Monday, October 12, 2009

Stigma: “finding-out-my-HIV-status” tale

[image source:]

I was invited by DOH (The Department of Health - Philippines) to talk about my experience as a person living with HIV (PLWHA) on the topic of Stigma and Discrimination. I scouted my head of the lasting memory of my experience finding out the truth about my HIV status.

Later part of the year 2007. I was on the top of the list of people who were accepted to work for one (if not the biggest) biggest oil manufacturer in the world. I was the only person who receives the maximum offer the company can give.

As a requirement, I had to go through all the application process, including the medical examination. The agency handling out application referred me to another agency who decides which clinic I should go to for my med exams. After filling all the form, submitting several pictures… my name was called. I was assigned a date and an address to go to.

Then the day came for me to have my physical exam. The small private clinic I was assigned to have a general feel of depression. The building is situated somewhere in Morayta, Manila. The interior is close to a dungeon for being dark and the walls were painted, enough not to qualify as a cave. Although the office generally looked like a stereotypical government office with all the papers and folders are stacked in one side of the room and the table are positioned in a manner that looked like barricades, they still have a fancy looking cashier window and a neat looking laboratory.

Anyway, I went through the medical examination process, paid an insanely expensive fee and took several pen and paper based exams. One paper I filled out particularly asked me (in text form) if I am ok for my blood to be tested for HIV. That was the only paper work that took the bulk of my time.

I was thinking. I didn’t want these people to test my blood for the presence of HIV. I am concerned that if I test positive, there is a chance I won’t be able to get the job. On the other hand, if I don’t agree to take the blood testing, I won’t be able to get the job either. So what options do I really have? So I ticked the box that said “yes”.

To cut the story short. I tested positive and didn’t get the job. It was sad… the part that I wasn’t able to go abroad for the job. It was supposed to be my redemption and it’s all gone. The HIV part didn’t sink until I was prescribed to take ARV meds (Antiretroviral Meds), that’s another story.

The crazy part of this whole “finding-out-my-HIV-status” tale is that I was informed of my HIV status by the clinic’s messenger. How? I received a text message from him asking me to return to the clinic since my blood tested positive.

When I returned to the clinic, the doctor who was explaining the result to me was talking gibberish (I don't understand a single word she was talking about, too technical and medical sounding). She was agonizing herself by going around the bush and trying to sugar coat what she wanted to say that can simply be explained using three letters – HIV (I expected more professionalism from Doctors, hence I don’t see the reason to sugar coat information). And to top it all, she was breaking the news to me in the middle of the room, perfect spot for everyone to hear.

What’s with these people? messenger and Doctor having the same level of etiquette? I didn’t mean to sound condescending there, but I felt mistreated.

Tomorrow, I will stand in front of Doctors, Registered Nurses, Health Workers and clinic owners to about these experiences… but I will be expressing more details and emotions of course (that’s just how I am when it comes to story telling).

I hope to make a difference.


Herbs D. said...

i dont know what to say. handsdown. youre one strong man and i look up to you for that matter :)

xtian1978ii said...

that was harsh in the doctor's part. I applaud you for being so brave and was able to handle it well. I hope na they'll listen to you so that magising sila kase I know na they know how would the patient would feel dba.

dabo said...

Ei go bro.. base sa blog di ka naman emo mag-explain, I think you could talk to them objectively and without contempt.


Maxwell5587 said...

you sure will. ;) goodluck!

The Green Man said...

@ Herbs D.: Thanks buddy. We are all strong... it's how we recognize it that matters :-D

@ xtian1978ii: It's really amazing how there are Doctors who are like that. But it's real you know. Sad and real.

@ dabo: It went well and the positive reception was overwhelming. I was almost moved to tears when one lady came up to me and hugged me and thanks me for sharing my story.

@ Thanks for the well wish buddy.

I love you guys!!!


Angelo said...

hey, how did it go?! :)

(i haven't been around lately because of ondoy, pepeng and a trip. hehe!)

how are you???


The Green Man said...

@ Angelo: It went just fine... actually not fine, but great :-D

palma tayona said...

hello there green man :-)

i have received your comment in my blog and initially when i went to check on yours, i was thinking, "have i met this guy?" i didn't really check out what you wrote here until now. then it dawned on me... we HAVE met. At the art fair several moons ago. your gallery's booth was across ours and i was... brazenly inebriated that evening. (i hope it didn't scare you to be talking to a big, bald, barong-clad, red-faced, drunken man)

i admire the courage that you gathered in facing your predicament, to be candidly honest about it and not buckling on the knees with the weight that you bear.

having seen you in person and now knowing that you bear what you have, as far as this commenter goes, it bears in my mind another 'face' to the disease. and it is a face that can be seen in every person in every waking day of my life - a living, known, every day type of person, and in a way it's 'comforting' to remember.

forgive me for narrating a bit. the first time i saw the disease that is borne by the hiv virus was way back in the early nineties. it was back when everyone thought that the only ones who can get the virus are frisky seamen who screw prostitutes wantonly in foreign shores and sex workers coming in from abroad. they were a miniscule, nay, tiny negligible number. it was in a government hospital in manila when i met someone who's body was already ravaged by a disease that cats get because of aids brought by hiv. it has stuck in my mind since then the kind of horrific effect it can bear on a person and sadly, it too gave me a pretty negative picture of hiv.

with the advent of new drugs that can slow down the effect of the virus on the body and the protocols that have been developed since then, i have read that there has been marked improvements in the treatments. and you, being a bearer of the virus, my admiration goes to you for the courage that you've shown - in your words.

it is a difficult burden that you bear, one that can defeat even a strong, muscular man. but with the way you've been writing about how you handle this difficulty, no strong, musclebound, iron-crunching behemoth could even point a finger at you and say you're a weakling.

keep up the good fight. and thank you for giving in the mind of this artist visions of your courage.

The Green Man said...

Dear palma tayona,

Thank so much for visiting my site. Thanks for the kind words.

I was actually surprised when you outspokenly asked me back in the Manilart09 Art Fair if I am The Green Man. I was caught between denying it and admitting it. But by the sincere look on your face and by the more surprised look you had then, I was encouraged to admit my identity.

Now you have another face to remember when you think of HIV :-D

I actually came out to my bosses back in the gallery. But unfortunately, i left kasi I needed to go back to school and pursue an MA in counseling and finish my certificate in Filipino Sign Language.

I hope you stay tuned and follow my blog @ and I hope you keep in touch.


You seemed very nice and kind when we first met and I specifically liked your happy disposition. Keep it up :-D