, and even my pinky ring. But really, at this point, having put so much of me out there through this blog, that was really the least of my concerns.

Getting there and waiting a few minutes, GMA host Vicky Morales walked in. After introductions all around, Vicky... naks, first-name basis... okay, Ms. Morales... showered us with a bit of flattery, saying how good J and I both looked. If I wasn’t so dark, they’d probably seen me blushing. Accepting compliments is not one of my strong points. She was also particularly pleased to realize that I was behind this Back In The Closet blog, which she’d apparently read from cover to cover. She praised my writing, and I just recalled what G taught me, and said thank you. I swear I blushed again.

With that out of the way, I was pleased to realize there was no hostility between us. Of course worst case would’ve been that they kidnap me or torture me for the stuff I’ve said here about other shows and people from GMA, or at least some bitch-slapping and hair-grabbing ensue. But really there was none of that sort of thing, and they proved that they were not the enemy. A big Whew! from me.

Being purposely pulled in for being the HIV-positive blogger, the interview commenced, with me seated askew on an ottoman in front of G’s laptop, with Vicky seated on my right side. I didn’t see exactly how the shot was framed, but the camera was behind me, and lights were on the wall in front of me, and on Ms. Morales.

Before starting, Ms. Morales brought up the excellent question of what she should call me. I hadn’t given it prior thought so I fumbled. She suggested I use the alias I use here. But when I posed my question, B.I.T.C.H.?, she jokingly playing out a few questions calling me B.I.T.C.H. and thought otherwise.

It was awkward enough having cameras and lights glaring down on me, bracing myself for what unexpected questions they’d have for me, groping a laptop which was beyond my intellectual capacity, sweating like ice on a hot summer day and practical strangers listening to me tell my story, but honestly having J there to witness it all wasn’t much help. I felt like I was in a beauty pageant, being the last contestant pulled out of the isolation booth, eyes burning holes in the back of my neck. I know, I’m sorry, I’m too transparent.

Anyways, in as much as I wouldn’t want to preempt how exactly the interview went, I really couldn’t, because with all the unease I was feeling, I was half conscious, half unconscious, and half self-conscious. See, there was so much of me I was bursting at the seams! I don’t remember exactly what happened, or maybe I choose not to. But I do hope I got some of my message across.

The interview ended with me as the only hitch. I felt pathetic getting to the part where they were supposed to film me doing things I normally do at home. I don’t normally sketch. I don’t normally play any musical instrument. Yes, I’m that boring. Well maybe not, but home is not exactly the best place to play sports, nor was it the best time. I eat. I work. I sleep. The rest of what I normally do at home might just get shot down by the censors. So what did I end up doing? I washed. Yes, I washed. I washed my hands. I washed my face. And I washed some dishes, to G’s utmost delight, of course. Fine, fine, portray me as the domesticated BITCH.

Finally, it was done. Some pizza arrived for us to chow down on, at which point Ms. Morales chose to be motherly, practically shoving three slices down my gut. She was being nice and she was really nice, don’t get me wrong, but I was stuffed! Before long, she had to go to catch her evening newscast at the GMA Complex, and left us with beso-besos all around.

After being a bit of a cause of delay, struggling to get that last slice down, the rest of us left and got schoolbussed to our respective destinations. Home around midnight, it took me a couple of hours for the adrenaline to die down, and I think I fell asleep at around 1:30 in the morning.

Fine, so maybe confidence isn’t one of my strong points, but I’ll get over whatever embarrassment I caused myself last night. I just need to focus on my advocacy, and on the fact that I’m sharing my story for the greater good. Either that... or I do something more embarrassing to cover it up. Geesh. More updates on the documentary later. Ciao!

read more...