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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Blame Game

Yoga for Life has been going on for nearly five months already. Every so often, our Yogi Bear and Babe make it a point to survey how the participants feel, both physically and mentally, so in the future an analysis could be done to produce concrete data on how yoga has benefited the participants. Along with that, they ask for feedback. Now while most of the feedback is positive, there has been negative feedback as well. One in particular, that piqued my... uhm... fancy.

During the celebration of one of the monthsaries, amid all the fun and laughter before the yoga practice, someone spoke up. After congratulating the community on the success of the program, this person pointed out that he did have one piece of negative feedback to give. I was a bit surprised actually... and curious. Everyone listened intently.

Apparently, one of his friends - someone HIV-positive - met someone else at one of the Yoga for Life sessions. And apparently they got it on. They had sex. They had unprotected sex. And what made it worse was that the person he had sex with was among the HIV-negatives who were there supporting the community. Oh boy, indeed.

As much as I wanted to speak out - biased as I would be towards Yoga for Life, yes I would defend the program to the death - I didn’t want to be a proponent to any outburst. I kept my mouth shut, but my mind was ranting throughout the yoga session. Relax, surrender and let go? My ass.

Really, the point I wanted to make was... What was the point exactly?!

It just wasn’t clear to me how that was supposed to be feedback on the Yoga for Life program. So they had sex. Fine. But unless they did it at the venue, on their yoga mats, in the middle of a yoga session, then what’s the deal? Is the Yoga for Life team expected to keep an eye on each and everyone each and every minute even outside the confines of the yoga session? It may just me, but I think not.

So certainly, the issue could have been brought up before our Yogi Bear and Babe and maybe the rest of the core group. But to have to subject even first time attendees to something like that was unthinkable... not to mention inconsiderate.

And the way it was made to seem like negative feedback on the program was outrageous. If someone had felt they’d been fouled, would it not have made more sense for that person to speak for himself? But no. A spokesperson ranted on his behalf. So to me, whether it was indeed meant to be negative feedback on the program from the person directly involved was still questionable.

Okay let me make it clear. It’s not that I don’t care that someone was put at risk. But HIV is not and should never be a blame game. But if you want it that way, let’s play.

So HIV-positive got acquainted with HIV negative. Now really, should Yoga for Life have prevented that?

So HIV-positive and HIV-negative got it on and got carried away. That’s their right. But that’s their responsibility as well.

So maybe HIV-negative assumed they were both negative. Never, ever assume. Blame awareness and education, or the lack thereof.

So maybe HIV-positive assumed they were both positive. Still, protection is for everyone, even HIV-positives. And not just to protect their partners. Did HIV-positive forget about superinfection? Did he forget about other sexually transmitted infections? Who’s to blame for that?

So on that note, if HIV-positive really meant to blame Yoga for Life for what happened, on what basis?

As someone who already was and already knew he was HIV-positive, it can be expected that he would know all about HIV. So for me, if there’s anyone to blame, it would be whoever it was who gave this guy HIV counseling, whether it’s his doctor, his nurse, or his peer counselor. He obviously didn’t learn much if he actually thought he could play victim and blame a yoga program for his misfortune.

Actually, from the beginning, I questioned whether this was actually a rant from HIV-positive, or just his spokesperson telling a story adding his own ranting tone and feel. And recently, I confirmed what it was.

I initially didn’t know who HIV-positive was. Until, during a recent yoga session, I unexpectedly happened to hear something. It was a guy, telling his yoga friend, about how he hooked up with someone at yoga after he tested positive, and how that person thankfully still turned out negative after being tested after the hook up. I thought to myself, “So, it was you.”

It was interesting how the guy told his story. A bit cocky, without a tinge of remorse. Sort of proud, even. Hello, he told it loud enough for me to hear, right? Wisely, his yoga friend pointed out how there was still that little complication of the window period and how he shouldn‘t rest on his laurels just yet. That was the last I heard.

Clearly, it seemed HIV-positive didn’t get the full impact of what happened. And as much as I wanted to pull him aside and slap some sense into him, it would be counterproductive to subject him to public humiliation. And I’m sure if I took him on in a blame game, he would’ve lost.

