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.
Four years ago, LoVeChild* had symptoms that he believed signified he already had HIV, though “I was in denial even to myself.” But because “my health was deteriorating, I have a friend who urged me to have myself tested; (this friend) was already HIV-positive then.”
LoVeChild added that he had inkling even then that he’s HIV-positive, and that “I was ready for the result.” This was because “I am completely 100% sure I got it from having unprotected sex with a guy whom I fucked. Usually, I use rubber If I’m the top. But then that happened. A week after that, I had a gonorrhea. I consulted a physician and had treatment done.”
Having had STI made him conclude he may also have HIV. “My fear was only in knowing how severe my case was,” he said.
Still, upon knowing of his HIV status, LoVeChild still felt a rush of emotions – from “denial, frustration and resentment to myself. I was suicidal during that time and depression took over me – I still feel depressed now,” he said. “In fact, when I had my (first) CD4 count done in my hub, and I found out it was under 200 cells/mm3, I really wanted to end everything.”
LoVeChild remembered keeping to himself for almost a year, though eventually, “I was able to tell my sibling, then our mother and father. Now, three of my aunties already know and our in-law. Good thing though that they still accepted and love me unconditionally. I guess I now have all the support I need from my family,” he said.
Right now, LoVeChild said that the biggest challenge is his depression. “There are times when I feel so hopeless,” he said.
Disclosure is also an issue, with this fear that “people may not be as accepting as my family; or worse, they will feel a profound disgust, hatred or hostility towards me. We live in a country where HIV is still treated as an abomination/disgrace.”
And though taking his ARVs was initially a hassle, since “I take it twice a day,” LoVeChild got used to his antiretroviral therapy. “I don’t have a choice but to adhere to what’s best for me,” he laughed.
“As an HIV person, I learned to start treating every single stranger with utmost respect and kindness. There’s a saying, ‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind always.’ I follow that,” LoVeChild said.
LoVeChild can now admit that his promiscuity, paired with unsafe practices, “led me into this (situation),” he said. So if he can give others advice, it is to “always protect and love ourselves first.”
But now living with HIV, LoVeChild wants to stay optimistic. “We all serve a purpose in someone else’s lives. We can not help everyone but we help someone. In a way I know God has a better and greater plans for me and that is to help others too,” he ended.
*NAME CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INTERVIEWEE’S PRIVACY