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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Test: Taking Two

March 31, 2010. The last day of March. The end of the first quarter of the year. The 90th day of the year, 91st for leap years. The birthday of such famed personalities as father of modern philosophy Rene Descartes, civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, former United States vice-president Al Gore, and Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi actor, Ewan McGregor.

But for me, March 31st has, in recent years, taken on a new meaning.

Flashback to two years ago. I remember it was a Monday. A regular working day supposedly. But waking up early, I was not going my usual route to Ortigas for work. I took a ride to the Manila area. It’s not easy to believe that it’s already been two years. It was exactly two years ago, on the fateful day of March 31, 2008, that I had finally gone to get tested for HIV. It was to be my first... and my last.

I remember how much of a fool I made of myself just getting tested. I mean, I had been wanting to get tested for a while already. Take note, I wanted to get tested. It never occurred to me that I needed to get tested. I had finally decided to get tested maybe a couple of weeks before. I was actually outside the gate of the Social Hygiene Clinic already the week before.

Yep, you read it right. I was just outside the gate. I never made it inside the week before. My paranoia got to me. I mean I got my feet to take me to Manila, but couldn’t get past all my fears enough to take myself up those final few steps to the second floor to actually get tested. So I chickened out and just headed off instead. Hehehe.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I chickened out. It was all about my being scared.

I don’t really think I was thinking along the lines of “What if I test positive for HIV?” I think I knew already that I wasn’t exactly going to get the results right away. And I definitely wasn’t thinking that far ahead.

It was more about my reputation. I mean, yeah, I knew within myself that my rePUTAtion wasn’t going to be damaged that much. But I know my worries included “What are they going to think of me?”, “What if they judge me?”, and “Will getting tested make me less of a person in the eyes of others?”

Based on other people’s reactions to getting tested, I think I’m pretty normal to have thought that way. Even now that I know a lot about HIV, I know it’s still the normal way for Filipinos to react. But I also know that it’s sad.

It’s sad that one has to feel that tortured just getting tested for HIV. It’s sad that we live in a culture that fosters that kind of judgment against people who are just concerned for their health. It’s sad that it takes so much effort to realize that getting tested is a good thing, both for yourself and for others.

Whenever I hear of people who have gotten tested or have at least decided to get tested, I always tell them that they should be proud of themselves. Because the truth is, not everyone is brave enough to do it.

And when I hear of people who know they need to but are too afraid to get tested, I just think they should be told that if they were brave enough to take the risk, then they should just suck it up and be equally brave enough to get tested. I kind of wish someone hammered that point into my head two years ago.

Wow. Two years. It doesn’t really seem that long ago. Two years has brought about a lot of change. Now, there already are Rapid HIV Tests in the country, which can give you results in no more than an hour. Back in 2008, I needed to wait over two weeks for my results.

Back then, I had no one to go through the experience with nor did I know who to approach. The traditional NGOs, you couldn’t find or get in touch with. I’m glad I took a chance on the Social Hygiene Clinic in Manila. Now, it’s so refreshing to see even my HIV-positive friends have taken on the chance to convince and accompany friends and even strangers to get tested. Baby steps, but a start nonetheless.

And bloggers? Whereas before, I couldn’t even connect myself to this blog because the HIV NGOs themselves were making it heard that they were against blogging openly about living with HIV. Why? I don’t know. Well, now there are already over 20 in my Poz Posse blog list... need I say more? Well, I don’t remember getting any apologies.

Okay, I’ve rambled. Two years since getting tested. I’m glad I did it. It was to be a huge milestone whichever way the ball rolled. I just happened to turn out HIV-positive, but it ain’t all that bad. I’m still alive and kicking, right?!

And actually, as we speak, a team of counselors and medical personnel is on the way to Puerto Galera to conduct voluntary counseling and testing there. And that it was spearheaded by someone who is not HIV-positive is the amazing thing. Times really are a-changing.

So if you’re in Puerto Galera, this Holy Week, you might want to think about getting counseled and tested for HIV. Just look for the TAKE THE TEST booth on White Beach itself. It’s totally free, and totally for you. Two years ago, I did it. And I have no regrets at all about it. Do it for yourself, too. Take the Test.


Tristan Tan said...

I strongly support this. Get tested everyone! Goodluck.


Anonymous said...

How much do you know about HIV?

fishinthepacific said...

i agree. it seems to be my only regret, not gotten tested much earlier.

Trese said...

i think it was a success. im not sure about the number of people who got tested but a lot attended the 5-10min orientation... straight folks and gay folks. :)

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