I was diagnosed in 2007 and the first friend to know was Kim. The disclosure was a no-choice-disclosure since he was the one who handled my test, so he basically came back to the waiting area crying to tell me I was HIV+.
The same day, I went to the office and disclosed to who then was my one month old partner. My only mindset was to “let him go” since I was diagnosed and I did not want him to be labeled as the “partner of a PLHIV”. We didn’t break up and the rest is history, this isn’t about that anyways. Lols.
From 2007 to 2010, I must have disclosed to more than a hundred people. It was a very informal thing for me and I simply told friends and office mates about my condition — over a bottle of beer, lunch or break time or a stick of cigarette. Yes, t’was that Casual!
I guess having been with people working with HIV & AIDS since 1995 has made me more open to the idea of disclosure, and more closed to the idea of stigma. Well, that’s just me.
I disclosed to my brother I believe in 2009 when he came to Manila for a short vacation, this time over a cup of coffee in Starbucks Glorietta 3. His reaction was rather neutral, I couldn’t quite decipher his reaction whether surprised, worried or what. But it was a lot better than other disclosures where friends would break down and cry— or worse, get an “I don’t care, we’re cigarettes to finish, let’s get this over with and go back up to work”-reaction.
I have been wanting to tell my mom especially for the past year since I have been exposed publicly as a PLHIV in several occasions, however, my brother advised against disclosing to my mom since she had her Angioplasty last 2012. Such news may not be good for her.
No, I am not worried that she’d act all crazy and disown me. I am more worried that she’ll get all clingy and anxious about my health.
Yeah, I am the youngest of four boys in the family. And Yes, I would say I’m the favorite. (This is me convincing myself that I’m the favorite, not the black sheep).
My world changed.
No. It didn’t change a bit ever since I was diagnosed. I still smoke, yes. I never really drank that much alcohol since I never got the hang of the bitter taste of beer. Still, my day-to-day activities was pretty much the same.
Then January, 2010 came.
That morning when we walked-in at the ARG Clinic of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Ate Ana in a matter of two to three hours, changed my life. CD4. ARV Drugs. Records. Clinic Code. Smell of a Public Hospital. A warm Ate Ana. A straight forward Infectious Disease specialist Dra. Dytangco.
It finally sank in. I was fuc**ng HIV positive and it took me 2 years and 4 months and probably 16 days, before I finally imbibed the HIV status that was presented to me that day in August of 2007.
My world changed because I had to take ARV Drugs. I was even more conscious of the food I had, activities I involved into, and every stress I encounter, I would think of my CD4.
My new world.
My new world basically consisted of a twice a day-ARV Drugs and a 3-4 times a week of immune boosting food. I would take on the effort of coercing myself to get a few of them into my system outside of the usual fast food or fatty food diet I had.
My new world further “evolved” as my friend Mike and I started planning this Non Profit Organization that will focus on HIV and AIDS.
Then Twitter Came.
I met a few friends online which later on became an outlet of support system for “me”. It was my support system since I was able to reach out to the community — that community that I knew existed for so long and yet I never really was a part of.
And eventually, I was a part of their support system.
It felt good.
By “friends”, I would mean other people living with HIV. People who I can straight look in the eyes and talk to about HIV and AIDS with no hesitations. People who are not in the exact same position that I am at however I knew we were able to relate and open up to.
People who told me I was their inspiration, when all along, they were mine.
People who I need in my life.
I miss my old friends.
Over the years of disclosures and leaving my old job, I lost track of a lot of people. My entry to the Financial Consulting world further pushed several friends away. Sometimes I would think to myself and wonder:
Did friends leave me because of the new career I chose or because I was HIV positive? Or maybe both.
Of course, that’s just me taking pity on myself and being pathetic. I knew that as we all grow old, we find new people in our lives. As we indulge in other endeavors, we meet new people, and we lose old ones.
I oftentimes look at their Facebook pages and go through redundant realizations that we have entered different worlds and we have to walk different roads.
I do not own my friends. And they do not own me.
In the process of accepting my new world, I have submitted myself to the fact that some friends have gone elsewhere. Period.
I have chosen to go full time in an advocacy where Stigma and Dead End thrive. And that advocacy does not involve my old friends. My closest old friends have gone abroad. My other friends, well, they have their lives now. Without me. As I have mine without them.
I still have a handfull of my old friends, I guess.
I can only wish that I have all my friends beside me, helping me campaign against stigma and fight for PLHIV rights.
I can only wish my old friends are with me planning activities for the PLHIV community and looking at options to make life better for the community.
I can only wish.
I can only be happy for them.
And I miss them.