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 email@example.com, or call (+63) 9287854244 and (+63) 9157972229.
@bon_plus found out that he is HIV-positive at an event in his former school.
“I think that was ‘Med Tech Week’ (on October 10, 2012), so my friends from the college asked me if I can donate blood for Red Cross,” he recalled. At that time, he did not hesitate donating, even knowing that his blood will be tested for HIV. Then on November 5, “I received a call – it was a woman from Red Cross, saying that they can’t donate my blood and they asked me if I could come over to (their office).” He went there the following day, when he was given a referral letter for him to go to San Lazaro Hospital (SLH) to get his confirmatory test result.
With “so many things going through my mind”, it took @bon_plus about six months before he went. “During those six months, I spent my time researching about the virus. (I had to know, for example,) what possible things that might happen to me as a third year pharmacy student,” he recalled.
@bon_plus believes his former boyfriend infected him with HIV, since they had unsafe sexual practices. But his then boyfriend refused to get tested, even telling him that “Malinis naman ako. Ikaw, ‘di ko alam kung kanino mo nakuha ‘yan.”
His ex-boyfriend already passed away, making @bon_plus sad, because “he died without knowing that you can still live even if you are HIV positive.”
When he tested positive, @bon_plus remembered being sardonic. “It was like, ‘Hey, congratulations, happy birthday! Now die! I got depressed for almost two weeks, crying every night, every time na maiisip ko na mamatay na ako at iiwanan ko na ang pamilya ko, I have so many dreams for them,” he recalled. But then he realized that “depression is not a side effect of HIV; it is the side effect of (the fear of) dying. I eventually realized this.”
Testing HIV-positive “affected my life by transforming me as a person. This time, I became more responsible; I learned to value little things about life; I learned to be more independent, to be more mature, and to respect other. It’s just a matter of acceptance and enjoying your life.”
Considering he is only 19 years old, “for me, waking up every day is the biggest challenge (being HIV-positive). But facing that challenge is the adventure because every day (I wake up not knowing) how long I will still live, and how long I will still be with my family. Did I accomplish (things within the) day to make myself and my family happy? This question is always the biggest challenge that I face.”
@bon_plus added: “Life has so much more to offer, and I have my strongest weapon in my prayers and faith in God. He’s there, you just have to go and talk to Him.”
On people’s reactions to PLHIV, @bon_plus is sardonic. “Who wants to have a friend with HIV? Who wants to have a brother with HIV? Who wants to be with someone who is HIV positive? Of course none! Here in the Philippines where stereotyping is common, I’m sure you don’t want to disclose your HIV-positive status) to anyone. Because as we all know, Filipinos are all largely uneducated about HIV,” he said. He believes that when dealing with PLHIV, people need to learn to “just go beyond what society will tell you to find (ordinary) people that have always been there on your side.”
@bon_plus gets his support from his family friends, and from “the first person aside from my family who loves me wholeheartedly without hesitations,” his HIV-negative boyfriend. “He became my shelter, the extension of my arms when I can’t hold on to life, and sometime my other leg that always wants me to push and step forward every time I want to hold back.” For @bon_plus, getting a simple “Kaya mo ‘yan” means a lot.
@bon_plus already takes ARV, and he was fortunate enough not to have had any bad experiences with his treatments.
@bon_plus believes that disclosing one’s status is always one of the hardest parts of having HIV “because you always have to balance things because it will affect someone’s life aside from your own,” he said.
As an HIV-positive person, the best lesson @bon_plus can teach others is that prevention is always better than cure, so people need to be more responsible. But for other PLHIV, “there’s always a new life after getting the virus. Be someone’s inspiration… that we can still live normal lives, that we can have a family, a life, a dream, a career, and find the right person in this hopeless world. It’s not yet the end. Life is too short to blame others, so just live life, laugh hard, teach others, and set an example. Here I am always offering my helping hand. I am young and I am HIV positive,” @bon_plus ended.