This is part of “More than a Number”, which Outrage Magazine launched on March 1, 2013 as a move eyed 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.
Earlier, G Boy Positibo’s sister (“The only family I have aside from my partner,” he said) found online information about getting tested for HIV, which she sent to him. And “so I did (go in for testing in a mass testing by a non-government organization),” he recalled.
And so on that day, on the 10th of March, he found out he’s HIV-positive.
“The moment I heard my counselor say: ‘I am so sorry, but you are HIV positive’, I was numb and shocked; I was mad at myself. It felt like I just got my death sentence. I have felt the darkest feelings a human could possibly feel,” G Boy Positibo said.
G Boy Positibo actually got tested at the same time as his partner, and “me and my partner have both been sexually active before we met each other a year ago… so I guess it doesn’t really matter who infected who anymore.”
At the same time, though, “we promised each other that whatever the results are, that we would stick together.”
The biggest challenge that G Boy Positibo said he is so far dealing with has to do with disclosure.
“When I got home after being tested, my sister texted me and was asking for the result… I lied. I told her that I was negative. Until today, only me and my partner know our status…”
G Boy Positibo wrote a letter to his sister revealing to her his HIV status, “but I still have not managed to gain enough courage to send it,” he said.
It was disclosure, too, that forced G Boy Positibo to resign from his work after telling his friend, “who is also my boss, about my status”. In a gist: “I disclosed my status to my friend/boss, and now I am jobless.”
He also disclosed his status to his best friend, and “now we don’t talk to each other anymore.” Similarly, “I disclosed my status to my ex-boyfriend (to convince him into taking the HIV test), and now he is ashamed of me.”
“Disclosing,” said G Boy Positibo, “never resulted to anything good in my life. But that’s just me. One can open up to someone about their HIV status, but only in their own terms.”
G Boy Positibo noted, too, that he “suddenly became aware of all of the sensations and/or pain in my body. I panic every time I feel something weird,” he said. “Knowing my status triggered me to buy a bunch of healthy foods and vitamins, and stuff my fridge with (them). I have been jobless for almost two months now, and I am starting to run out of savings, so I guess that’s also a challenge.”
Fortunately, his partner is with him.
“My greatest source of strength right now is my partner. He has remained very optimistic, and he always makes sure that I avoid stress, and he always support me emotionally.”
Alas, G Boy Positibo does not have any support group that he belongs to “because I’m simply busy looking for another job”. He was offered to join such a group, though he has yet to meet up with its members.
G Boy Positibo’s CD4 count was 650 when he had his baseline tests – way above the below-350 observed before a person with HIV is recommended to start taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). But while “I don’t need to take the ARVs just yet,” he said, “I was advised to live a healthy lifestyle, and that is exactly what I am doing.”
G Boy Positibo also started sharing his story through a blog, which he hopes to help spread the information about HIV. “It gives me joy whenever I read messages from people who tested negative, who are thanking me for helping them, who are asking questions about HIV. Providing this kind of support to people gives me a sense of purpose,” he said.
As a person with HIV, if there is one thing G Boy Positibo can share to others, it is that HIV does not discriminate. “I just want to let people know that I used to have the bias of optimism. I used to think that, yes, HIV is a real threat but it’s unlikely to happen to me and more likely to happen to the person next to me. THAT IS WRONG. We can be optimistic but we have to be a little realistic that if a certain percentage of people are likely to get infected, let us not think that we are part of the fraction who won’t get it.”
The trick, he adds, is simple: “Practice safe sex ALL the time.”
“If you don’t know your HIV status, and you’re scared (of what happens during HIV testing, of the results, of not knowing how to continue with your life if ever you are, et cetera), the best thing for you to do is research. Remember that knowledge is power,” G Boy Positibo said.
And for other persons with HIV, “there is no other way for us to go but forward. No matter how hard we cry, no matter how depressed we are, and no matter hard things are, we must move on,” G Boy Positibo ended.
Know more about G Boy Positibo from his musings.
*NAME CHANGED, AS REQUESTED BY THE INTERVIEWEE