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, October 31, 2009

Pyramid Scheme?

I think we all know the common but mistaken notion that HIV is a gay-only disease. Lately, even the Department of Health came out with statistics showing that HIV infections among MSMs, or men who have sex with men, have been increasing in the Philippines. Could it be the fact that Filipinas are more conservative that makes heterosexual transmissions less likely? Or could it just be that more homosexuals are getting tested than heterosexuals? Or it is just one complicated pyramid scheme?

Conservatism and unknown HIV statuses will be difficult to quantify. But since the philosopher and the scientist in me have been acting up again, I’m so tempted to try to figure out some idea as to why HIV is linked to homosexuals. So banking on pure logic, let me try to analyze.

For this analysis, let me zero in on sexual transmission. And for both heterosexual and homosexual acts, let me focus on insertive sex, meaning vaginal and anal sex, since these are considered higher risk acts as compared to oral sex and other forms. Let me also make the assumption that the people involved are not consciously protecting themselves from HIV. Also, let’s factor in the statistics that say that the possibility of an insertive partner passing the virus to a receptive one is ten times more likely as compared to the other way around.

Imagine starting out with one HIV-positive male at the top of a heterosexual pyramid. He has two choices, vaginal and anal sex. It may be safe to assume that vaginal sex is the more common practice, especially in a relatively conservative society such as that of the Philippines. And because of the potential of pregnancy, heterosexual encounters, unless done within the context of a relationship at least, will more likely be protected. As such, that lowers the chance of the top level male passing it on to the second level female, unless in cases of the less common unprotected anal sex or pregnancy-prone unprotected vaginal sex.

On the other hand, starting out with one HIV-positive male at the top of a homosexual pyramid, assumed in this case to be insertive as well, leaves him with no choice but anal sex. And with no risk of pregnancy, and the assumption of not consciously protecting themselves from HIV, he does not have any other reason to use protection. Let’s just say, if he really couldn’t stand the idea of a fudgy banana then he wouldn’t be go anywhere near that place.

So at this point, all factors considered, including the fact that anal sex is more risky because of the absence of natural lubrication in the anus versus that of the vagina, making the anus more prone to lacerations due to friction which then become possible sites for exchange of bodily fluids, it seems that there is a higher chance in the homosexual pyramid for the HIV to be passed to the second level as compared to that of the heterosexual pyramid.

From the second level of the heterosexual side, the infected female will always be a receptive partner, primarily because she has nothing to insert. Second level males on the homosexual pyramid, on the other hand, can be purely receptive, or able to swing between being a receptive and an insertive partner, more commonly termed as versatile. Thus, at minimum, the infected second level male on the homosexual side will be as efficient in transmitting the virus as an infected second level female on the heterosexual side. But, should the infected second level male on the homosexual side suddenly turn insertive, the chances then multiply ten times.

Am I making sense? Are you still with me? Or have you nosebled to death?

Anyways, if we go further down the pyramids, it should make sense that further transmission of HIV in the homosexual one will indeed be more likely. Could this analysis be a logical explanation to the higher risk of transmission of HIV among homosexuals? I don’t really know.

Now I’m not saying everyone should turn heterosexual to make it less likely to contract HIV. Nor am I saying that everyone should confine themselves to oral sex so they will be completely excluded from either of my pyramids. Because any which way you look at it, no matter how small of a risk a sex act is, it is still a risk. Even if you say that there’s only a one-in-a-million chance, I say you just might be that unlucky one. Comprende?

So, now tell me, are you willing to take that risk?

- republished from Positivism's Ka-Blog!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pushing the Limits

Sigh. Remember the days. Those innocent days. The days when nice hair did the trick. The days when a deep voice sent your mind reeling. When beautiful eyes could melt you on the spot. When a sweet smile could make your jaw drop. When a gentle touch sent chills down your spine.

I remember those days. Those days are gone. I’ve dared to push past them. And past many of my limits, too.

