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Philippines: Living with HIV

Categories: East Asia, Philippines, Health, Human Rights, Women & Gender, Youth
"The Light Will Guide You Through." From the website of Youth AIDS Filipinas Alliance

Blogs are increasingly being used in the Philippines to narrate the personal struggles of young Filipinos who tested positive with HIV. This promotes conversation among young people and it helps spread awareness about the reality of HIV/AIDS in the country.

If a person is not yet ready to tell others about his/her condition, setting up an anonymous blog may help. This is what Positibo007 [2] did

I am creating this blog for you my dear friends. You will read this blog when the right time comes, but as of now, I am not ready to tell you that I have “it”

from the start, it is painful to tell a story of what happened to me…I am opening this account on the second day that I have ‘it’.

I dont want you to worry. Im ok, im in perfect health and im still living a normal life.

Life after PUSIT felt hurt [3] when his loved ones were unable to accept the truth about him

The fact that I came out to be positive was easy for me to stomach. It's a truth. But what's hard for me to stomach is when I see people who're really special to me, unable to accept the whole fact about me.

I needed his answer. I needed to hear his voice. I wanted to know if he was going to stay with me or he was going to get on with his life

Back in the Closet introduces [4] himself in this way

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.

Now, 9 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.

His latest CD4 count [4] increased by nine points:

As someone currently living with HIV, it’s standard that I get my cd4 count measured every six months.

My cd4 was 493. Up nine points. Hmm. I had mixed feelings. Nine points? Nine measly points? Compared to 156 in the six-month period prior to this one? Hmm. Not something instantly impressive.

But considering this six-month period involved some failed attempts at affection, fallouts with friends, leaving the comfort zone of my old job, delving into a new profession, wrestling with the longer daily commute, a grave ARV overdose mistake, and so many other possibly distressing situations… suddenly, nine points up doesn’t sound so bad. At least it didn’t go down, right? So there. I’m happy.

Charlie wrote Manila Gay Guy [5] about his struggle with HIV:

It’s been over a year since I’ve learned about my condition and I’m still trying to live a normal life. My perspective of life drastically changed from being the optimistic type to being paranoid and pessimistic at all times. I used to hang out with friends and socialize before but I gave up on life and now “a living dead” is how I picture myself. I ceased to engage in any relationship for fear of rejection and criticism because of my condition.

Charlie’s letter elicited many responses. Here is an advice from James

Charlie, im an HIV positive, when i first knew about it, we had the same feeling, i thought my world’s going to stop and im going to live a life waiting for my death to come. but i realize that there is more to life than thinking about this disease. We will die sooner if we keep on thinking about this disease. So let us just take our meds religiously, and monitor our CD4 counts. healthy living is our most priority. Take care charlie

Another response from Art:

Having HIV is no longer a death sentence. I know it is hard for you to be in this situation. Seek out counseling, find an HIV support group, keep yourself busy! I know it’s hard but you don’t have to wallow in self pity. You just need the medication and the right kind of disposition. Live life to its fullest

After learning that he is HIV-positive, Dr. El Roi vowed to promote Christian Living [6] as an effective tool for HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness throughout the world

For the next two months after that terrible medical result, I have felt like I am a dead-man walking because I opted to continue working and live my life normally as if nothing happened. After that grieving moment to God and accepted the fact that I am sick and I'll be dead in 12-18 years, I realized that I need to be responsible for the consequences of my actions.

Now it had given me so much time to contemplate on things and eventually decided to turn over a new leaf and make that big change in my life……to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pinoy HIV Plus shares a story on how she confessed her condition to her sister [7]

I was thinking at that time that maybe this is the sign for me to open up my situation to my “family”. So I told her. At first she wasn't really taking me seriously, but I told her that it's true and then started the story behind why I knew I had the virus. She was very supportive, I asked her to call my other sisters and so that I could tell them and they were also very supportive. Of course, there's the worry about how I was doing here now that I have this, or if Im feeling ok. I told them that nothing has changed in me, except for my lifestyle. On their part, they told me that nothing has changed, I am still their sister that they knew, that they love so much and that they're always there whenever the time comes for me to go….drama!

I Have HIV was confined at a government hospital center [8] for two weeks to receive treatment together with other HIV patients

I told my parent's about it and we decided to tell my 5th sibling about my condition he cried when he found out about it and eventually accepted it. I told my business associates that I will be on vacation for 2 weeks so that they will not ask any more questions about my whereabouts.

When we arrived my doctor facilitated my admission and told me to prepare. She introduced me to my batchmates who will also undergo ARV medication. I was snobbish on my first day. I was only talking to my brother. I don't eat the food ration. I always asked my brother to buy our food in the restaurant.

Eventually 2 weeks is kinda long and I became close with the other patients there btw, most of the patients there are also gay. Me and my other batchmates who was starting to take ARV are getting closer day by day.

His new goal in life is

to help others with the same disease and to educate other people about the effects of the new ticking time bomb which we call HIV/ AIDS. The government just don't have time to look into it because we have a lot of problems but I think HIV is getting worst every second and every minute of the day.

The Chronicles of E underscores the importance of promoting awareness about HIV [9]

When I became positive, I thought that it was the end of me. I was scared because I thought I was dying soon—and all the meds! I know it costs a lot to have HIV… I don't have the resources for it! And no, I cannot and will not tell my folks about it! Not yet! It was only after a few days that I found out there were NGO's and hospitals that helped people living with HIV.

Now, I ask, why just now? Why wasn't I was aware of this, pre-HIV? Do I need to be positive first before I can know all this information? Now, it got me to thinking about awareness.

Kablog! confirms that there is still stigma [10] associated with HIV in the Philippines

I’ve said it enough times. I’ve felt it enough times. I’ve worried about it enough times. I think it’s safe to say that everyone does acknowledge that there is stigma that surrounds HIV in the Philippines.

Hell, just going to get tested, or even thinking of getting tested, you might not have realized you’ve experienced the stigma as well. What will they think of me?, Will they judge me?, Will they think I’m gay?, Will they think I’m promiscuous? and so on. It’s sad that you have to worry about things like that, rather than just acknowledge the importance of knowing one’s HIV status.

But I’ve come to realize that the stigma experienced by those living with HIV is not the same for each and everyone. Some have it bad, some have it worse. These variances along the stigma scale can stem from the smallest things, and certainly HIV being regarded as a gay disease is just one of those things.

According to health authorities, the number of HIV Ab Seropositive Cases [11] in the Philippines has been increasing over the past years

From January 1984 to July 2009, there were 4,021 HIV Ab seropositive cases reported, of which 3,204 (80%) were asymptomatic and 817 (20%) were AIDS cases. Ages ranged from 1-72 years (median 32 years). The age groups with the most number of cases were: 25-29 years (22%), 30-34 years (20%), 35-39 years (16%). Seventy-two percent (2,873) were males.

Photo caption: “The Light Will Guide You Through.” Photo taken from the website of Youth AIDS Filipinas Alliance [1].