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, February 06, 2010

Salamat, Doc

First, there was call centers. Then there was gimmick places. Yes, of course, there’s more. If before, unnecessary generalizations were made seemingly meant to mislead and scare people witless, this time, it’s different. It seems that ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol World got tired of generalizing. They decided to single out persons living with HIV… but it was not any less unnecessary, nor misleading, nor scary. Take a look and see for yourselves.

Sumusuong. It sort of strikes me in the context of accepting the challenge. The first statement says it all: Amidst the growing number of cases of HIV in the Philippines, is the lack of doctors and medical practitioners who are accepting the challenge of treating patients with this disease. A challenge. Should we be flattered that we are considered a challenge? Or does it say more about the kind of doctors we’re coming up with in this country?

Apparently, aside from sex workers and gays (argh, I’m again loving the generalization), one other high risk group is that of medical professionals who deal with us who are infected. They say not many dare to care for those with HIV because of the risks of infection involved, being constantly exposed to infected blood. The report goes on to cite that in the past two years, already more than ten medical health workers have tested positive with HIV.

Just a random thought. Was it established that these medical professionals did contract the virus through occupational hazards? Because from my experience, medical professionals do have sex, too. And also from my experience having sex with some medical professionals, they don’t always do it protected either. So could it be that it is easier for them to claim and blame occupational hazards, than admit to having careless sexual encounters? Two words: saving face.

And besides, exposure to blood and infected body fluids won’t make for a surefire transmission of the virus. There has to be a point of entry as well. I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t be using their vaginas or assholes to draw blood, right? So maybe there was a cut or open wound. Aren’t medical professionals trained to protect themselves with gloves and what have you? If something went wrong, must the patient be blamed, or could it be because they were not observing proper procedure, were not properly trained, or had committed some form of human error?

And the precautionary measures? Don’t you think that’s overkill? Fine. Gloves, I can understand.

But masks? It’s not like you can get infected with HIV by sharing the same air we breathe. Fine, in cases of tuberculosis or pneumonia or some airborne infections, it may be needed. But state it clearly. Masks are unnecessary if it’s just HIV. It’s more like medical personnel need to wear masks to protect us HIV-positives, who are more susceptible to simple infections. Ain’t that right?

And eyeshields and needleless systems? I’ve never seen blood drawn without needles in this country, unless you wait for all of us to menstruate maybe. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe, when done correctly, drawing of blood and procedures involving needles should not result in fountains of blood. So might it be again possible that human error may cause such risks?

The story with Dr. Jenny was laughable. "Tinalsikan" was the word that the reporter used. The way it was stated that the patient seemingly purposely splattered her eyes with infected blood was ridiculous, even as she admits herself that it happened as the nurse was removing the naso-gastric tube. Clearly, it was an accident on the part of the medical personnel. It’s not like the patient aimed his squirting blood directly at her eyes on purpose. Imagine how much skill that would entail on the part of the patient.

And besides, if medical experts are indeed experts, they should know that there are proper engineering controls and work practices that reduce the risk of exposure to infected fluids. Aside from that, there is a post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP that is performed for cases of exposure to reduce the likelihood of infection. So again, is it the fault of the patient, or might medical personnel not be properly trained and informed to handle such cases?

And why single out people with HIV? Precautionary measures to avoid occupational hazards are actually similar for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne infections. Of course, I’m one of the unique cases because I have both Hepatitis B and HIV, but how about the rest who just have HIV? Why must you single them out to be feared?

And lastly, we can only talk here about those of us who actually know our HIV-positive statuses. Does this mean that you wouldn’t need to take as much precaution with those who have not declared that they are HIV-positive? Did it ever occur to you medical professionals that a great many more of us who are HIV-positive do not even know that they have the virus? Would it then make more sense to point out the need to observe a universal protocol of precaution with all patients regardless of implied, perceived, or actual HIV status?

Just some questions that run through my mind hearing this blatant report on the fear of those who are supposedly informed about medical practices and conditions. Maybe it’s time for the PGH and the DOH to start re-evaluating the challenges of caring for those living with HIV. A challenge? Again, should we be flattered that we are considered a challenge? Or does it say more about the kind of doctors we’re coming up with in this country? With all due respect, please consider that. Salamat, Doc.



hala bira! dont stop BITCH be a real BITCh when it comes to mistakes and poor researches and use of words by the media. Do not stop lambasting them until you have made them hear what you want to say!!!

The Green Man said...

Clap, clap, clap (while standing).

Well said sweety. Sometimes, i feel proud for being a Poz because I am more sensitive on the needs of others (Poz or not).

From expirience, there are a number (big number) of health workers of all sort that do not practice the universal protocol of precaution.. I even had to point out to the med tech that did my blood extraction for a pre-employment requirement that she need to wear gloves... and she answered me with the stupidest retaliation..."Kasi hindi ko maramdaman e" Maramdaman ang alin? and then I told her... e pano pala kung HIV + ako... ayun natakot, nag gloves! LOL.

Anyway, it's such a shame that they keep pointing at the Poz community as the hazard where in fact they too are hazardous to us.

The government and hospitals alike, should start EDUCATING and TRAINING their medical staff in handling HIV cases.

People fear what they don't know and those who do not dare find answers to what they don't know is COWARD!

Alex said...

They really make it sound as if it's so easy to acquire HIV without sexual interaction. You're right, someone should and they better make it quick to filter what ABS is airing because instead of educating people, they're just adding to the stigma.

Yj said...

hi po...i need a favor. i am working on my thesis about blogging and i need respondents... i hope you could participate... just answer the questionnaire from my most recent post... only if you have time...:) thanks....

Alex said...

Why do they always interview people from PGH? Aren't the people from San Lazaro or RITM more qualified and more sensitive since they have MORE experience?

Ned said...

Hello Sir!
I'm a follower of your blog and I love your writing style.
Me and my dance crew are organizing an information drive about HIV in our community, I hope you can help us as to where to get more info. Hopefully we'll be able to speak with you personally too one day. Our moderator can be contacted at 0918-4390123. I hope you can help us. Thanks and more power to you! - Ned