I’m still tempted to pull him aside one of these days and engage him in a bit of counseling. But it will have to be done discreetly, as I have no plans of intimidating him, scaring him, or shaming him into oblivion.

My point will simply be... enough with the blame game. Take responsibility for your actions. Sex is a personal thing. So don’t even attempt to have a spokesperson speak up for you.

And a spokesperson too should know his limits. Stop spoon feeding. If someone is old enough to produce sperm, then he should be old enough to take responsibility, too. He’s too old to be playing the blame game. And neither should you take on playing the blame game for him.

This is a lesson that applies to everyone. Take responsibility. It applies even to safe sex. Take responsibility for yourself. Protect yourself. It’s your right. It’s your responsibility.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Money Matters

I’ve been feeling a financial crunch lately - on a personal level, that is. Right now, I have less than PhP 200.00 in my wallet. That’s pretty decent on a regular day. But it’s a weekend. And even before the gimmick worthy night creeps in, I’m already concerned. We usually have lunch out at work every Friday. So I’ve been forced to feign a diet and watch what I eat. Not for the calories, but for the pesos I’ll be spending.

Oi. Money. They say it makes the world go ‘round. If there’s any truth to that, then my world is coming to a screeching halt.

Okay fine, I’m not really that broke. It’s just that for my last few paydays, I seem to have racked up a good amount of expenses. Let’s do some accounting.

Naturally, daily expenses are there. Commutes to and from work, meals and other incidentals at work are staples. If only I could stop at staples. There are the monthly bills to pay, of course. But wait, there’s more!

The first spend that I remember is also the most remarkable. Christmas. I’m not excited, but a sale makes it too easy. This early, I’ve bought Christmas gifts for both my mom and myself. Remarkable, I say, because buying an LCD television for each of us isn’t a joke. One of the rare times I’ve allowed myself to eat into my savings. I rationalize it with the sale price, the savings on electricity I stand to gain, and the look of disbelief on my mom’s face when her least successful child offers to pay for a little bit of luxury. Hehehe.

And then there are all those tests I needed to pay for when I last paid RITM a visit for my CD4 count. Over PhP 2,000.00 worth, and I’m not even done yet. They say I need to go back for a repeat of my RPR to check if my syphilis is indeed still active. Argh. Another thousand there.Recently, I offered to shoulder medications for someone confined at the RITM. Considering it wasn’t anyone I knew, I really didn’t need to help. But the way Ate pulled me aside and told me how this person’s mother would choose walk to and from the drugstore every day just to save on fare, my heartstrings were pulled. With an unexpectedly small amount, I was able to cover her needs for a month. At least, her mom can lay off the walkathon for a month.

My exercise regimen is something I’ve added. There’s Yoga for Life. Of course, the sessions are really free, but any donations are used to shoulder the cost of the venue. Indigent students aren’t expected to donate if they can’t. But then, HELLO! I’ve got my pride. I am NOT indigent. So I give what I can to shoulder my share. Take that! Oh, and I have been in the process of putting together some way to work out at home. I have my yoga mat, a bench, and my first installment of dumbbells. Slowly but surely, so the costs come slowly as well. Hehe.

My little Bastard is another factor. It’s like having a kid. I get carried away shopping for stuff for him. A cage, food, toiletries, pee & poop pads, leashes & collars, a little carry bag, and lots of toys. And it’s depressing when he foregoes his toys to play with the plastic bag. Argh.

And as my first official dog, I’ve made it a point to get friendly with a vet for him. All the consultations, vitamins and shots really rack up as well. Good thing he got his last set of shots last week. Whew. He’s good till next year, we just gotta keep him healthy. It’s bad enough that I wasn’t careful enough to keep my own doctor away, so I’m bringing him up the right way now. Yep, even in the canine world, prevention is better than the cure.

