Tuesday, June 14, 2011

someone’s got to give

Disclaimer: A long read as much as it is heavily opinionated. Not for the faint of heart. Kidding. Levity aside, it's a post after almost a month of blog-hopping, being exposed to HIV routine and the ponderings while commuting.

Had I known that I would contract HIV five years ago, I would have taken the issue seriously back then.

I was a newly-minted college freshman. It was probably the first few days of classes when some worn-out upper classmen went inside the room and educated us about HIV. To my recollection, they were two guys who still brought in some materials about the virus and all.

My memory is a bit rusty now but what I could just make out of the past was they were asking us if we knew HIV, if we knew that it wouldn't technically kill us but the opportunistic illnesses would, and how the virus would mess our immune system. Other than that—issues on condom use and all—I forgot.

But I can still vividly recall that as they continue to preach about the disease, I was a bit aversive because, "Hindi naman ako magkakaganyan. Bakit ko kailangang makinig." To me, it was a peachy try to educate some "seventeen-ers" whose sexual hormones are on their way to rage.

Fastforward to 2011. The memory now haunts me.

It's my dutiful habit to scour the newspapers and dailies. But when my eyes suddenly catch a glimpse of those three notable letters, I zero in on that story. Today, I was browsing through the Philippine Daily Inquirer and a column caught my attention. Two parts down the first section, it talked about the lack of political will Philippines have in addressing the virus.

And even before this opinion piece rolled off the press, there were already many reports about the apparent increase of numbers here in the country: the country was identified as a potential runner in the HIV race; that by 2015, the number may breach half a million; that 20-ish out of some hundreds of donated bloods to hospitals were positive of the virus. Those kinds of stories coupled by believable numbers that could induce fear in your head.

But is there really fear?

My rude awakening about HIV came six years late after those two guys entered our classroom way back in 2005. Now that my body is already a dwelling of the virus, I can now say that I am more aware of the issue. Of the science behind it. Of the statistics. But all was too late.

Still I wonder in bewilderment why the number is on the increase. Do we really ever get to know the matter when we already have HIV? Do we really ever get to care when we already crossed the Rubicon, when we reached and got over the point of no return, when we already joined the ranks of those wishing for a cure for this one?

To an average Filipino household who knows no pozzie relative in whatever familial degree, HIV is just a news they get to hear. That kind of report seasoned with negativity that completes the menu of your primetime evening news. But does it? really? enter the heads of the uninfected ones? Or are they only brushing aside the news, thinking that the possibility of them having it are lightyears away? Will HIV only become a reality if it hits them?

Considering no new cases will be reported, if you'd ask me how to control the number, I only have two ways. One, you wait and let a pozzie peacefully join the souls up in the heavens (passive phase, because you sit back and wait for numbers to wane). And then, you send an army of educators who will teach about the mechanism of the virus (active phase, because you aim to freeze the number at the present level and hold it down there).

But I have already experienced being taught, still though, here I am! A pozzie now. I'm now convinced that no one could better educate the people about HIV than a pozzie himself, than someone who experienced and still experiencing the rollercoaster ride of having the virus.

Now enter the mother of all ironies. Once you get to know that you're positive though, you're forced to cloister and conceal your identity except to those to whom you confide on and to your doctor. Treatment hubs would let you use screen names, alias and whatnot to shield your personality.

While the best way for our uninfected brethren to learn about the virus is from our personal experience, protocol though would greatly recommend us to cloak our nooks and crannies with secrecy. Sniff out the irony in there.

So who's doing the educating? Perhaps some selfless medical volunteers, educators, and doctors who are willing to explain HIV down to layman's term. But isn't it more powerful, I surmise, if the pozzies will suck out the marrow from their experience and share it to others. What, I think, will impress the reality of HIV on ignorant/innocent people and captivate an audience in the non-reactives is not the tad boring science about HIV or the ooh-la-la segment where a medical volunteer pulls out a condom out of his pocket. The mental tide will turn when a pozzie digs his experience about his battle against the virus to achieve at least a sense of rehabilitation and restoration is his already deranged life.

In one of the health seminars my brother attended in his school, a pozzie active in the Order of St. Camillus bravely spoke before them about his HIV experience. It was a seminar he attended last school year—when I was still negative. Now that I'm a pozzie, my brother sort of resented. He told me he should have at least informed me about what he heard so that I could have kept the virus at bay. For that pozzie who disrobe himself of confidentiality just to unearth his experience and serve it on a platter for others to relish, may his tribe increase.

Well, somehow, someone’s got to give. Someone's got to share selflessly his life experience and give up the invisibility cloak to inform the heavily maligned public. That could be an outrage for a pozzie who wants to live an ascetic life after acquiring the virus. But really, if we are the first victims of stigma, then how could we really "address the climate of stigma that is still attached to the HIV epidemic"?

To each his own way of helping. Coming out in the open is not an overnight consideration a pozzie has to take. For now, even I am thinking twice about massively educating just about anyone. I’ll see. I just hope that this thought wouldn’t haunt me anytime in 2016—that is, if the prophetic 2012 apocalyptic episode is nuts.

I should stop here. Overthinking is retaliating against me.

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