Thursday, March 5, 2009
On Having HIV
I was diagnosed as HIV positive back in February 2008. I had a lucrative job offer abroad. I aced all aspect of the application except for one, the medical examination. Most of my batch mates are moving forward with the application except me. The doctor told me that my blood is reacting to the reagent they are using so I need to be tested one more time. I had to go back for a second testing. At that point, I am starting to get the feeling that I might be HIV positive. I was right.
I am very fortunate that I had a Doctor friend with me while I was going through the ordeal of discovering that I have HIV. He was the one who introduced me to an infectious disease specialist from PGH. That’s how I got started with getting support and medication. I was enrolled under the Global Fund Program and was provided free medications. The meds I am taking are called Anti-Retroviral Drugs. All of the help I am getting from PGH and Global Fund are free. The only payment they ask from me is my commitment to comply with the meditation and live a healthy lifestyle. I eventually transferred to Research Institute of Tropical Medicine. I am now receiving my free medication from RITM. I’ve also built strong friendship with other HIV positive and non-HIV positive people since I transferred to RITM. All these helped me cope up with the new world I am venturing. The specialists, councillors and people I met made it easy for me to accept my new situation. I did not feel scared because I know that there are people who love me despite my health condition.
I could not pin point exactly where I got it. I might have gotten it from one of my partners or maybe from one of my casual, unprotected sexual encounters. I am not sure really. When my doctor examined the result of my CD4 and Viral Load count, she told me that there’s a good chance that I have been HIV positive for a good two years prior to getting tested. So that trims down the chances of where I possible acquired it. The past two or three years prior to my test results, I was in a monogamous relationship.
Saying that I have always been in a monogamous relationship would be a lie. Like everyone else, I have a share of experiences experimenting on things like having sex. It’s unfortunate that the foundation of sexual education in our country is not as strong as it should be. It’s sad to realize that most teenagers discover things such as sex through personal experimentation. Anyway, like most normal human being, I also long for a long-term, if not permanent, relationship. I try my best to practice monogamy, but how sure I am that my partner shares the same ideals? This is another thing every person in relationship should talk about. In every relationship, it is important that both partners understand and respect each other’s principles and preferences. Granting that both partners agree to have an open relationship (or even agree to have an exclusive relationship), it is essential that both agree to practice safe, protected sex at all times, with their partners or with another person outside the relationship. Doing this makes both of them protected from any infectious diseases such as HIV. This is, I think, is what I overlooked from my past relationships. Now I am HIV positive and all I got to deal with it in the most positive way I can.
Contrary to popular belief, when you’re diagnosed with HIV life drastically changes and becomes harder to live… I have to disagree with this notion. I am actually living a happy, healthy life. As a matter of fact, I see having HIV as a blessing in disguise. It gave me a concrete reason to live healthy, get eight hours of sleep, it made me slowly stop drinking and smoking. It also gave me the opportunity to build a stronger bond with my family and friends. I have HIV and I’m still happy.
I noticed that a lot of HIV positive people have positive dispositions in life and, ironically, an overwhelming population of HIV negative people have negative outlook in the same aspect. I did not have trouble accepting the fact that I have HIV, so why should you? I’ve always lived by the concept that things happen for a reason and we should not resist it, instead we should learn and grow from what we discover from the experience. I am coping very well with my current health condition. I still earn a living as an employee, I am still able to help my family in every small way I can, I still have the same social activities (with a little healthy alterations, of course). I am fortunate that I have a strong support group (composed of my family and close friends). My entire family knows about my health condition and I have disclosed myself to my close friends as well. Nothing's changes as they loved me the same way they’ve always loved me.
Disclosing is one issue a lot of HIV positive people deal with. This takes time, readiness and a lot of trust building actions. No one is forced to disclose themselves against their will. Each person should do it in their own time, in their own term and everyone (both negative and positive community) should accept this fact. I have told my family about my health situation. I’ve told close friends and several guys I’ve dated that I am HIV positive. The response is over whelming. 10 out of 10 people I told about my being HIV accepted me without prejudice. Yes, all of them felt sad, some even felt sorry for me. Most of them have a lot of questions about my history, how I got it and about HIV in general. But at the end of the day, they still accepted me as me and loved me nonetheless. There is no reason for you to be afraid disclosing your self. Just know when to come out, who to come out to and how to come out. It’s all about timing. I have plans of coming out soon, I am just waiting for that special time when people around me are ready when I totally come out.
HIV is present everywhere, at home, in school, in the office. I have been working for the Call Center industry for, collectively, around six years. I am still overwhelmed how people associate call centers with HIV. In my entire existence in this industry, I’ve only known three guys who are HIV positive including me. It would be that it's because they are the only one brave enough to tell me about thier health status. It could also be just a coincidence that Call Center is one of the biggest industries in the country right now that a number of newly diagnosed HIV positive patients came from this business. It could be any other industry. I should know because I have several HIV positive friends from all walks of life, from all sorts of industries. Please take note that I did not get HIV from working in the call centers. People get infected with HIV from unprotected sex with an HIV positive person, not from working as a call center employee. It would be unfair to just point a finger to the call center industry. I don’t work there anymore… I have a better job now that gives me the luxury to work during the day and sleep at night.
HIV do not discriminate, people does. From experience, most of the people who discriminate are those who lack the knowledge about the “topic” they discriminate people for. I feel sad when I see people discriminate others for reasons such as social status, gender, economic status, education, health status etc. People fear what they do not know and this is mainly caused by ignorance. The only way to eliminate that fear is through awareness. There are lots of ways to learn about HIV, read books, talk to HIV patients, talk to your doctor, and check the internet. There are many websites that provide facts about HIV, one of which is www.positivisim.ph. Trust me when I say, “Knowledge is power.” This is self-explanatory. Imagine how good it would be to live in a world filled with love and equality. The first step to achieving this is awareness.
I mentioned earlier that I want to eventually come out as having HIV. Do you want to know the reason what’s keeping me from doing it? It’s my concern for the people I love. I can deal with all the prejudice and all the bias from being HIV positive, but what I am not ready for is to see my family and friends become a victim of discrimination. I do not hold fear for my self but for the people I love. Anyway, this is a personal issue that I have to deal with. I know that they are as strong as I am and I know they can look after themselves.
So, if someone opens up to you and tell you they have HIV. Just listen. You don’t have to say anything. If you need to ask, then ask. Make sure that you do not discriminate. Do not judge them. If you don’t understand it, ask them to help you understand.
My name is JP. Welcome to my world.