Let’s just say I moved onto bigger things. My eyes would no longer be content with just hair, eyes and smiles. I remember the time when peeping into the sleeves of guys sitting across me in a jeepney and seeing their hairy armpits was one hell of a turn on. Then, when that wasn’t enough, I wanted to see guys in sandos or tank tops. And then I wanted to see more... bare chests.

From there, I liked seeing a guy’s treasure trail leading down into his pants or shorts. Then I came to savor every time I got a peek up the legs of a guy’s shorts. Remember those tommy-tommy days? And then I needed to see a guy in underwear or swim trunks, complete with the bulge and the pubes. And then even that wasn’t enough. I wanted to see them buck naked.

At first, of course, I would only get to see guys stripped down to the flesh in pictures. And then they were naked in pictures, having sex. Detailed sexual encounters were not far behind, be them in verbal or written form. And boy, could I picture every scene in my head. And then the pictures and stories merged, and I got to watch sex on videos. I didn’t even have to imagine anymore.

And from just watching them, I wanted to be with them… I wanted to be them. Seeing wasn’t enough. I wanted to touch them and be touched. I was mimicking what I saw in pictures and videos. And yes, I came to a point where I thought and believed I could even do better than some pictures and videos that I had seen. Oi, you’d be surprised…

Truly, I barely left anything to the imagination, and barely anything of me was left to the imagination either. I was pushing my sexual limits further and further. I would say I almost had no limits. I was just so game for anything. I dared. I enjoyed the dare.

I’m painting a picture of myself as such a daredevil right now, but believe me, I could’ve been worse. I could’ve pushed myself even more. When it comes to places I could go to, my limits were hardly ever pushed. When it comes to seedy and blatant places, I’m a wimp.

I have never been to a gay bar. Neither as a client, nor as someone who works there... just to make that clear. I just always thought that, unless I had money to “ipit in the singit”, it would just be a feast for the eyes, and it’d just leave me with blue balls and a heavy puson. Aside of course from the fact that I feel it’s going to be a waste of money.

I have never been to a bathhouse, or gay club, or whatever you call these F-, Q-, and E-type places. I always worried about being labeled as the new putahe of the place. Yeah, pretty paranoid, I know. Not knowing who I’m going to be groping with in the dark doesn’t help either. And again, there’s the fact that I think it is an unnecessary expense.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been to a massage place once. I already knew I was HIV-positive at the time, so I knew my limits. Plus I went with a friend, so I wasn’t going to be there cruising or anything. I was told that it was actually a legit massage place, even though it’s clear that staring at others’ nakedness is acceptable in the wet area, and the sauna has so many dark hidden corners very inducive to doing steamy stuff. But I was really just there for the massage. And that first and only body massage ever was great. Fine, I admit, I ended up giving a blowjob to the friend I went with, but honestly, 99% of the time there was spent just relaxing. Okay, fine, 90%.

Dance clubs are a different thing. Yeah, I’ve been to a couple. I don’t think sex is supposed to happen there, but, especially if it’s somewhere in Malate, it becomes pink and seedy nonetheless. I mean, yeah, people are there dancing, but you’ll notice that some guys’ eyes are dancing around more than their bodies are. Minus points for the paranoid and anti-social like me, and the taunting of my claustrophobia in these places doesn’t help either.

So far, I think my limits with motels are those which I pushed to the limit. The privacy they afford does wonders for introverts like me. I’ve been to a lot of them, especially prior to my finding out I was HIV-positive. The first time I was actually able to step into a motel was back when I was 17. I know. Menor de edad.

It can be awkward going into a motel as a same-sex pair, but several years ago, I realized that females going in with their boyfriends have much more to “lose” in terms of dignity than I do. I’m not sure if it was a turn for the better or the worse, but no longer was I ashamed to be seen walking into a motel with another guy. People working there know what happens behind all those doors. And hypocrisy and judgment were not part of their job descriptions. See, that’s how far south my mentality has gone.

So really, my limits have been getting pushed. Some of them, at least. I have dared. But I tend to question myself. When should one stop daring? When should one stop pushing his limits?

