Chuchay and the likes of him

Chuchay is a minor who was “abused” by a neighbor but was given favors in exchange.  He needed the favors to help the family. But he also wanted the favors for some semblance of luxury like make-up kits and mobile phone.   Chuchay is a character in the movie, Mga Batang Poz.

K was 19 when I met her, she was infected at 16 from doing sex work.  She said she was not prostituted,  she called what she did work and pleasure but stressed the fact that it was something she did primarily for her family–so to put food on the table. After  diagnosis, she was constantly discriminated and stigmatized by her own family. She fought hard to attain that sense of normalcy in her life- she worked with her city health office as a peer educator and eventually went back to school.

T had a similar story.  He had to do sex work at 15 to sustain his studies as his mom was elderly and unable to work.   A performer at school, he made it through high school and eventually, diagnosed when he was in 2nd year college.  Life was harder after diagnosis but he was able to work sans the most needed life-saving ART.  He got pneumonia and tuberculosis but fought his way through the infections.

At 17, D had to offer massage online so he can have fare money to go to school. D hails from the north, an hour and a half from Quezon City. He was diagnosed at 18 when he came to me for CBS during a bout of shingles.  We had to source money from donors to get his way through the basic laboratory requirements and transportation money so he can access his ART. At this time, he has graduated senior high school and is undetectable.  He intends to work his way through college. Still offering massage online to sustain his education, his own family doesn’t know about his HIV.

Minors. The future.  They had to work hard to provide for themselves and/or their families.  They were not forced by clients to have sex for money, but they were forced to do sex for money so they can make it through a day with something in their stomachs.

Is this a blame game? The failure of the parents to provide?  The failure of the family to sustain?  The failure of the government as the duty bearer? The failure of these kids to “know better”?

But these kids don’t need fingers pointing at them, or anyone. They went through the most excruciating pains at such young age that all they want, is to live.  And yes, these pains came first, way  before HIV.

The community is small, that’s true.  But the dimensions and dynamics within that small positive community is so vast that issues go beyond who’s to blame.  The sub-cultures are so distinct that “I made it, so can you” may not work when we talk to people.  The heterogeneity of lives have so much array that they surpass claims of who can help better– or who is more powerful in the advocacy.

Talking to them helps, it may go a long way.

They say they’re okay. And I for one, would like  believe that they are.  But when we start blaming them, stigma intensifies.

Helping them by making them accept the blame won’t work.

Accepting blame and Accepting responsibilities are two different things.

Be there for our kids.

The time will come when these younger community members will take our place in the advocacy. Maybe not all of them, heck not even half. But a very few will.  A very few may even witness the coming of the cure.

Let’s be brave for one another, especially for our new kids.

 

 

 

 

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12years & 45old: I am Here

07.29.2019

13 to 25years ago.

I was younger. Impulsive.   I went to places. A lot of places. Bath houses. Cruising places. Movie houses. Bars.  And the legendary MIRC.   I had sex a lot, a LOT. I moved from one pad to another, nearly every year. One city to another, Quezon City, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Taguig.  On the average I had around 7-10 partners weekly. Not an anal pene-fan but I had a few– imagine my definition of the word FEW. Started as top. Eventually bottomed. Ended up with anything goes. Career was stable.  Very good actually.  I was independent.  I was brave. I was confident.  I loved myself– in fact, I may have loved myself too much.  I didn’t do long term relationships, one week, two weeks, a month tops– then I ghost up.  I was nice (‘guess I still am), too nice I can’t say no to sex even if I didn’t like the “eyeball”. Anything goes. “Everything went.”

12 years ago.

I found him. A month after,  HIV diagnosis came.  He tested negative. I asked him to go if he wanted to. He didn’t. Confirmatory came back 3 months after.  CD4 scheduled 4 months after initial test.  But they lost my records. No baseline. No Nothing. I went back to my routine, this time with my ONE.   Career better than ever.

9 years ago.

I started ARV (CD4 less than 300) after a 2-piece shingle threat. I was undetectable in less than a year. Hub was hardly “inhabited”, I hardly saw other patients. RITM was a piece of heaven. I never had OIs.

7 years ago.

I quit my job. My friend and I decided there’s a need to focus on treatment and care services after having found out we were losing friends… to AIDS.  HASH was founded.  I focused on the organization. On the community.

