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.
Artemus “Yomi” Arojado was hospitalized on November 16, 2011 (he was by himself) due to pneumonia and oral candida, which lasted until December 5 of the same year.
“One week after my confinement, the pulmonologist already said to me that my lungs were recovering; however, they needed to endorse me to an infectious disease specialist,” Yomi recalled.
When Yomi went out of confinement on the 5th of December that year, he already knew of his HIV positive status. “I was advised by the infectious disease specialist to wait for my confirmatory result for a month (which is on 5th of January 2012). It was the most… disorienting situation I have ever experienced,” he said.
In hindsight, “Well, I know that I was (sexually) promiscuous, so…”
His HIV positive status affected his life in various ways.
“I lost a boyfriend/partner (who is not HIV positive),” he said, adding, though, that it “was not a biggie, since we were not really always together because it was a long distance relationship.”
Yomi was also ignored by some family members and friends, though “I was blessed with a very loving younger brother and sister-in-law, a very strong and supportive mom, and special friends who… never ignored, discriminated or avoided me,” he said. “Frankly, being a PLHIV for me turned out to be the most fascinating and happiest thing that ever happened to my life because I got to know that my family, relatives and friends are there to give me the courage to face everything head on even if it is really difficult.”
Yomi also ended up resigning from his job that year when he was confirmed to be HIV positive “because the company that I have been working with as a team leader was not properly equipped with handling cases when it comes to newly diagnosed PLHIVs,” he said. He was also unable to disclose because at that time, “I was not properly equipped with all the knowledge about my condition.”
As a PLHIV, Yomi said that “finding work is not that easy even at this point, though I cannot see myself working anymore because I am very attached to the organization that I belong to, serving as the executive director.”
The changes in his life, said Yomi, turned out for the good. “For me, regardless of who you are or which community or kind of life you have, as long as you have faith and as long as you believe that everything happens for a reason, then everything will turn out for the best and in favor of the goodness of your heart.”
Yomi, by the way, is open about his HIV status.
“I don’t have any issues with disclosing my status,” he said. “I guess I’ve already learned how to manage telling people/individuals if there is a need to disclose…”
As someone open about his status, however, there are challenges.
“The greatest challenge is letting other PLHIVs have their own voice to tell their conditions, to teach them the right direction (to take),” he said. In the HIV community, “you will hear a lot of talks, a lot of people who are claiming to be the ‘masters’ of the advocacy; and yet, these people are still unable to make any difference or touch the lives of not only PLHIVs but also non-PLHIVs.”
Yomi is also wary of the bashers.
“Nevertheless, (these challenges) serve to inspire us in Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation Inc. to continue to help,” he said. And this is even if “we don’t have funds like other organizations. Because for us, as long as you have the heart to help, no matter the hardship, obstacles and criticisms thrown your way, you will get by no matter the odds.”
Yomi now has a partner. And “no matter how grumpy I am, he never stops being a kid and annoys me in a form of lambing, removing all the stress that I have,” he said.
Yomi has also been taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) since March 13, 2012, when he first enrolled in his treatment hub. “I would say (the experience of taking ARVs) neither pleasant nor unpleasant; it is actually dependent on how you manage and take the treatment as part of your daily routine to prolong your existence,” he said.
As an HIV-positive person, what is the best lesson he can teach others?
“Take ownership of your life, your health, and your very existence. You don’t need to always see all problems as a hardship. Sometimes you just need to prove that you are more than meets the eye. At the same time, you don’t need to be too proud of what you’ve done, as it is sometimes best to just continue doing all the best you can no matter the odds you experience,” Yomi said. “Always have faith that every challenge that comes along your way is not a punishment, but it only teaches you to be prepared for the future.”