u=u =struggle

06.20.2018

A recent tweet led to a long thread where the tweet said,

I’m in a monogamous serodiscordant relationship. My partner is HIV-, and I am an HIV+ top with undetectable viral load for years already. We do bare sex without fear because we know #UequalsU.

Stop the stigma. Stop the stupidity. Stick with facts.

There were people messaging me.

BOTTOMLINE: THE GLOBAL CAMPAIGN SAYS U=U

A recent US Health document was posted in the thread where u=u=93% safe, the same document said that across 3 studies, there was ZERO infection across serodiscordant couples. WTF is not clear?

Contentions were raised by some, saying that viral load may go up when people stop ART, or become non-adherent. In such case, then U=U doesn’t apply

U=U=Unprotected Sex.

This is your discretion. You are responsible for your own health. In the same manner that we choose to use condoms, or not, or we choose to love, or not (#boom)

U=U & fighting stigma

Let us not forget that the campaign is also working from an angle where we are figting stigma.

Stigma from “not” going into ART where people think it’s useless to take ARV

Stigma which makes people think that having sex with PLHIVs puts them at risk, when we didn’t say U=U=no condom. So have you hears about combination prevention? What about TasP?

IMPOSING

There was a contention where we should not impose our beliefs on others. I believe this goes both ways. But when an intellectual conversation is also a healthy conversation, let us be open to views, take our stand, and don’t attack the other parties below the belt…. or at a personal level.

DO I PROMOTE U=U?

Yes. No further elaboration. I will not dignify questions around condom use. If we equate U=U to condom use (and period!), then we lack understanding from an advocacy’s standpoint.

DO WE WANT U=U TO JUSTIFY NON-CONDOM USE?

Not my problem to solve.

That’s my 1,999 cents worth. 🤣🤣😂

MINE. And don’t you dare take that away from me as I’m sure you have yours.

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Bye, Heart

05.31.2018

Yesterday, i got to your room and your oxygen level was at 70 and the doctor was trying to calm you down. They gave you diazepam and tried to make you sleep. But you didn’t. We got to talk a bit and you askd about what’s next and i told you that the meds will come next l, you just have to make it through this confinement. Before i left your oxygen level was at 90 and you were already asking your partner for tacos.

I went home with a smile telling myself that you were doing very well but this morning i was told that your oxygen level dropped to 60

A few minutes ago i was told you left already.

I’m sad because having talked to you for that very short time, i thought to myself that it would be nice to hang out with this person, you seemed like a nice guy.

you’re gone now. you’ve gone ahead. but you gave it a good fight.

bye, Heart. It was nice to have met you.

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Congrats as AIDS LAW AMENDMENT PASSES BOTH LOWER HOUSE AND SENATE

05.21.2018

Today the amendment passed the 3rd (and final) hearing at the senate.

What is the amendment about? read here: https://twitter.com/jeffcrisostomo/status/998456493346209792?s=19

I have received more than a hundred congratulatory messages, across twitter, facebook, SMS and calls. While i sincerely appreciate all these messages, the thing is i have not done as much as the other key advocates have done over the past few years. A lot of these people have worked day in and day out to lobby and work for the amendment. All i did was to attend a few hearings and a few meetings but it is nothing compared to the great effort of those at the forefront of the lobbying.

Allow me to mention a few:

  • Senator Risa Hontiveros and Cong. Kaka Bag-ao who championed the bills at the congress. Of course, let’s not forget their team members– Jeff Crisostomo and Atty. Tetay mendoza who I have had to honor to meet.
  • Action for Health Initiatives, led by Mara Bondad
  • Network to Stop AIDS Phils. and its 20something CSO members.
  • A few positive community members who went out of their way to be, in their small ways, of help to the passing of the bill. Special mention to Ms. Elena Felix and Vina.
  • Every person who used the hashtag #passAIDSbill, liked or shared the posts
  • Everyone who in their hearts, hoped for the passing of the bill– and yes, even if some may not even know what the amendment salient points were– they chose to have faith that the amendment the lobbyists were pushing will serve better the HIV and AIDS community.

