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.
I am Angel.
Thirty-three years old.
And I has been living with HIV for two years now.
I received my confirmatory result last May 21, 2011. It was during our annual medical exam that year; I was prompted to take the test. It was part of my company’s health maintenance organization (HMO) package, so it was totally voluntary. After a lot of convincing from my officemate, I had the courage to take the test.
And then after two weeks, BOOM! Life was never the same.
I didn’t have the pre- and post-test counseling. The medical technologist (who attended to me) just told me that she will extract sample for my regular laboratory tests and for the HIV screening. The result (for the HIV antibody test) will be given to me after two weeks. And true enough, after two weeks, they gave me the result. They just handed me the envelope, sealed.
I went out of my mind, shutting myself down, withdrawing from the world for a month. Though I never stopped working and continuously did stuff that I did.
I had to figure everything out for myself, too.
After a month, I finally took the courage to talk with my bestfriends who never judged me and never questioned me. They wholeheartedly accepted me.
A week after that, we found ourselves knocking at the door of SAGIP-Philippine General Hospital.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
HIV took my life in a whirlwind. My initial CD4 was about my age at that time – 31. So I had to take ARVs immediately. I was one of those lucky guys who, despite the late diagnosis, never got sick. I was even luckier because I had no adverse reactions to the ARVs. To date, I can say that my body has fully adjusted with the medicines.
HIV did not stop me from helping other people, especially my fellow PLHIV. I have been active in social media, particularly in Twitter. Twitter peeps usually call me Kuya Angel, being one of the eldest in the group and the organizer of our regular meet ups. Modesty aside, I can proudly say that I was able to help newly-diagnosed PLHIV and made them realize that life must go on, and that the virus should not define us. What remains important is our attitude. For as long as I can and for as long as I live, I will always be their Kuya Angel.
For my family, I will always be the bunso. Makulit, masayahin and selfless. I will do anything for my family, especially my parents. But for now or perhaps until my last days, it will only be my Ate (my only sister) and my cousin who will know about my condition.
At work, I try to be a good boss. Far from being perfect, but I try to at least be someone they will always remember. I am working in a corporate world where having HIV is a taboo. So I have to work doubly hard to prove to myself and to everyone that despite what I have, I can still fulfill my dreams and be on top of the game.
This is me.