Deaths still frequent.  But I told myself, we could still do more. I told myself, we are doing more… for the community. And we shall do more.

TODAY.

I realized that my hospitalization last week brought me closer to my grave. Not because of HIV, but because of hypertension that was so bad, my cardio said I was lucky I was still alive.  No shortness of breath, no headaches– but my nose bled profusely I thought I was gonna need transfusion.

That was in fact my first time to be confined. First time to be IV’d, to be “dextrosed”. First time to pee in bed using a urinal (plastic bottle).  There will be other first times. I know that. First time to realize who cared the most when I could have been in my death bed.

I have been giving my time, my life, my spirit to the so-called advocacy.  And I regret not a moment of it. The room for improvement for the HIV program is so big that we need more capable, more cerebral, more passionate, and more empathetic community volunteers.

I have seen lives lost. But I have seen more lives saved through the years.

I turn 45 in a few months.  I have been going to the gym for the past 2 years, more religiously the past year.  I tried to be conscious with what I put in my mouth (pun intended) but this time, I have to be most conscious than ever.

12 years living with HIV. 45 years living. 12 years loving.

I am still here.

I am here.

 

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Silence and a Half

07.12.2019

Oftentimes we encounter people from the community (even volunteers) going off grid, and we just think that they simply need some time off.  We go through the motion of our day-to-day activities pushing for more programs, more empowerment and more hands to hold.

In the process, we forget to stop and look back.

Where’s that volunteer who always shows up for pro bono projects? Where’s that guy who sometimes irritates us with the noise he makes in chats and pages?  Where’s that advocate who constantly shows up for senate and congress hearings?  Where’s that fighter who would name names when the community needs a voice? Where’s that survivor who visits patients and checks on them regularly?

We get caught up in our own agenda of helping others.   Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I too get caught up sometimes.

Do take some time though.

A roll call of who used to be by our side would be nice.

A quick hi.

A brief chat.

A simple how are you.

These things matter to break that silence.

And tell the person…

We’re here for you, just as you were always there for us.

 

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Hiatus Mode Off

 

So i haven’t been able to write lately.  Schedules just don’t seem to even let me open the website and browse.  But  I have been wanting to write (again).  Lately, I have watched the latest seasons of Lucifer and Grey’s Anatomy, also i finished watching Angels in America (again) last night.

Inspired.

So, here’s hoping to writing some more.

(((and yes, I miss making some peeps cry)))

***wicked smile***

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The Rising Cases of HIV in the Phils: What Now?

05.17.2019

So the March 2019-data came out today and yet again,  we have mixed reactions around the rising number of new cases in the country.

First off, we look at the numbers and the most current reports say that we have more than 65,000 cases since 1984.  If we’re familiar with the report, we would already know that the more common mode of transmission in the country is through unprotected penetrative sex yada yada yada… But what does the 65,000 really mean?

We have an AEM, I think it stands for the AIDS Epidemiology Model, that projects the number of cases in the country– with other disaggregations (or breakdowns).   A couple of weeks ago, I was told by a friend that the AEM has been updated and that the projected number of PLHIV in the country is at 90,000 (I had it fixed at 70,000+ for some time).  We evidently are far from the projection.

What about the projections?

  1. If these projections are accurate,  it means that this is our (entry-level) basis for the first 90 of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target.  90% of people living with HIV know their status? 65,000/90,000 multiplied by 100 would give you the percentage (use your calculator).
  2. Given these projections, there should be a regional or city-level disaggregation so further planning may be done down to the grassroots.  Hence, cities and municipalities are not blind when they plan out their programs and budget. Note that geographically contiguous (or adjacent) locations may need to consider the fact that people can easily move from one place to another– as such, inter-city and a more synchronized program across the different locations may be ideal (?).
  3. The projections are also needed for the national and local budgets to be carefully planned.  Procurement and buffers of anti-retroviral drugs (ArV) and other prophylactic drugs may have to consider these projections, for one.
  4. The projections will grow year on year as they (whoever are doing the projections) update the AEM data.  I would think that if we were to laymanize this,  if you have 10 PLHIV undiagnosed out there having unprotected sex, next year how much of these 10 would have passed the HIV on to  (how much more) others.

What’s been said before

I already said in previous blogs around the registry that the new cases mean that we are reaching more and more people.  I said the same thing in a recent radio interview.   I also said before that we’re seeing more and more people accessing the HIV services in the different locations.   I also said before that we appreciate the efforts of our different partners acting on the program.

