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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


We bid farewell yesterday to our Yogi Babe. She left us.

No, silly! Not for good!

She's flying off today for Korea to attend and represent Yoga for Life at this year's International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, or ICAAP for short.

The 10th ICAAP will begin tomorrow, August 26, 2011, and will end on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, and will be held at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center or BEXCO in Busan, South Korea.

ICAAP is the second largest HIV and AIDS forum in the world, and is held every other year. The ICAAP becomes the venue for the release and discussion of scientific, programmatic and policy developments in the global response to the issues of HIV and AIDS. The co-convenors of ICAAP are the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific and the UNAIDS.

The theme of the ICAAP10 is “Diverse Voices, United Action.” By sharing knowledge and experience at the ICAAP10, the organizers hope that participants shall be able to step forward further to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic as one. ICAAP10 offers a platform where the region can be united in action.

The overall objectives of this year's Congress include:
• To accomplish the theme “Diverse Voices, United Action
• To empower and strengthen political, community and business leadership
• To offer a platform for voices from Asia and the Pacific to reassemble
• To exchange and share achievements, successes and best practices
• To ensure those affected are free from stigma and discrimination
• To promote equal access to prevention, support, treatment and care

Participants from different nations in the Asia-Pacific region were invited to share their efforts to the community through oral and poster presentations, and each project falls into 1 of six categories or "tracks".

Track A: The evolving epidemiology of HIV in Asia and the Pacific
Track B: Advances in basic and clinical sciences
Track C: Meeting the challenge of Universal Access
Track D: Building and supporting leaders and advocates
Track E: Engaging communities for effective responses
Track F: Overcoming human rights, legal and policy barriers

I took a look at the roster of presentations, and saw that the Philippines is well represented in both oral and poster presentations. Some of the presentors I knew as fellow Yoga for Lifers, though they would be there representing different organizations. And some I recognized as fellow advocates from other NGOs. Some just caught my attention because their studies included the Philippines. And one, well, their names just sounded Pinoy... I just had to guess.

So here's the Pinoy contingent at the ICAAP:

Oral Presentations

Number 208, Track E
29 August, Monday, 10:50-12:00
"Who Will Take a Bakla Seriously?": HIV Risk of Filipino MSM and Transgender Persons as a Function of Gender and Sexuality Values
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Mikael Navarro

Number 212, Track E
29 August, Monday, 10:50-12:00
HIV Rapid Antibody Testing Among MSMs at Easter Weekend 2011 Festivities in Puerto Galera, Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Bric Bernard Bernas

Number 238, Track E
29 August, Monday, 10:50-12:00
I am POSI+IVE Campaign: Bringing the Voices of Young Key Populations to the Filipino Youth Communities
Corresponding Author: Igor Mocorro; Presenting Author: Vermont Arvesu

Number 253,Track E
29 August, Monday, 13:30-14:40
Motivations to Engage in Intentional Condomless Anal Intercourse (Bareback Sex) in HIV Risks Awareness Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Davao City
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Elizabeth Malonzo

Poster Presentations

Number 288, Track A
27 August, Saturday
Risky Behaviours Among Young Urban Professionals in the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Richard Howard

Number 595, Track C
27 August, Saturday
Utilizing Internet and SMS Technologies to Provide Care and Support to Young MSM living with HIV: Experience from the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Igor Mocorro

Number 845, Track D
27 August, Saturday
Churches as Channels of Hope for PLWHAs: World Vision’s Experience in Engaging Faith Communities
Corresponding Author: Alain Dizon; Presenting Author: Mary Grace Pasion

Number 1003, Track E
27 August, Saturday
Factors Affecting Success in Promoting AIDS Competence in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Dusit Duangsa

Number 1253, Track F
27 August, Saturday
Seeking Redress for HIV-Related Violations of Human Rights
Corresponding Author: Manuel Guzman; Presenting Author: Ranier Ritchie Naldoza

Number 1264, Track F
27 August, Saturday
Barriers in Access to Justice and Legal Redress among People Living with HIV in the Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Jeffry Acaba

Number 653, Track C
28 August, Sunday
AIDS Stigma: Attitudes of Filipino Nursing Students about HIV and AIDS
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Igor Mocorro

Number 1145, Track E
28 August, Sunday
Impact of Anti-Prostitution Laws on HIV Prevention among Sex Workers in Quezon City, Philippines
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Jeffry Acaba

Number 932, Track D
29 August, Monday
I.Lead@GFATM Philippines: Empowering Young Filipinos Towards Meaningful Youth Involvement in the Global Fund
Corresponding & Presenting Author: Igor Mocorro

And last, but definitely not least...

Number 1199, Track E
29 August, Monday
Yoga for Life: Promoting Health and Healthy Behavior among People Affected by HIV and AIDS
Corresponding Author: Amanda Maud Jones; Presenting Author: Charmaine Cu-Unjieng

Yey! I'm honored to be part of the team who put together the Yoga for Life poster, so I will be in Korea in spirit... or more! Wink, wink!

So if you're in Busan this coming weekend, check out Yoga for Life and the rest of the ICAAP... and bring me home some Kimchi or K-Pop! Annyeong Haseyo!

For more about the ICAAP, visit


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Of-Fence

This was on TV in the morning news today. HIV once again is the star. Oddly enough, this was not a health segment or anything close to that. It was really just meant to be bizarre news.

So HIV makes for bizarre news these days?

Well, see for yourself...

Click here if you can't see the video.

Okay, don't nosebleed on me. Luckily, I speak Spanish... no I'm kidding. I did research.

So basically, a doctor in Brazil was getting tired of being burglarized while at work. The solution? She took HIV-infected syringes home with her and built a "wall of HIV" to stop people jumping her fence.

