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.
Minerva*, who is in her 40s, was in the hospital room when “the doctor came in to tell my son he’s HIV positive,” she said. “There were just the two of us then; his father wasn’t with us as he had to be at work, and his younger siblings were all at school.”
More than the shock, though, it was “with sadness – and even some relief – that I received the news.”
Apparently, at that time, Minerva’s son was already in the hospital for weeks, and “walang gamot na nagpapagaling sa kanya (no medication was working for him),” she said. In fact, “mas lumala ang kalagayan niya (his situation seemed to worsen).”
They were already spending, on average, “around P47,000 per week, so it was getting expensive.” And so, while there’s sadness in her son getting infected with HIV, it was with “relief that we accepted the news; at least this time, we know what ailed him, and kung may magagawa pa, gagawin namin (if something can still be done, we’ll take these steps).”
And that was how Minerva found herself accompanying her son – in one of his “up” days, considering that he’s been mostly weak – to a treatment hub so he can start taking his medication.
In so many ways, Minerva is at a loss – she continues not to have proper information about HIV. In fact, she said, “ni hindi ko alam ang kaibahan ng HIV sa AIDS (I don’t even know the difference between HIV and AIDS).”
Unfortunately, at least in her experience, “hubs aren’t there to serve us, people with loved ones infected with HIV,” she said. “No one’s here to even talk to us about our concerns.”
And so Minerva tried to chat with other women about her age, many of them – she assumed – also accompanying a loved one in the hub. The experiences, she said, are the same. “We’re just confused,” she said. “So many do not know how to deal with this as we move forward.”
It is because of this that Minerva said she hopes for “support system to be developed and be provided not only to those who are infected, but also to the people looking after them, too.”
But there is also another commonality – i.e. “There’s this surrender to the fact that a loved one is infected with HIV,” she said, “and that we should do what we can do to help out.”
Since Minerva’s son is the eldest child in the family, she said there’s no sense telling the “still young siblings about the situation of their kuya (elder brother).” In fact, Minerva and her son decided not to tell even the father about her son’s HIV status. She said that she is at a point where “ako man, marami pang dapat intindihin (even I still have a lot to understand).”
But if there’s one thing Minerva said she learned, it’s acceptance.
“Sa simula, tanggap ko nang bakla ang anak ko (From the very start, I already accepted my son’s gay),” Minerva said. And this is even if her son, himself, had issues about his sexual orientation, since “tinago-tago niya pa noon (he used to hide his sexuality in the past).”
And now that her son is HIV-positive, “mas lalo ko siyang tanggap (the more I accept him),” she said.
In fact, this is the lesson she can give others who may be in the same boat as her. “Kung mahal ninyo ang anak ninyo, mas lalo ninyo siyang mahalin ngayong mas kailangan (If you already profess your love to your child, love him more now when love is needed),” Minerva ended.
*NAME CHANGED AS REQUESTED BY THE INTERVIEWEE TO PROTECT HER PRIVACY