What needs to be done

A LOT still.

We need to understand as community members the different data sets available in our environment.

Heck, did you know that the different cities have population estimates for MSM, Transgender women, Female / Male sex workers, etc.?  This is a good (maybe not perfect) basis when you look at your current location you’re working on.

This is where being an “advocate” comes in.  As volunteers, we may not have the same level of appreciation, understanding and ACCESS to data available for our response planning.   As an advocate, we want to act on the available data and help institutionalize programs in place– as oppose to a volunteer who would push and act more on the programs per se at the grassroots level.

NOTE:  I am not downgrading the importance of volunteers in the community- THEY WILL always remain the backbones of the whatever programs are put in place across different locations and agencies.

We also call on our AEM Data-holders to roll out the information down to the different civil society organizations we programs are built around the available (evidence-based) data.

So when we look at the HIV/AIDS Registry, don’t look and talk.

LOOK AND ACT.

LOOK, PLAN AND ACT.

LOOK, PLAN, PLACE AND ACT.

Whichever works best for you.

Again, one life reached is one life saved.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This is not a “full blown” take on the AEM’s role in our programs.

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A Weekend At Galera

05.06.2019

The last time I went there was 2015 I think, with some of the REDx kids.  Last weekend, I was finally able to go visit Puerto Galera again with @iam_pansexual @james000014 @AriesBoiii @SuperTrix3 @kuya_daddy  and my partner, Kim.   It was a nice experience. Relaxed and I wasn’t in any way harassed to doing activities I didn’t want to do.  We stayed at Agbing’s where we paid PhP2500/4pax room. Oh, one-way fare would cost you around 600 I believe (from the Bus Station in QC to the island)

Food.

The food places were the same.  You would have grilled meat-places (Php130 on the average) w/ fresh fruit shakes (around PhP90-120).  If you want more affordable food, you may go further back of White Beach Hotel where residents would have set up small “eatery” with meat viands at PhP60 and veggies at PhP40.  Seafood was notably pricey like Tilapia and squid normally cost PhP230/piece.   Try not to get conned with the “group meals” of some places like “Queen of Isle” where a meal for 2 would cost PhP400 (half an order of liempo, Pork sinigang, “unli-rice” and 2 glasses of Iced Tea.

Activities.

I “saw” quite a number of activities around the beach like parasailing and banana boat rides. Henna and permanent tattoo-booths are all over the place.  You have roving masseuses who offer massage and braids.  Two volleyball nets   are galera collage

 available on a first-come-first-“own” basis.   Sunset is never bad at any beach in the country. 

Booze

At night, tables and chairs are set up to extend the restaurant parameters towards the beach to accommodate more customers.   The most popular drink in Galera would be the “Mindoro Sling” which is a concoction of rum, 7-up (or Sprite), lemon juice, grenadine and (sometimes) mango nectar.  The cheapest Sling tower we saw was at PhP330.   Different bars have different entertainment shows set up, too near one another that more often

poi gallera

than not, the sounds/music are overlapping.  You have crossdressers and transgenders doing drag shows, some bars would have DJs playing loud(er) music to drown out the bar-next-door.  Some bars have acoustics.  A few bars have fire dancers also.

 

So why go to Galera? It’s one of the relatively nearest, more popular go-to places we have this side of the country.     It’s said to be a haven for MSMs but this past weekend, I would think it’s more than an MSM get-away.   It’s a cheaper-simulation of Boracay (sorry if i used the word simulation) so you have many bar-options and food places to go to, less the air travel.

And why NOT Galera? If you are so in love with Boracay, then you might not like Galera.   The boat ride is at least an hour and they tend to go overboard with the passengers (we actually were standing the entire boat ride from Galera to Batangas Port).

Oh, yeah. I can’t possibly end this without saying a word or two about the famous bat cave.  This used to be that end of the island where MSMs cruise at night. I wasn’t able to (REALLY) go there this time but my friends were able to do oculars.  There weren’t as many men like in the “olden days” but yeah, cruising exists.  They said the farthest end has barbed wires so you have to be careful at night in the dark if you go walking towards that side.

Lastly, DO NOT BRING A CAR hoping there’s parking inside the Batangas port area. We ended up walking for 30 minutes under the heat of the sun, all soaked in sweat after an hour’s SRO boat ride just to get to the car OUTSIDE of the port.

