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.
“Na-tsismis na ko before pa nga naa daw ko AIDS (People gossiped in the past that I have AIDS),” Red Fox* said. “So nahadlok ko magpa-test (So I was afraid to get tested).”
That was, said Red Fox, even if in 2011, “naa ko ex-BF nga unprotected sex mi always (I had an ex-BF I always had unprotected sex with).”
Then sometime around May in 2012, while Red Fox was in Manila, he has his first partee n play (or PNP) – that is, sexual gatherings where the participants use recreational drugs.
While in Manila, he had a chat with someone online, eventually agreeing to meet the guy. “Dapat usa lang siya, but when I got there sa iyaha place, may kauban siya (It should just have been him, but when I got there in his place, he had someone with him),” Red Fox said. And then the guy said “PNP – kita na lang ko, may needles na (I just saw, there were syringes).” Red Fox could have chosen to leave, but he chose to join the “fun”. “I thought: ‘Sige na lang (That’s okay/I don’t mind)’.”).
In the next two weeks, Red Fox was invited by the pair to join them in their PNP sessions at least four more times.
In hindsight, the interesting thing was how “sige sila message sa ako, nangutana (they kept sending me messages, asking) if I was feeling something.”
At that time, Red Fox recalled having flu. “Wala pud ko gana mukaon ug naa ko sa burot sa neck (I also didn’t feel like eating, and I had this inflammation on my neck),” he said. This went on for three weeks.
After three weeks, “they tried contacting me again; I told them I wasn’t feeling well.
They said they wanted to see me to give me flu shots.”
Choosing to stay home until he started feeling better, Red Fox’s situation worsened. “After a month and a half, I started shitting blood,” he said. And his weight dropped, too, from 180 lbs. to 100 lbs.
At that point, “I still thought it was only because I was drinking too much.”
Red Fox eventually went back to Misamis Oriental, where he started feeling better.
Then in 2013, one of his friends passed away, allegedly from AIDS-related complications. “Nahadlok ko basi naa pud ko, tapos too late na saka pa ko maningkamot (I got scared that I may have it, too, and it would already be too late before I start doing something),” he said.
It was around that time when he had a chat online with Grey Hu of the Northern Mindanao Aids Advocates Society (NorMAA). “Nihatag siya ug (He gave me) online lecture,” Red Fox said. “And I thought: ‘This is the time’.”
On November 5, 2013, Red Fox got himself tested for HIV. It was “reactive”. On December 17, he received his confirmatory result: Red Fox is HIV positive. He was 32 then.
The moment he knew of his status, “I was scared. Wala ko nakabalo unsa ako buhaton (I didn’t know what to do).”
Red Fox said that he knew that “maningkamot nga (I have to try so that) I’ll be fine,” he said. “Pero huna-huna nako: ‘Unsaon to (But I was thinking: ‘How do I do that’)?’”
Red Fox locked himself in his room for at least two weeks. “Dili ko makahuna-huna ug sakto (I couldn’t properly think),” Red Fox said. “Gi-lock nako ako self sa room (I locked myself in my room).”
After two weeks, Red Fox started communicating with NorMA again. When he met with members of NorMA, he started feeling better since “na-feel nako nga dili lang ako (I felt I’m not the only one with this).” And finally, “na-overcome gihapon (I finally overcame what I was going through).”
Red Fox came out to his family. “Wala sila nagtuo (They didn’t believe me) initially.” And when they finally believed him, his mother started setting aside stuff for him to use (e.g. spoons and plates). Red Fox had to ask a local HIV-related NGO to discuss HIV with them. “Eventually, gi-dawat lang man nila (they accepted my status).”
Red Fox finds somewhat funny how his mom treats him now. “Mom said nga dili na ko mu-biga (My mom said for me not to be coquettish),” he said.
For Red Fox, “dili pud lisod ang life as positive (my life as HIV-positive wasn’t hard).” He went back to school for a while, in fact, and “life continued.”
In fact, “mas nahatagan ug direction ang life (my life gained direction),” he said. “Mas naningkamot; mas nag-strive after ko nakabalo. Ug na-lessen ang inom, although nag-bilar gihapon (I strived harder; I tried harder after I knew my status. And my drinking lessened although I still smoke now),” he said. “I’m happy.”
No, Red Fox hasn’t heard from the two in Manila. But a common friend mentioned that at least one of them – the one he chatted with and who invited him over – already passed away in 2013.
He now has a partner, who is also HIV-positive.
And he serves as the Secretary General of NorMAA.
To other people living with HIV, Red Fox said “dili mu-give up; dili mawalan ug pag-asa (don’t give up; don’t lose hope). With the right decision, everything will be fine.”
And for those who are HIV-negative: “Be more cautious and dili magpataka (don’t be careless). Be safe.”
*NAME CHANGED AS REQUESTED BY THE INTERVIEWEE TO PROTECT HIS PRIVACY