Let me share some pics at the exhibit of the hallway of the Senate from the positive community– these pics have been there since May 15th.

So let me thank everyone instead.

The Bicam will convene soon to merge the two versions,after which they will go back to their “houses” for final approval (i forgot the term), then the President signs off.

Congratulations. TO ALL OF US.

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moon

04.29.2018

do you carry promises no one knows?

do you know secrets you only keep?

do you rise and set like the sun does?

do you prefer the dark where you shine the brightest?

are you a moon?

sometimes half, sometimes full.

are you a moon?

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lost

04.23.2018

lost in a crowd of unfamiliar faces. you drown in loneliness and succumb to your dark corner.

lost in a strange place with no one to talk to, a new world that you’re new to, a different clueless dimension.

you feel alone.

but there’s always someone out there.

always.

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thanks

04.22.2018

last night i realized…

there had been so many people in my life that I ignored and failed to appreciate, simply because I didn’t like them back.

there had been so many people that I could have built great friendships with but I opted to keep my distance, because culture and “norms” dictated otherwise.

there had been quite a few people in my life with whom I wanted to spend so much time but they’re simply not there–for whatever reasons.

i’m the type who gets embarrassed by appreciation. And I guess I always will be.

but I have to learn to appreciate the ones right in front of me.

so thank you.

for the i like yous and i love yous.

for the quick his and hellos, taps and waves.

for the get well soons and good lucks.

and for being there.

just there.

you all know who you are.

thanks.

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A friend made & a flight delayed

03.26.2018

I was particularly restless knowing that the flight will be delayed for at least 2 hours.  You sent me a message on Grindr asking If I was also in the airport.  I told myself, “Hell! No, I won’t screen anyone in the middle of the airport!”   But you just asked if we can have coffee and smoke.

I said yes.

You came to the smoking lounge and I was surprised.  I saw you earlier with a big group at the check-in counter that held the queue.  I was really irritated with your group since you were holding the line. Sorry.

We went over the the coffee shop and chatted.  I made the effort of talking about HIV and giving you as much information as I could knowing I won’t be able to screen you (plus I checked in all the screening kits).   You were asking questions.  You were like, “What’s CD4?” and “What’s undetectable?”.  I told you more stories about the community. You asked about how I came about going full time in the advocacy.  It was a good chat.

You’re a nice guy.

After an hour. we went back to the lounge.  And you lit your cigarette and said, “I’m positive”. I casually asked since when, and you said December 2017.    You told me about your monogamy with your ex with whom you just broke up last Feb. Apparently you said, he disclosed that he’s been positive for 5 years.  You were sure you got it from him since you never had sex with anyone and you were negative as of  January 2017.  I chose not to probe.

I was glad you disclosed. I can only hope we can be friends since you seem to want to know more about the community, and about HIV. And about living with HIV.

Thanks for trusting me.   I will disclose as soon as we meet, I didn’t want to steal your thunder by saying, “me, too” when you suddenly disclosed.  You had so much  frustrations and pain, and love, for your ex that I opted to hold back from disclosing.

I will see you soon again.

 

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The Innocent

03.25.2018

Normally, I can screen-reactive someone for HIV and not get affected but you, you were different.

I had a day of 7 non-reactive cases.  I ended my day at the gym and you suddenly messaged me on Grindr. You were less than 25 feet away and I was wondering if you were inside the gym. You weren’t.  You were downstairs, you said.

I waited for you outside the gym and you said you were coming up.  But you changed your mind and said, maybe some other day.  I insisted.  You wouldn’t go up to the gym so I went down to the 3rd floor where you were waiting. I got there and I received a message from you, you’re at the 5th, and that you’re sorry for the mistake.

I ran up the stairs to the 5th and found you at the couch in front of the elevator,  You smiled and your eyes brightened up as I approached you. We went up to the room.

You’re 19.  6th in the family.  Your parents are both deceased.  You work to sustain your own education.  You only had two sexual encounters, both of which were with your boyfriends.  Your last negative test was October 2017 and you broke up with your first boyfriend in November.  You have been with your current partner for three months now.