See you again, Galera.

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The Cling

04.15.2018

We cling, to memories so dear. To pain so deep. We cling to feel. The friendships so joyful, the past that cut us into a thousand pieces, the hope that may never be.

We cling, so we can learn from each moment. No matter how vague, no matter how defined.

We cling, so we prove to ourselves we are able, or able to. Even if it disables us.

We cling, and we do it again a million and one times, because clinging makes us human,  for some, humane.  Even if others look down at us, judge us, think low of us, we still cling.

We cling to our faith, no matter how strong or fragile. We cling to gain the gaze of people we want near.

We cling to our assumptions, and when proven otherwise, we cling to new sets of theories.

This is us.

We aspire, we desire.

We wish, we expect.

That’s why we cling.

 

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Coming Home

04.03.2019

You lost your way, you went somewhere you never imagined you could ever go.  Somewhere you thought was paradise. Somewhere you felt free. Yourself.

You lost your way, you went to a place where acceptance was given, not begged for. You though you were safe, so you stayed there. Somewhere.

One day, you woke up. Lost. Lonely.

You lost your way,  and people are telling you to come back home.

What is home?

Where is home?

Is it with the people who you grew up with?

Or the people you grew into and with over the years?

Who can tell you this is home, or that is home?

When you’re lost, you come back home.

But home is anywhere…

where love is.

where acceptance is.

where sadness and happiness are both overflowing.

where loneliness is inevitable and yet, joy is unquestionable.

where pain and mistakes are building blocks of your tomorrow.

Home is where your heart is.

You may get lost in your own home but it doesn’t mean you are lost.

Being lost is a matter of perception.

Being lost is an idea.

as being home is.

home

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Don’t Settle

Dear You,

You have been hurt before, deceived even, or at least you felt that way. You felt you owed him so you stuck around, despite the pain. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have the choice– the will– to choose your path because you are HIV positive.  You will be loved by someone who deserves your love. You will be cared for by someone who cares so much that hurting you will never be his intent.

Don’t settle because you’re indebted. Or because you’re confused.  Life is short and it becomes shorter with every second spent with someone who doesn’t appreciate you.  When a person brings us tears, we sometimes bear the pain and suffer in the dark– because we love him.

Do you? Really love him?

If you do, we will be there for you should pain come hitting you back. Knowing that the love you chose is tantamount to some pain, your blood family will be there for you.

If you don’t, we will be there for you should you decide to walk away. We will hold your hand as you are not alone, you will never have to be alone.

Life is full of choices. Some we get to choose so luxuriously from, but some we have so much limitations we’re bound by debts and history.

Either way, know that we are here.

Don’t play around. Don’t go with the flow.

Be in control.

Be wise. Let your pain be your teacher.

We’re here for you.

Love,

Dad

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Your 2019 REDx Organizer

03.26.2018

Everyone had a hand in making sure that the noise online was sustained. Everyone also had to make direct messages to follow up with some attendee-wanna be who wouldn’t respond after registration.

But there had to be division of tasks to make sure the grounds were covered.

Our resident “modista”,  and was eventually in-charge of the SMS blast. Along with Grey, he also helped with the procurement of the materials needed  for the Mr & Ms REDx / event.

Our social media and technical specialist, He took care of the the analytics for the different hash tags.  Also, he served as on the resident first aid expert on the island

Tito took care of the bus and the island coordination.  He also owned the accounts where funds were transferred, hence, he managed the funds. He also set up the mobile bar and took care of the video for the cadlelight

@Puhaorangi 

Our onsite boytoy. Just kiddin’.  He assisted with the onsite coordination, he was also my official pillow during the bus ride. =) .

@GreyHuMin

Our all-around girl,  Grey would be the go to person if this or that (thing or person) will have to be done, followed-up on and spoken to.

@POSSIECAT83 as always is and will always be the best person to handle the games.

YOUR NON- FIRST TIMERS

OF COURSE, it would only be proper to mention the non-first timers in this organizer’s article, =)

  • @Kaskade08 (2014-2018 Ms REDx)
  • @positivelife888
  • @PenpenSue
  • @CarloAl55724166
  • @fighivter
  • @13Yelchin
  • @HopPeaMelon
  • @OCDriver0608 (Onsite assist)
  • @ryancortez (Onsite assist)
  • @iamnemo2012 (Onsite assist)

 

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