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There is a belief that the lives of those who test HIV-positive are about to come to an end, and this is erroneous. In fact, continuing believing so could prove to be more harmful than actually knowing your status and so start doing something to better your life (positive or not).

Bilang bahagi ng kampanyang “More than a Number” ng Outrage Magazine, marami-rami na rin akong nakausap na HIV-positive Filipinos. Marami sa mga nakausap ko ay nakaranas o nakakaranas pa ng depression; at kadalasan, nagsimula nilang maranasan ang sobrang kalungkutan nang malaman nilang sila’y HIV-positive.
(As part of Outrage Magazine’s “More than a Number” campaign, I have spoken to numerous Filipinos living with HIV. Many of these Filipinos experienced, or are still experiencing depression; and often, the depression started when they found out they’re HIV-positive)

Sa mga nasabi sa akin, ang depression ay nagmula sa paniniwalang matatapos na ang kanilang buhay.
(Based on what were told me, the depression surfaced because of the belief that the lives of those who tested positive are about to come to an end)

And I think that this is another element that advocates in the HIV community need to highlight: that having HIV does not mean you will already and/or automatically die. Hindi dahil may HIV ka, mamamatay ka na.

One time, a mother whose HIV-positive son had to change drugs because he wasn’t reacting accordingly to the ones first given to him, said to me that her son said: “What’s the use, Mom?”  Apparently, her son believed in the futility of taking antiretroviral drugs, “when in the end, mamamatay na rin daw siya (he’d just die anyway).” She joked that “gusto ko siyang batukan (I wanted to hit him)”, but she – of course – didn’t. Instead, “hinabaan ko lang ang pasensiya ko, kasi nga mababa na ang CD4 niya (I had to be patient with him, particularly since he had low CD4 count).”

Here’s the thing with CD4.
Kapag ang tao ay may HIV, naapektuhan ng virus ang CD4 ng tao. Ang CD4 ay kabilang sa tagapagtanggol ng katawan para hindi ito mahawaan ng mga sakit. Kung ang CD4 ng isang tao ay bumaba, mas maaring magkasakit ang isang tao; at sa kaso ng mga taong may HIV, mas maaari silang magkaroon ng opportunistic infections (OIs).
(When a person has HIV, affected are his/her CD4 cells. CD4 cells help defend the body from illnesses; if the CD4 count goes down, a person is more at risk of getting sick. In the case of persons with HIV, if the CD4 is low, then he/she has a higher risk of getting OIs)

Kung ang bilang ng CD4 ng isang tao ay bumaba ng 350, ang taong may HIV ay pinapayuhan nang uminom ng antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Ito ay upang – hangga’t maari – mapalakas siya, kasabay ng pagpataas muli ng bilang ng CD4 (kung hindi man maiwasan ang pagdami ng HIV sa katawan) at para maiwasan ang maaring pagkakaroon ng OIs ng isang taong may HIV.
(When the CD4 count falls below 350, it is recommended that a person with HIV start taking ARVs to strengthen his system, including growing the CD4 count, lowering the viral load, and generally helping in strengthening the patient to avoid OIs)

Ang mahalagang uliting sabihin dito ay ang mga ito (Worth stressing here are):

  • Hindi dahil may HIV ka, magkaka-AIDS ka na (Just because you have HIV, doesn’t mean it will automatically progress to AIDS);
  • Hindi dahil may HIV o AIDS ka, mamamatay ka na (Having HIV or AIDS does not mean you will die).
  • Ang bilang ng CD4 mo ay puwede mo pang paramihin (You can still grow the number of your CD4 cells).

Kaya inuulit-ulit natin ang kahalagaang malaman mo ang HIV status mo nang maaga, dahil kung ika’y may HIV, magagawan ng paraan na ang CD4 mo ay mapanatiling mataas; o kung mababa na ang bilang, ay makakagawa ng paraan para ito’y mapataas, at para makaiwas ka sa mga opportunistic infections.
(And so we keep stressing that it’s better to know your HIV status early, so that – if you are HIV-positive – something can be done to keep your CD4 count high; or if it’s already low, there are steps that can be done so you can grow the number back up, and so you can avoid getting infected with opportunistic infections)

Tulad nga ng sinabi ni Dra. Rossana A. Ditangco, research chief of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM,), even “for patients who are tested during the advance stages of HIV, the CD4 is not that critical anymore because the patient can be managed based on clinical conditions even without the CD4 test”.

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Sa aming pag-iikot para magbigay ng voluntary testing, ilang ulit na rin akong nasabihan na hindi na kailangang malaman ng isang tao ang kanyang HIV status dahil “para ano pa, kasi kung meron ka, mamamatay ka na”.
(Accompanying other activists in giving voluntary HIV testing, I have frequently been told that a person no longer needs to know his/her status because if he/she is HIV-positive, he/she’ll just die anyway).

 Sa ganitong pagkakataon, hindi ang HIV ang magiging sanhi ng iyong kamatayan, kung hindi ay ang iyong mga maling akala.
(In cases like this, your HIV status will not spell your death, but your wrong beliefs)

So, learn.

Because it won’t be over until it really is over.

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