You were reactive.

Your eyes were sad.   Your voice trembling when you speak and you just listened mostly. I tried to let you speak so I can listen but I ended up doing most of the talking.  I can’t take my eyes off yours.

You were sad.  Like most of the other cases, you were sad.

But I felt you. Your sadness.

Yours pierced right through me.

You had to go since your uncle was waiting downstairs.

You made me promise that I won’t leave you.

You promised you will seek treatment.

You came back early the next day to meet your case manager.  I told myself you were serious about your promise, as I was with mine.

But your eyes were sad, still.

One day,  I hope to see that same brightness in your eyes, and that big smile.

I will be back in Cebu. To see you.

And things can only get better.  Things will get better.

Hold on.

 

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6 babies, 3 oldies, 8 hours- and a lifetime

03.18.2018

Sorry can’t post pics of the kids, but I assure, they’re all cute. All kids are. =)

Spent Sunday with Christina and Nato.  We were exhausted, but it was worth it.

200 pm

Baby Ren, born Feb 01, 2018, parents 15 and 21 yo both positive, well the father is yet to get his test results as of today.  Baby Ren has been in the hospital the past week due to dehydration but as of today,  his mom said she doesn’t have watery stool anymore.  She is yet to take the PCR to confirm her HIV status but she’s on Zido drops.

Various donors gave diapers and Nestogen

300 pm

Baby Prince, 5 yo positive boy currently discharged from the hospital due to measles.  He lives with his HIV+ mom, his grandma, and 6 other kids.  His mom was last checked w/ a very low 1-2digit cd4 and she has yet to fully recover her strength.  Biological dad is somewhere… somewhere.

Various donors gave diapers and Lactum 3+

345 pm

Baby Choi, 4 yo positive girl recently discharged also due to measles.  Choi lives some 2-3kms away from Prince.  I wasn’t able to chat with the grandma since the road was so narrow I had to drop the 2 off and u-turn and wait somewhere.   I did see Choi from the car, she has rashes all over. Mom’s dead already.

Various donors gave diapers and Lactum 3+

430pm

Baby Liz, born Jan 20, 2018.  Parents, both positive, seem to be very happy with the progress. Mom has been on ARV since November 2017 while dad is yet to start ARV,   Baby Liz is rather underweight/size for her age, but she consumes a 350mg-milk pack in less than 3 weeks.   They are also able to get breastmilk once a week at the chapel.  They are renting a 10 sq. meter room for PhP3,500/month. Liz had her PCR last week but is yet to get the result.  Baby Liz is on ARV drops.

Various donors gave diapers and Bonna

545 pm

Baby Shane, born Jan 22, 2018, the chubbiest in the bunch.  Parents (27 and 20 yo) both on ARV.  They live in a (barely) 8-10 sq. meter room.   Shane is yet to take the PCR since dad is waiting for his next salary so he can bring them to San Lazaro.    Shane lives some 4-5 kms away from Liz.

Various donors gave diapers and Bonna

700 pm

Baby Sean, born March 01, 2018.  Tiny Sean was fast asleep when we got there but both parents (21 and 23yo) are on ARV.   Sean is on Nevi drops but is yet to take the PCR.   They live with grandma and dad’s sister, who I must say is VERY beautiful. Dad’s 2 digit Cd4 had him on Azithro-Cotri prohylaxis but he’s doing fine.

Various donors gave diapers and Bonna

So yeah, thanks to all the donors, most of whom I believe are anonymous and donors who don’t wanna be mentioned.  But we’re grateful for the all the help.

 

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Baby Steps to Helping Others

03.11.2018

nothing grand.

it doesn’t have to be a thousand people.

no one’s counting.

talk to someone.

listen.

share a warm smile.

give a tight hug.

or simply listen.

spare some money

or spare some time,

reach out

and listen.

it doesn’t have to involve the Senate,

spread optimism

without patronizing…

be sincere

but be tactful.

openminded,

and open options.

baby steps,

ain’t have to be a big leap.

just baby steps.

it will go a long way.

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