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 email@example.com, or call (+63) 9287854244 and (+63) 9157972229.
By Grey of Cagayan de Oro City
Call me Grey (not my real name). I am from south of the islands of the Philippines – Cagayan de Oro. I am HIV-positive. It’s been two months since I knew my result.
I call it as my Dark Age or simply “restless days”. I had a wonderful and simple life here in the province but I chose to work in a big city for better opportunities. Financially, my family can provide for me and my brother the things we ask for; but young as I was, I wanted more – I wanted freedom and to live independently. And so I had a very different life, and yes, I loved it. But while I enjoyed it so much, I forgot the things that matter. It was then that I got really depressed, so that I clung to short-term happiness. I became promiscuous. I enjoyed the ‘short times’ with some random guys. I had several flings and it became a pattern… a pattern of my life that I never wish happened, though it did happen and not that I ever regretted it happening.
In October 2011, I decided to come home. I was having the best and worst days of my life then. I needed to learn to love myself and to embrace the people who matter to me. I got sick most of the time then – from fever to coughing, until I was diagnosed with shingles. My self-denial did not help me. I was sick on and off until November 2012, and my family was starting to worry. I kept my composure and never thought of having the virus. In fact, I was still active in my sexual life – and, worse, I remained unsafe even then. I continued living my my life as if it’s the last day of the world for me.
Earlier this year, I got ill again, and I lost weight – around 10% of my body weight. It was the turning point in my life. I realized that I was indeed sick and that it may be something serious.
I remember earlier, on February 2012, when I got mild TB and confined in a private hospital in CDO, where I was enrolled to DOTS for free meds for TB – that moment in my life, I learned to value my family more as they were there when I was about to quit life. They did not judge me, just cared for me and gave me unconditional love. My tita, who is like my second mom, was always hands-on during those awful times. My nurse cousin was there to check on me. My mama was always there praying for my recovery. My best friends who knew my situation were there too. God became my refuge during those times. He was there and together with my family. I disconnect myself from the world for five months then, and I celebrated each day as if my last.
By mid-May, I got better and better each day. Loving yourself more is my weapon in that fight. I recovered so fast and it was amazing. A second life, indeed.
On May 28, I contacted my peer counselor from the city health department. I told him that I will take the HIV antibody test. I took it as God’s grace and courage to take the risk of getting tested. It was a risk I knew I would carry for a lifetime. In the afternoon of that same day, I got the result. I expected for it to be positive – I somehow knew I am positive. And my suspicion was proven right. As the doctor was discussing with me about my case, I just listened and thought of the things I did. I told him I needed to accept my status because I made a choice. No regrets for me now. I am now ready to face what life has brought me. This is a rebirth for me; a call for service.
It is true that one of the most difficult situations I ever dealt with is accepting my status day by day. But I became better eventually, and more loving of myself. I was indeed whole now. I dealt with this with openness and I embrace it unconditionally and with God’s grace.
My family still matters to me now. My best friends and my new friends from the advocacy molded me to become strong. I now need to choose the people who I want to share my life with.
Blaming doesn’t help at all. Dealing with it with open arms and continuing living and stopping worrying do. Yoga helped me a lot, too, and being with optimistic people.
And now I hope to somehow become a voice to my fellow PLHIVs, advocating for love and for inner peace.
Yes, it may not be always easy – it took me two months to write this! But to other PLHIVs, remember that you are loved. I am praying for all of us. Let us join together and build a new “us”.
Last week, I had my CD4 count, and the result was too low – it’s only 56. I know it’s just a number. I will start taking my medications this week and I know this will help me. But already, I am better and better every day. Every day is a miracle. I am now ready to face this battle.