And then of course, we cannot forget this little relationship that I’m in. I don’t know if I speak for anyone else, but dating can be expensive. Especially for me, since I’m coupled with someone who won’t let a week pass without seeing me at least twice. The dinners and movies are fun, but then he’s not the eat-just-anywhere type. He needs restaurants with decent food and excellent service, which means no Burger Machines and Aling Nena‘s Carinderias. But neither am I the freeloading type. I pay for my fair share of the tab. Yep, that’s proud little me.

So there. I’m maxed out. Well I’m not exactly broke. It’s my miserly fault too for doing everything in my power not to touch what I already have in savings.

So at this point, I need to beg. From you. From anyone out there. Not for myself, but for my beneficiary at the RITM I mentioned earlier. She’s confined right now, and is on medication for six months. A cocktail of medicines for some sort of respiratory infection, I think. Based on the per piece prices I got at the Generics Pharmacy, here’s the damage:
~ Rifampicin, 450 mg - PhP 8.25
~ Isoniazid, 300 mg - PhP 1.30
~ Ethambutol, 2 x 200 mg - PhP 4.20 each
~ PZA or P2A, 500 mg - PhP 3.50

Sorry, I’m just reading off the prescription Ate wrote out for me. So this is her daily regimen, which racks up to just a bit over PhP 20.00 a day. Not bad for us who are financially able. Compare that to some of our daily luxuries, right? But the reality of things is that one trip through Starbucks can already mean about a week of life to some who really need it.

So with that, I’d like to once again extend my plea to those of you who’d like to help. Please, please, please? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you already know my contact, or via e-mail,

For now, I remain budget conscious myself, and will draw upon the easy-to-please side of me. But I’ll be trying to do what I can as well. Thank heavens it was payday yesterday. Because money or not, the world will - and should - continue to go ‘round.


Monday, October 04, 2010

The Verdict

It’s that time of year again. It’s been a long awaited day.

Long due, and long overdue even.

I‘m kinda excited, yes. But with a tinge of anxiety maybe.

It's time. It's time. It’s time to go and get my CD4 count.

I need to have my CD4 count done twice a year, every six months. Supposedly, my schedule is to have it done every February and August. I had been coordinating with a number of people who wanted to tag along with me. There was my calf-caressing friend, who was also due for his CD4 count, and there were two newbies who needed to go to RITM. One needed to get his confirmatory test, while the other already had his confirmatory result with him and was meaning to start his own HIV journey.

If you recall, I got a med refill just in the third week of August. I could have, but purposely didn’t get my CD4 count done that same day just because of the plan we put together. At first, we planned to go on the last Friday of August. Fortunately, I was able to text Ate a couple of days before to advise that I was planning to go. Unfortunately, Ate informed me that they were having problems with the CD4 machine. So I had to call the plan off.

It was a bummer because coordinating four different schedules wasn’t an easy task and at this point all went to waste. Even worse? On the day itself intended to go, Ate texted me that they were able to have the machine fixed. But the advise came only in the afternoon. Too late for the 10:00 am cut off for CD4 batching. Too late as well to even try to salvage our little plan. Argh.

Our little group fell apart. My calf-caressing friend had gone to get his CD4 count alone before I could put together a new plan. One of my newbies couldn’t take a leave from work anytime soon to make the trip. And then there were two. My newbie and I came up with another plan to go September 23rd, a Thursday. We had already both filed our respective leaves from work, and so it was set.

I arrived at the meeting place exactly as planned, 7:00 am at the Ayala MRT station. I was texting constantly with my newbie, and unfortunately, he was running late. It was fine. I sat amidst all the other tambays and waited patiently. In about half an hour, he arrived. Apparently, he had opted to take a cab and got stuck in traffic. Not so bad, there was time to spare, anyway.

So we hopped on a bus to Alabang, as I made sure to point out some landmarks to give him an idea of the route we were taking. We got talking about different things, but nothing too cerebral or serious, as we were both nutritionally challenged and possibly mentally slow, as we had both been fasting wince the evening before in preparation for our blood tests.

We got to RITM past 8:00. We went straight to the clinic. Ate wasn’t there, but our two other nurses were. My purpose there, to get all my tests done, was simple enough. Routine even. But for my newbie, we were really trying to get everything he needed done within the day because it wasn’t easy for him to take leaves from work.