At this point in my life, post-HIV and all, I’m starting to notice I’m not pushing my limits – sexual limits, specifically – as much anymore. Of course, it helps that I’ve pretty much pushed all my limits already. And in all that pushing, I hardly have any regrets. I can almost confidently say Been there, Done that to most things. I may have tried almost everything at least once... sans of course sex with the opposite gender. Okay, I’ve tried at least everything that fits my principles. O diba, I have principles daw?!

So maybe I’ve stopped pushing my sexual limits. Why? It’s not because I’ve gotten too old for it. And neither is it because I’m HIV-positive. I could have sex if I wanted to. But that’s the thing, I no longer want to. I’m beginning to realize I no longer need to. I mean, I want to have sex, but allow me to be cheesy and say I want something much more meaningful this time. Okay, that really sounded cheesy.

Basta, it feels like I’m beginning to see that I no longer need to prove anything to myself. I don’t need to be constantly daring myself and pushing my limits... not sexually, at least. That’s not a bad thing, right? KJ ba? Baka kunin na ako ni Lord? Don’t worry. I’m still me... complete with all the fetishes, kink, fantasies and horniness. I’m just taking more control. I’m daring to limit. And I’m limiting the dare. But for life’s other dares, just keep ‘em coming! Push on! Push on!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Funder Blunder

The Philippines and HIV have made headlines again. International headlines at that. It’s just a shame that it’s not something good. And nope, it wasn’t even anything about the number of deaths, new infections or prevalence or anything like that. It was something even more controversial. I doubt if you could even fathom it.

But then again, in the Philippines, anything can happen.

Global Fund grants have been directed towards efforts for three major areas of concern: Malaria, Tuberculosis, and HIV. The Global Fund has given over US$200 million in grants to the Philippines, a part of which is instrumental in affording free ARVs to 636 of us Filipinos who live with HIV, as well as the provision of other services, programs and efforts in line with HIV. And now, this funding has been suspended. Yes, suspended. What happened?

The Global Fund has three Principal Recipients of its grants for HIV to the Philippines: Pilipinas Shell Foundation, the Department of Health or DOH, and the Tropical Disease Foundation or TDF. And one of them has racked up over US$195 million in grants, of which US$1,000,000 remains unaccounted for. You’d expect it to be the DOH, because of the reputation of the Philippine government and its officials... but surprisingly, it’s not the DOH.

I first encountered the TDF during my debut into the HIV world, back when I was still frantically searching online. I was searching for information, and individuals and groups that could possibly help me out. I chanced onto their website, and remember sending an e-mail to someone from their HIV program, whose e-mail address I found on the site. I was simply asking what kind of assistance they provided, and if I could be eligible for any of it considering I was just diagnosed with HIV. Sadly, I never received any reply from them.

As the Principal Recipients of the Global Fund, I’m guessing that from the TDF and the other Principal Recipients, the money gets distributed to the grassroots institutions like the RITM and San Lazaro, as well as organizations like our faaaaavorite NGOs. But then of course, as the top-level beneficiaries to the grants, it is the Principal Recipients who are held accountable for whatever money they received... an accountability and a responsibility that the TDF has allegedly forgotten.

According to reports, the TDF has failed to properly account for US$1,000,000 of the grants that it has received from Global Fund. The Global Fund has coined the amount as “unauthorized expenditures”. As a result, the Global Fund has opted to suspend further funding until the whole amount has been accounted for or reimbursed. US$1,000,000?! Almost PhP50,000,000?! Good luck with that.

Indeed, good luck is what is needed, especially for us who should be benefitting directly from the grant. Because of the controversy that the TDF has fallen into, Global Fund is said to have suspended enrollment of new beneficiaries into the program. New beneficiaries, as in new pusits. Which I think means no one will be starting their HIV journeys under the support of Global Fund in the meanwhile. Fortunately, the way I understand it, for us who are already under the programme, the support will continue. Whew.

I’m not going to go on ranting to whomever and at whatever at this point. I certainly do not know all the details. Of course, I do still hope against the possibility of the money making its way towards the personal gain of those who should not have been benefitting from it. We all know how money can make the world go ‘round... and how it can harden hearts and cloud minds. Hopefully, it’s just some administrative or accounting glitch that we’re dealing with here. Only heaven knows what really happened to that money.

