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@DvocateHIV: Staying positive while living positive

Upon knowing his HIV status in 2007, @DvocateHIV says “there was a brief 1-2-3 seconds of silence followed by an ‘okay’. I didn’t really feel bad about it, knowing that I had to take responsibility for my actions.” Now as an advocate, he eyes to touch people’s lives. “I felt the real need to reach out to others – particularly PLHIVs, those affected by HIV and AIDS and friends,” he says.

This is part of “More than a Number”, which Outrage Magazine launched on March 1, 2013 as a move eyed 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 editor@outragemag.com, or call (+63) 9287854244 and (+63) 9157972229.

It was not @DvocateHIV’s intention to be tested in 2007. “A friend brought me to a hospital laboratory where he used to work so I can have a complete blood test, he said,” recalled @DvocateHIV. “I was adamant at first since we had a health card in the office, but I gave in eventually. I did not know there was going to be an HIV-Ab test in the procedure. The next day, in the lab, my friend and I were asked to stay in the hematology room. A few hours later, my friend came back crying. I was told the HIV-Ab test came back positive.”

@DvocateHIV said he knew “how I got infected, yes. But to put a finger on when, where and (from whom) is something I am not able to do.”

Upon knowing his HIV status, “there was a brief 1-2-3 seconds of silence followed by an ‘okay’. I didn’t really feel bad about it, knowing that I had to take responsibility for my actions. My more immediate need then was telling my partner (who got tested negative the next day).”

Interestingly, @DvocateHIV has been in HIV advocacy since 1995. But “it wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I felt the real need to reach out to others – particularly PLHIVs, those affected by HIV and AIDS and friends.”

Currently, @DvocateHIV’s family doesn’t know his HIV status, except for a brother in New York. “We decided not to tell our mom since she has a heart condition and we didn’t want her worried,” he said.

With the change in his serostatus, “I never saw a single biggest challenge in my being HIV positive,” @DvocateHIV said. “Each and every change I chose is something I decided on. (My) lifestyle had to change. Stress had to be managed well. And of course, ARV had to be started.”

@DvocateHIV also remains positive. “Having lived with HIV is something I believe that turned out positively – no pun intended. Some friends drifted away, some became closer. I found new friends. I touched people’s lives,” he said.

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Support for @DvocateHIV comes from “a lot of places,” he said. “Regularly, at home from my partner. Probably online, from PLHIVs. The best support I get though would be from friends. You see, I have been busy with my advocacies lately, and every time I get the chance to see friends, a warm, tight hug is more than enough support for me.”

@DvocateHIV started taking ARV in January 2010. “I am fortunate enough to have not experienced any form of adverse effects, so I would say second to positive outlook in life, ARV is what’s keeping me healthy. I (had) around 250 CD4 (cells) in 2010, and now I (have) 833.”

As far as disclosing is concerned, “I believe I may have told more than a hundred friends and colleagues already,” @DvocateHIV said. However, “disclosing publicly is a different issue altogether. It’s something I would eventually want to do, but I have to come forward to my family first. But yes, public disclosure is something I feel would help me inspire others more. Maybe in time.”

As an HIV-positive person, there are two “great lessons I personally learned these past six years,” @DvocateHIV said. “First, HIV is not a death sentence. For those living with HIV, recent or otherwise, diagnosis is just the first step to a new chapter in your lives. Know your way through and be strong. For yourself. For your loved ones. (And) second, love is not a question of HIV status. Let’s leave it that.”

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