Based on experience, they would have newbies talk with the doctor first, and schedule tests another day. My newbie didn’t have that luxury of time. So I had asked Ate prior to our even planning to go if it would be possible to get everything done in one day. Fortunately, they were willing to give it a shot, with the condition that we show up early, before the cut-off time for the CD4s, and be ready for all the tests, fasting and all.

He sat patiently while waiting for the doctor, while one of our nurses put together all the requests for my blood tests. Apparently, sonce it was the anniversary of my pozzie-ness, a lot of tests would be done in addition to the usual CD4 count, CBC and blood chemistry, especially since my HIV infection came with some “friends“.

First, I needed to get my Hepatitis profile done, apparently to check if my Hepatitis B was still active… although I thought once you had it it’d forever be active. I needed to get a Quantitative RPR done too, to check how my Syphilis infection is doing, or the lack thereof. There were a couple of more tests I needed to pay for. All in all, it totaled to over PhP 2,000.00. Argh. A bit steep, but it was needed and I was prepared.

So took my route through the cashier, to the x-ray section, and onto the lab to have my blood extracted. When my turn came, I tried to make it a good experience, for myself and for everyone. Despite the many times that I’ve had my blood extracted in the past, I’m still not overly excited to have it done. I gave the stack of requests to the med tech on duty, and braced myself.

I joked that my lot of blood tests would seem to correspondingly require a lot of blood. She said it’d take around four vials. Not so bad. So she got going. I turned my head away from the prick as I still get queasy seeing blood flowing. In all fairness, I was able to keep a smile on my face the whole time. It was a mix of thinking positive and feigning courage.

When I was done, I went back to my newbie at the clinic. I passed him at the cashier. Good thing a doctor was on duty that early in the morning. He had already talked with the doctor, and now needed to pay for some of his tests as well. He was actually a bit short in funds, so I lent him some cash. Fortunate that I had enough to be able to. From there, we went to the lab.

Apparently, he was just as bad with needles and blood as I was. Hehehe. I understood completely. I assured him that the med tech on duty was good at what she does. He made it through without problems. Just a bit of stress, that’s all. His x-ray was much easier, of course.

Making it back to the clinic, I got a surprise. They had forgotten one final lab request, one for Hepatitis C. Another prick?! I headed back to the lab. I requested that they allow me to rest a bit before another prick, so they entertained other clients first. The next time they asked if I was ready, I took my seat once again in the pricking chair, ready for another one in the other arm.

I was ready and game, I really was. Fortunately, they said the blood they’d extracted earlier was still enough for the extra test. Though I sighed a sigh of relief, I kidded with the med tech that she missed the chance, considering I was extra generous with blood today. She laughed and retorted the next prick would’ve been one in the jugular. Hehehe. That was fun.

From there, having accomplished everything we needed to do, we headed to Metropolis Star where we were to get a ride back north. We had lunch as well, after deciding we couldn’t last another minute without food. After a quick meal at Jollibee, we were off.

We both were able to nap a bit during the trip back, having been up since so early in the morning. We both got off when we hit Mandaluyong, he to get a ride home, and I to meet up with the hubby in Shangri-la. I accompanied him to have lunch, we had some of our favorite frozen yogurt, and caught a movie... creepy Devil of M. Night Shyamalan. Even though I spent most of the movie with my face buried in his armpit - yes, I’m not so good with horror movies - I’d recommend it.

Oh wait, wait... back to the pertinent issue of the moment. I texted Ate the day after, requesting her to “chismis” our CD4s if and when they became available. She replied promptly. My newbie had a whopping 553. Coolio!

Me? Let’s recap. A year ago, I was at 493. Six months ago, I dropped a bit to 447. And today... the verdict? Drumroll please... 493! Right back where I fell from. Not bad! Now whether I can attribute it to anything from ARVs and stress to love and yoga... only heaven knows. I’m happy. I still want to go past the 500 mark, though. But for now, I’ll take it!