One solution that is being looked into, I believe, is to replace the TDF as Principal Recipient of their part of the grant. Meetings for this have been scheduled for October 19th. It is said that the DOH is being eyed to fill the void. And if I understand it right, once the new Principal Recipient of TDF’s part of the grant has been established, the support will also be reinstated along with it. My fingers are crossed that it will really be that easy.

I’m running on my last month’s supply of ARVs. I’m scheduled to get a refill sometime November. Should I be worried that the next time I go to get a refill, I might not get any? Not yet. Not at this point, at least. Until someone comes up to me and says, “I’m sorry B.I.T.C.H., we’re no longer going to be able to provide free ARVs from now on,” I refuse to be bothered. Worrying just won’t help.

I see “suspended” as postponed, deferred, or delayed. Not stopped. Meaning it can go back to how it was before. I’m really trying to stay positive in all senses of the word. I’m just thankful that the Global Fund has not decided to completely cut its ties with the country and its beneficiaries here altogether... myself included. I know that as someone who may be directly affected by this problem, it should be easy for me to crucify anyone who may be the cause of this controversy. But you know what, if there is indeed anyone letting greed run his show, then I leave him to his karma.

Read more on this story from the Global Fund and the Philippine Star, and the response of the Tropical Disease Foundation to the allegations.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Issue 3, Finally!

Positivism LogoOMG! OMFG!

It's here! It's here! It's finally, finally here!

After a lot of delays and a long wait, it's here!

It's here! It's here! It's finally, finally here!

The third and latest issue of Positivism is finally out. And acceptance is the name of the game. Check it out at Finally! Whew!

Positivism Issue 3


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Über Proud

I took a day off from work this Tuesday that just passed. Nope, I wasn’t sick or anything. No emergency either. I just had stuff to take care of.

What can I say? I’m in demand.

Hehehe, just kidding. I just really needed to do some stuff, that’s all.

I woke up and left my usual time, but in just a pair of shorts and flip-flops. I was to take a trip to the Social Hygiene Clinic in Manila. The first time again since almost a year ago. I met up with someone who I encountered thru Positivism, to accompany him to get tested. Honestly, with his nursing background, he was at the point where he knew too much for his own good. That didn’t leave much for me to do other than give emotional support and lighten the mood. Seeing Dra. Diana and Nurse Malou there was great. They did recognize me and seemed happy to see me, too.

So I got my new friend pricked, and we waited an hour for the results of the Rapid Test, which really wasn’t too rapid. Ate Malou was saying it was the routing of the results for signature that took a while. We whiled away the time chatting it up with her and the volunteer who was on duty. After an hour, jubilance. He was negative for HIV. Woohoo!

From there, I headed home to take lunch and change into pants for an afternoon meeting. I had been corresponding closely for the past few months with someone from the Department of Education, who watched me on GMA’s Think Positive and contacted me through this blog. I could sense he understood and shared the advocacy. And soon he mentioned that they were coming up with an HIV module which they might need help with. I was game... but didn’t really know what exactly I was getting into. Hehe.

A couple of weeks ago, he told me they were setting up a day to meet with me and the other resource person. Wow, so I was a resource person? I was wondering who the other one would be, but soon found out it was none other than my good friend, E! We were pretty happy and relieved to realize we would be in it together. I dunno, there’s just a level of comfort that we get from going through new things together. Well, for me at least, that’s the case.

So we met up and headed to the DepEd compound in Ortigas. We really had no idea what the meeting would be about. Mr. DepEd had mentioned that an HIV Specialist from UNICEF would be attending too, which gave us an idea of how big and how serious this was going to be. Ergo, seeing E in pants and shoes for a change was more appropriate than hilarious. I was nervous, honestly.

Getting there, we finally met Mr. DepEd, and were asked to wait a while in the conference room. Soon after, we were joined by four other ladies from the DepEd, as well as the pretty, statuesque German lady from UNICEF. This is really is it. Gulp. It turned out, this was for a Training of Trainers thing on HIV issues, set for November and December, for faculty and student leaders of schools nationwide. I know... Whoa.

