This is part of “More than a Number”, which Outrage Magazine launched on March 1, 2013 to give a human face to those infected and affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the Philippines, what it considers as “an attempt to tell the stories of those whose lives have been touched by HIV and AIDS”. More information about (or – for that matter – to be included in) “More than a Number”, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (+63) 9287854244 and (+63) 9157972229.
Chong was diagnosed to be HIV positive in November 2015. “I got myself tested due to frustration,” he recalled. “My ex-partner passed away (from pneumonia and brain abscess) that month, and so I decided to get myself tested. I’m pretty sure I got infected by my ex-partner.”
Upon knowing his HIV positive status, “at first, I was so, so shocked. Parang gumuho ‘yung mundo ko, mga pangarap ko nawala (It was like my world crumbled, my dreams disappeared) not only for myself but also for my family,” said Chong, who is the eldest child and is the breadwinner of his family.
But Chong’s situation somewhat bettered. First, he was able to disclose to select people, and these people have become his sources of support. “My Mom is always there for me,” he said. “And (then there are my) friends.”
On disclosing, Chong said “it felt so good na mailabas mo ‘yung kinikimkim mo or tinatago mo (when you re able to express what you hold back or hide). I’m so blessed I found friends na mas makakaintindi sa akin (who understand me better).”
Chong also already started taking antiretroviral medicines; and “although recently nagka-problem ako because nagka-fever ako (I had a problem because I became feverish), but my doctor decided to change my meds, and now I’m hoping for a better response.”
But Chong said that challenges continue. In his case, for instance, “my recent partner decided to let go of me. Nung nalaman niya nung una, tanggap niya ako. Pero dumating ‘yung time when he realized na di niya raw kaya ‘yung responsibility niya sa akin. To make the story short, hindi n’ya pala ako tanggap. ‘Yun ang nakakalungkot doon (When he first discovered my HIV status, he accepted me. But the time came when he said he realized he can’t bear the responsibility to be with me. That was sad),” Chong said.
But Chong wants to see the positive in this situation.
“Siyempre masakit, nakakalungkot. Pero I realized na mas pagtuunan ng importansya ang sarili ko, ang family ko. Mas nagkaroon ako ng goal sa buhay ko na sarili ko, and ‘yung mga taong nag-stay lang sa buhay ko ang pagtuunan ko ng oras ko (Of course it was painful, it made me sad. But I realized to pay more importance to myself, my family. I ended up having a more definite goal for myself, and I realized to give more time to the people who chose to stay in my life),” Chong said. “May mga taong akala mo mas makakaintindi ng kalagayan mo, pero natutunan ko na sarili ko lang rin pala ang makakatulong sa akin (There are people you think will understand your situation, and then you learn that you only have yourself to rely on).”
Now coping with his new life, Chong wants to stay optimistic while looking forward.
“For me, being pozzy (HIV positive) is not end of the world. We have this because there’s a reason behind it. For me, mas pahalagahan at pag-iingatan na lang natin ‘yung pangalawang buhay na binigay ni God sa atin (we should give more importance and value the second life that God gave us). Be responsible and be happy no matter what. Life goes on,” Chong ended.
*NAME CHANGED AS REQUESTED BY THE INTERVIEWEE TO PROTECT HIS PRIVACY