Of course, seeing syringes might not have been enough. So she put a warning sign on her fence that reads, "Wall with HIV-positive blood. Don't climb it."

Hmmmmm. Wherever this woman lives, burglars must be pretty educated to know exactly what HIV is. Oh, but then this begs the question whether they are educated enough to read and understand the sign in the first place.

But kudos to this doctor for taking advantage of the myths of HIV that have actually been haunting the Philippines for years now. Remember, around a decade ago maybe, rumors that instilled fear in Pinoy moviegoers of being suddenly pricked by HIV-infected needles in theater seats? Oh... reminiscing.

But really, her method probably won't scare away those who already are HIV-positive, those who know that her contaminants will probably not be fresh enough after being exposed to air and sunlight for days and days, those who take a cutter to the tape that's holding her syringes, and those who can see that there are gaps in the fence that are clear of her prickly things. Darn, doctors ain't all that smart, huh?

In the end, the Homeowners' Association called the police, who said they couldn't do anything about it. So the Homeowners' Association gave her 5 days to take down her HIV-tainted needles or get fined.

So yeah, HIV is in the news once again, hilariously bizarre as this story may be. But to all of us living with HIV, no of-FENCE.


Monday, August 01, 2011

Simply Complicated: Workout

Were we officially a couple? Are we officially a couple?

Okay, okay, hold your horses.

I hope to successfully zoom through what’s left of my little flashback that’s taken up more than a handful and a month’s worth of entries, and answer that question by the end of this post.

So... let’s continue.

When June 1st came, I don’t remember exactly why, but I didn’t report for work that day. If I’m not mistaken, I just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be late for Yoga for Life’s anniversary that evening. Yep, I think that was it.

When I told the boi of my free day, his reply was an invitation for me to join him at the gym. I froze. I was a gym virgin, having never worked out before, at any gym. Mostly it was because I was intimidated of the place and the people . Seriously. Paranoid, I know. I mean, yeah, I’m pretty sporty and all, but gym… all the horror stories and visions of predators lurking in the locker room ready to pounce on any fresh meat that passes... been dreading it, been dreading it.

Honestly, I’ve been wanting to do it, for decades now, but dreading it. And here was someone offering to hold my hand through the experience. We’d actually talked about this before, under the context of sharing. He would teach me what he knew about working out and swimming, and I would teach him what I knew about Photoshop and organizing a space. Fair trade.

So I faced my fear, and agreed to the gym date. So we met and went to his gym. I was almost clueless. And here he already had printed out a workout regimen for me. Nice. So I was devirginized, gym-wise, that is. And I also saw and appreciated what passion he had for working out. He proved he wasn’t there to hang out at the showers and flirt around with guys. These were the perks of going to a bakal gym instead of all the commercialized gyms. Perfect for me. Very, very nice.

It was actually an eye-opener, that little invitation. This was turning out to be our first taste of commitment. From gym to commitment? What the hell am I talking about?

Let’s face it, here he was, inviting me into his territory, the gym he goes to, where I would see him half-clothed, sweaty, grunting, making faces, and down to his bare elements. And, I was to be enrolling for a month at a time. So it was a month’s contract not just between me and the gym, but between me and him too. I wonder if he realized that.

After a good couple of hours at the gym, we freshened up and headed for yoga together. We passed by a Yellow Cab to schedule for a couple of pizzas to be delivered at the end of the session that evening. We made it to yoga, went through the class, and Savasana’ed into the anniversary celebration of Yoga for Life, a banquet of food to reward everyone for their practice that evening. We then headed home, still together. And by the end of that day, it was clear that we would be sharing more time together.

So I’ve known him since February. Buddy-buddy since March. Love since May. Gym buddies since June. And been practically together since… sweating through gym and yoga; chatting online when time permits, talking on the phone when load doesn’t; a lot of lunch and dinner dates just anywhere, and a couple of out of town trips with yoga friends; making it through a sick period on his end (though all I could really do to ease his discomfort was bring his favorite cake and buko shake), currently going through a career hitch on mine; and even things as simple as shopping for vegetables at the local wet market, and raiding an ukay-ukay a couple of times.

Throughout our kinda-sorta-relationship, I’ve made sure there would be no pressure. No pressure for us to be together every minute of everyday. No pressure to be at yoga or wherever together all the time. No pressure to stop either of us from going out with other friends. No pressure to text every single chance there was.

But surprisingly, despite not being together all the time, not texting every chance we got, nor talking every single day, I can confidently say that we are pretty secure… even despite the technical non-relationship.

So again, the situation begs the question, are we a couple? At this point, if you were to ask me if we were a couple, I’d say officially, we’re not.

I know, I know. Why not? Why not? What am I waiting for? I’m really not in a rush to define us with a couple label. Why, because it’s just that… a label. It doesn’t define what we do have. And that’s something even I can’t put into words.

What about the early bird catching the worm? Was the worm meant to be his soul mate, or might another bird be the reward for his patience?

Someone mentioned about good guys finishing last. First, I’m flattered to be considered a “good guy”. Other than that, it’s not a race. I don’t mind finishing last, because the last means no one comes after. Yep, the last guy gets forever.

I don’t want to be pushed towards proposing prematurely just because someone else might get to him before me. Even if someone did, I know, I know, I know he’d be happier with me. Wooooow... confidence, no? Hahaha.

So there, no proposals, no courtship, no I-dos. Rest assured, we’re working it out, albeit slowly but surely. Hmmm, if you think about it, we’ve gone pretty far in the mere five months we’ve known each other... that ain’t too slow. So officially, we are NOT a couple. But there’s love. I know it. He knows it. And even if we haven’t declared ourselves a couple, it sure feels like we are. And damn, it feels good. It feels right. And that’s what’s important, right?

It seems complicated, but it's really been simple... thus, Simply Complicated.