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, October 26, 2011

Disclosure... Sort Of

Okay, so maybe I’m not new to disclosure. The back of my head was featured on TV for GMA’s Think Positive documentary about HIV some years ago. And I was part of DepEd’s Power of You sexual health awareness campaign, disclosing my HIV-positive status to an audience of students and faculty, both in Subic and Cebu.

For some, those are amazing steps to take. But for me, I could inch a wee bit further.

Really, those times I’ve delved into the business of disclosing my HIV status have almost never been any risk to me. I mean, almost all of these people, I had not known before, and they would only have known me after the fact. And also, there was little chance of seeing most of them ever again. Non-detrimental is the term I’d use.

So in summary, brave as some of you think it to be, there was to be little bearing on my everyday life. But, in the interest of being a guinea pig of the HIV experience, I’ve been taking it a bit further.

You know how when you get urine tests for illegal drugs, they would usually ask if you’re taking any medications? Well, the reason for that is the possibility of false positive results. Our doctors and nurses have always said that some of the ARVs could result in a positive result of a typical urine test for drugs.

So lately, I’ve been figuring, I may as well tell them before a drug test that I am indeed taking maintenance medications... just so it doesn’t sound like a defensive afterthought after a false positive result of a drug test.

The first time I applied this new mentality of mine was some months ago, when I went to have my driver’s license renewed. So, wary of my shy bladder, I arrived with my bladder already full to the brim. In afterthought, not a very good idea.

Hour after hour of filling out forms, waiting, waiting and more waiting, it was finally, finally, finally my turn to collect my urine sample. Sounds normal, right? But at some point of filling out the form, I filled in “Yes” to answer the question of whether I was currently taking any medications. And in the blank provided, I wrote “Lamivudine”.

Lamivudine is actually just one of my three ARVs. So, of course, like I taunted it out of him, the guy who checks my form asks what I’m taking it for. Okay, in all honesty, I didn’t exactly disclose that I’m HIV-positive. But rather, the next best thing... how about disclosing one of my co-infections? Good enough.

Hepatitis B. Yep, aside from HIV, I indeed have Hepatitis B. Not your typical Hepatitis that you get from dirty food, but rather, an STD as well. But fortunately, due to some odd circumstances, two of my three ARVs, Lamivudine and Tenofovir, are acting against both my HIV and Hepatitis B. Two birds with two pills. So I could really claim that I am taking them for my Hepatitis B.

So to cut this chapter short, I renewed my license without a hitch. No false positives. No problem with disclosing having an STD either. No... Big... Deal.

Cut to the next scene. I’m tempted to try my stunt again. Let’s move on to a different challenge... something more detrimental.

So the last time I had a medical exam for employment was back in 2004. Pre-HIV. This year would be my first after that little milestone.

So I got a dental exam, blood tests, x-ray, and once again, another urine test for illegal drugs. After all that, I go to the doctor for the physical exam. And she was plotting out my medical history. Previous operations? None. Hospitalizations? None. Family history? Well, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And medications? Yes. Lamivudine.

Of course, she needed to ask what I was taking it for. Hepatitis B. When was I diagnosed? Did anyone in the family have Hepatitis B? Did I have any blood transfusions? 2008. Nope. Nope. So I’m sure in her head, the doctor now could deduce it was sexually-transmitted. And so it was over, she sent me off. I could expect the results at the office.

For all I care, it’s no big deal. I just have it. It’s not affecting my work. I still wasn’t sure what effect it would have on my job prospects. Then the following day, I got called into the company clinic. Oh boy. Here it goes.

So I was called in with a couple of others. One needed a follow-up urinalysis. The other, a re-x-ray. And then, my turn. I was told to shut the door to the clinic. What the? So I was asked by the company nurse about my Hepatitis B. How long I had it and what not. And I was just answering it matter-of-factly. Then she places a call to the doctor, asking about my case. Chit-chat chit-chat over the phone. She looks at me from head to toe, and looks into my eyes while still on the phone.

Hindi naman po siya naninilaw. Okay, salamat doc.

She puts the phone down.

Okay ka na. Fit to work ka na.

I knew it was right, but I honestly was still in a level of disbelief. Sigh of relief.

Yeah, yeah. I know that was just Hepatitis B. But really, if you think about it, disclosing HIV should be just as easy. Exactly like I just happened to have Hepatitis B, I just happened to have HIV. I am still fit to work. I am still fit to live. I am still fit. Period.

If you think about it, I didn’t have to say it. I didn’t have to disclose. I didn't have to take the risk. They wouldn’t have found out if I didn’t tell them. I have an STD. Hmmm, not the easiest thing to say. Let alone I have HIV. But why must it be that way? Why must HIV be the one skeleton I have in my closet that I have to keep hidden? Sadly, for now, there’s still a higher level of stigma that surrounds HIV. But times are a-changing... Someday... Someday.


Anonymous said...

Wow your Blog Really made me inspired and decided.

I'm Mario 26yrs old (10/23/1985) and I work for an international bank. I'm also into Swimming and Fashion Photography, I also go to the gym 3-4times a week for a year now. I'm a bottom and I'm into bareback as well (but not with everyone and everytime) and the last time was last 09/25/2011. A week after that encounter with this guy who live in the same condo where i live at, nagkaroon ako ng sore throat with fever but i took antibiotics (augmentin-co-amoxiclav) then nawala tapos i have 2small mouth sores. Then i got cough and runny nose. All signs of Infections. Sobrang akong natatakot and I'm about to take THE test this coming Monday. I'm so freaking afraid and hesitant to know what will be the result, I'm afraid but after reading your blogs for a week (04/30/2008-10/26/2011) na realized ko if not now when? kapag late na and you no longer have choice.

Thank you so much.

Ming Meows said...

stigma parin ang HIV. period.

I AM HIV said...

wow. i did exactly the same thing. we have the same everything!!! heb b. arvs.. clinic experience... but can you imagine the process if it was hiv, not hep b? what would have the nurse and the doc on the phone discussed. nakakatakot pa din.

PinoyPoz said...

@Anonymous: I'm honored. :)

@Meowie: Period. But hopefully not no-erase.

@I am HIV: Hahaha! Cool to know I'm in good company!

Mr. A said...

so brave of you to be a part of a documentary. true na stigma pa rin ang HIV sa country natin pero later you will now na mas mabuti na yung nalaman mo ng maaga bago pa mahuli ang lahat so you can be treated already. last year lng ako and on meds na. if i didn't have the courage to be tested buhay pa rin naman cguro ako pero nothing will change, i'm still infected atleast now i know i can do something about it.