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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (+63) 9287854244 and (+63) 9157972229.
Yup, I’m HIV positive.
I’m a nurse, and just like any other Filipino nurse, I had a huge dream for my family. That was why I decided to work overseas.
Now I want to share my story.
I’ve read lots of love stories related to HIV.
But this is a bit different…
It was on July 17, 2013 when I was diagnosed with the virus. Time: 9:00 AM. Place: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It was a week after sleepless nights and agonizing when I was asked to go back to the clinic for my visa screening. I was asked to submit another blood sample for the confirmatory testing for my lab exam.
“One of your lab results is vague,” the doctor said.
He didn’t mention which blood exam.
But I was somewhat sure… though I was still hoping it’s not HIV.
Seven days later, the confirmatory result arrived.
“You are HIV positive,” the HR personnel said to me. “We need to deport you. You need to go back to Philippines.”
I had just taken a few steps to fulfill my dream. I was already in a position that most nurses only dream to have. To earn more than enough for my family.
But everything broke into small pieces…
I remembered excusing myself for a while to go to the washroom.
I called my brother, who’s also a nurse at the same country, but he’s residing in the middle of the desert. He’s six hours away from me. I just told him my situation, and begged him not to ask how I got infected. I’m a closet gay… but I know he knows it, and I didn’t want to elaborate things to him.
He told me to be strong, and that he’ll accompany me as soon as he can…
He arrived and we slept together in one room. He tried to joke with me, attempting to make the situation easier. “Ikaw talaga, pati dito gagawa ka ng eksena.”
That was the longest night of my life.
Everytime he touched me to comfort me, it was as if my heart was crushed because of my guilt. I wanted to say I’m sorry. But I needed to pretend to be strong. I didnn’t want my brother to get hurt because my pain will just worsen if I see him also hurt.
When the morning came, we expected for me to be sent back to the Philippines. But that wasn’t what happened. Unfortunately, my papers or clearance won’t be processed for five more days. And to comply with the law, I had to be detained.
My things were confiscated. I was placed in an isolated facility in the middle of a desert. I was alone in the room. I cried and begged to the police officers to hand me my phone so I could talk to my brother. My brother still managed to visit me at the detention center to bring me food and show his support. And it crushed my heart whenever the Arab police asked him to leave; I was only allowed to be visited for 15 minutes. I felt sorry for him because it’s 50 degrees outside and he had to travel for several hours to see me. But I never heard him complain.
And so came the day for me to go back to my homeland.
I was already at the boarding area, and I called my brother and told him what my heart really felt. I said thank you. And I said sorry… I said I’m sorry because I left him in our battle… That I can no longer help him financially sustain our family.
I was crying but he still tried to comfort me.
I repeatedly said I was sorry.
He just told me to be strong and that he loves me.
I left the country with a lighter heart because I told him finally what my heart is aching about.
Months passed and I’m now starting a new life.
My family is wondering what really happened to me in the UAE, but it’s my brother’s and my biggest secret.
We became closer now and more expressive of our feelings.
He sends ILY text messages more often.
A huge twist just happened in my life.
But what matters is that I’m better now.