Apparently, with what Mr. DepEd had known about E and I, our reputations had preceded us. We were both known to be HIV-positive bloggers. I graduated from reputable schools, and was editor of Positivism. E was an opinionated dude who has braved all odds and was about to get published. All true, all true. But little did we know that this was just the start of our proving our cases that we would be good resource persons... resource persons who were going to give our testimonials, help to put a face to HIV, and be part of an open forum, speaking in front of crowds of at around a hundred. Yikes.

E and I both got grilled a bit regarding the stories of our lives. But knowing E and I, we could tell nothing more than what was the truth. We’re both pretty much at a point where we’re responsible for the mistakes we’ve made but still have much to be thankful for, so certainly we weren’t going to be sugarcoating anything we were going to say.

For E, it was pretty awkward to talk about his having to exchange money for sex, his drug addiction, and how he veered off track from his family. For me, the awkwardness was more about the issue of homosexuality and my apparent issues on disclosure, not being able to tell my family about my condition.

I wouldn’t say we were defending ourselves the whole time. We weren’t trying to be perfect. It was more of like we were trying to help them understand all the factors behind who we are. After all, this may have just been the first time for some of the people there to have met and talked to people who were living with HIV. So were we going to be perfect role models for the youth of today? Certainly not. But what I can say is that we weren’t bad images of people living with HIV to leave with an audience.

You should’ve seen us. We were handling the embarrassing questions, making our awkward confessions, shocking the hell out of the dignified ladies, making jokes, laughing at ourselves, but all the while making our points and, I believe, helping them understand. I realize now that it was such a light mood to be in, considering we were talking about HIV and AIDS. And that’s the way it should be. Very Positivism.

Leaving, E and I talked about what just transpired. We weren’t sure exactly how we did, but it was clear we were happy with what we did. We certainly had no regrets. Most would probably wonder why DepEd approached individuals like us instead of the existing NGOs. But for E and I, based on how we know the NGOs think and work, we doubt if it would be anything more than a pity fit if they were subjects.

Our bewilderment about whether we passed or not was put to some ease by a couple of text messages I received. Mr. DepEd said he was initially worried that we might have taken offense from some of the questions thrown at us, but was glad that we handled ourselves well. Ms. UNICEF meanwhile said she admired the positive attitude, and the patience with which the questions were faced. He added that he was now sure of the success of the event, while she hoped we would be indeed available for the training course. Wow, does that mean... I know, let’s wait and see. But I’m still amazed myself.

I’ve told E how über proud I was of us both, but really, I was über-düber proud of E in particular. Because other than the PSP he was carrying around yesterday, he was the man. He’s really come a long way, and he’s just such a changed man, I believe. And allow me to be a proud kuya.

So there, that was the huge adventure I had with E yesterday. At this point, it was a huge, huge opportunity offered to us. Humongous if we push through. So watch out, Subic and Cebu! The B.I.T.C.H.-E tandem might just be coming your way!


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Ex Factor

MetallicaI haven’t seen Papi since our first date almost a month ago. Thanks to being busy with my aunt’s passing away, plus the two typhoons that just happened to ravage the country on successive weekends… yeah, it was like I had a date one weekend with Ondoy, and another with Pepeng the next. Papi almost got jealous. Hehehe.

But I’ll be honest, I did have a date... a human one... and it wasn’t Papi.

I was on my prior-to-HIV YM account some weeks ago, after being off it for so long, when I got a message from a familiar name. It was my ex-boyfriend asking how I’ve been. He was my third boyfriend, from way back 8 or 9 years ago. After our break up, we’d managed to transcend to becoming friends. I mean, we weren’t meeting up anymore, but we were able to stay in touch.

Every time we’d catch each other online, he’d ask how I was doing. A simple question to answer supposedly, but it wasn’t. It was different. I mean I was okay, but I was different. He knew of how wild I could be, and was just so curious about not seeing me online anymore. He guessed that I was probably in a relationship. But after hearing that I’d been single for almost two years, things just didn’t make sense. He knew me well enough to know something was up.

Hold on. Now let me make clear first that this was not a case of love being lovelier the second time around. Nope, he wasn’t interested in getting back together with me. He had a boyfriend, and they’d been living in with each other for several years already. We were just friends... who just happened to be a couple before. Yep, it’s possible.

So anyways, given that we’d known each other for so long, he knew me well enough to know something was up. So from the lack of an excuse, plus the fact that I had no reason to keep secrets from him, I told him. I told him I had been dealing with HIV. I couldn’t really read how shocked he was from the way he chatted, but he did say he was saddened by the news. And with that, he insisted that we meet.

With my little secret out of the way, I had no reason not to see him. I’m confident I didn’t put him at risk of infection, despite the fact that we did it unprotected back when we were still a couple. Yep, I was still at the dawn of my sexual awakening back then. Much, much less adventurous than I’ve become now. And we hadn’t had sexual contact since breaking up years ago.

Honestly, when I was starting out my HIV journey, back when I was still with San Lazaro, he came to mind. Mostly it was because of what was then an apparent need to have someone with me – a friend or family member – before they would start me on ARVs. He lived extremely close to San Lazaro, which is why I have him to thank for my being familiar with the area. I considered asking for his help if I had no choice, but didn’t want to be an inconvenience. But I’d transferred to the RITM soon after, and that time never came.

Back to the present. One evening after work, I took a trip other than the way home... to the same mall we used to frequent together. So going there really brought back memories. Not necessarily good or bad, but memories nonetheless.

He got to the mall first. I got there some minutes later. Walking to him, I didn’t know what he was thinking. I’m sure he wasn’t ashamed of what had become of me, nor was he going to reprimand me for what had happened. I mean, we weren’t like that before. I was always the kid to him, him being 10 years my senior. But I think I’ve gained more than my kid’s share of respect from him at this point. So I wasn’t going to need to defend myself to him. But from the look on his face, I think he just felt some pity. It was pity that I was planning on changing.

If meeting with me was his way of reassuring me of his support through my supposed endeavor, meeting with him was my way of showing him and proving to him that I was okay, and that I was still the same old me, at least, or hopefully even better.

I mean, 8 or 9 years ago, I was certainly a different me. Maybe I was less mature and less experienced. But that many years passing can really change a person. I mean deep inside I’m still me, but experiences and learnings should’ve changed me somehow, right?

So of course, other than strolling around, having dinner and lounging around, the evening was primarily filled with catching up. I did have him read through this blog prior to us meeting, just so he had an idea of how long a journey we were going to have to recap. He had a lot of questions which I gamely answered, and of course, I had him share all about his life as well.

On the most part, he was supportive. But he was peeved when he found out that I didn’t call on him during the time that I needed someone with me. And then of course he was pissed that I hadn’t told my mom about my condition yet. Argh. But he understood it wasn’t going to be easy for me. But still, I got the scolding. Argh again. I know he’s just concerned, but he was still treating me like a kid. Hmp, si lolo talaga! Hehe. Just kidding!

Anyway, pretty soon, I think we got to where I wanted us to be. I was joking around with him, just like we were before, and he was not getting all my punchlines, just like we were before. Hehehe. We blame it on the age gap, but we just laugh it off now, unlike before. But really the bottom line was that he knew that I was okay, I knew he was okay, and we knew we were okay.

Since that time, we’ve had dinner one more time, and he’s even managed to get himself tested for HIV at the Social Hygiene Clinic. So he met my Dr. Diana Mendoza and my territory there. I do think he was getting tested regularly whenever he donated blood, but still I was so proud. Happily, he’s negative.

We do plan on meeting up again sometime. Maybe I’ll get to meet his hubby. Or he did say he’d want to check out Papi as well. Aba, kikilatisin pa! Schucks, strict ang lolo ko, no? Hehehe, kidding!

So there. That was my date. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a date-date. Otherwise Papi could kill me. It was a friendly date. This friend just happened to be one which I was carrying over into my new poz life. Nothing bad about that. Nothing bad about the ex-factor.