Monday, October 24, 2011

a wound

Be Positive PH once emailed and asked if I could share my story to them. Here is my post.


A moment's wound for one could be a lifetime for others.

With a tone that sounded as if the Earth being round, an office mate of mine heralded to us that in dire cases when bandages are out of hand, a scotch tape is a good alternative.

I wasn't really minding the dude since it's midday and work is starting to nail us. If not because of the shrieking "OMG" of another lady office mate, I would go on ignoring them.

I turned to where the commotion was. Blood. I saw blood. Blood that spewed and unsightly at the finger of my office mate sitting next to me. And not just blood, a finger of his was covered with scotch tape in a vain attempt to substitute for the loss of bandage. So that was his announcement. Pwede rin pala ang scotch tape, no? he said.

The wound he's nursing was all too perfect for me to do the cringe: my neck muscle strained, one of my leg folded and suddenly raised, and my eye twitched. My cringe strings always get the pulling whenever a badly mended wound is in sight.

He took some time in explaining what happened. Apparently, the metal label of his netbook created a nasty slice on his finger without him knowing it just when he pulled out the contraption. As things happened quickly, it was painless. The next thing he knew was he was looking for a band aid, but the good secretary offered a pathetic solution to none that is scotch tape. He said the bleeding stopped, which was good, but his appendage was still soaking in sanguine splendor.

I and Ms. OMG haven't stopped cringing yet. Slightly irritated with our proof of disgust, Mr. Wounded Finger took the offense of a six-year-old kid whose ego was badly injured and bellowed somewhere from the pits of his vendetta, looked to me, and hollered, "Hoy, ah, wala naman akong AIDS."

It was a gun fired at point blank. As soon as his words registered in my head, I saw myself bleeding, this time, in what could be a mix of shame and self-pity. His bullets came round. If only I could muster the shattered courage, I would have snorted, "Well, in case you have Sir, would my simple nonchalant sitting here infect me?"

But of course I didn't tell that straight to his face. The most adult thing to do is to shut up. So I tied my tongue and let silence restore disturbed peace. After all, Mr. Wounded Finger didn't know the kind of wound I too am carrying after all. He didn't know about my status. And I guess with that sort of snicker made against me, against people living with HIV, I wouldn't let him ever know.

I thought his line of thinking was a kind of oddball that it hit my sarcasm button. Why, tell me? Who in his right mental frame ever sprinkled his blood on everybody? Are we really entering the civilization of vampiresque and zombiesque that we'd feast on someone else's blood? Having seen his wound, my cringing would be inevitable but I wouldn't surely partake on his blood—whether he's a healthy man or an HIV carrier. Thank you for informing me that you are HIV-free but that's your wound. You keep it to yourself. Some things aren't gladly shared.

Was there any prejudice committed against me with his slur? Looking back, still I'd say there was none. For he was clueless about the personal wound I am carrying, he didn't know the severity of his words. The flight of his utterances were not intentional spears hurled at my status or against my humanity. His flush of irate was, I surmise, a vengeful f-you for the sheer, nay immature, disgust toward the sight of blood that I and my lady office mate displayed, but it wasn't a personal stab against me and my disease. Nonetheless, reading between the lines, I clearly can sense that in the depth of his collective consciousness, his words are not but reeking of stigma.

It's unfair to dissect or psychoanalyze him here and trace why he uttered such kind of innuendo. From lack of information, from stereotypes or from the equally incompetent media whose reportage seem to spread the malicious word that HIV is a death sentence, who knows? But it seems to me that his words would just add a great deal of obscurity to the already dumbfounded: that HIV-positive people don't have the right to be wounded? Or even bloodied?

For crying out loud. How many people living with HIV out there can still manage to have their faces pricked at beauty centers? How many can still have their tooth extracted? How many still have managed to keep the virus to themselves despite being wounded one time in their lives?

Surely, what draws the line between a wounded healthy man and a wounded HIV carrier for my office mate to tell me that? Both need access to medical care, or the very least, first aid, but misinformation is making it doubly hard for the sero-positives because there is judgment made against them quickly. There is already the fear in the uninfected that a mere sight of blood is already infectious, and the non-medical practitioners are easy victims of this maligned information. And when this baseless factoids snowball what you get is stigma.

Down the lines of the most basic science of HIV, blood really is infectious. But really now, who would be infected by the mere sight of it?

All has the right to medical attention, even the most corrupt needs doctor, but stigma makes a difference altogether. While stigma on the sending end means to look down upon on someone, to discriminate others, to consider a person an entirely different being, on the receiving end it is shame, self-pity, and guilt. Stigma is a double-edge sword that has done no good on both ends: one reinforces stereotypes, the other wallows and becomes the victim of a supressive ideology.

What started as an office mate's wound ended up with a barrage of questions of my own and others' security. What should I do if I cut myself like that? Would I lift a monobloc chair and parry anyone who'd come near me? Would I go on a screaming fit and just run to the faucet like a deranged madman? Would I call for a freaking ambulance? Or better, I thought, I shouldn't just wound myself. I should do everything to not wound myself.

Without knowing it, I have given in the mold of stigma—which is ironic, because even if with utmost care, I may still cut myself whether I like it or not. Even the untimely, they say, has its time.

But if everybody would just treat a wound as a wound, a wound that needed serious medical attention, a wound that must be dealt with great care, be it from an HIV carrier, or a healthy man or a diabetic, we can all do away with that one great wound that's for a lifetime, and that is the wound that drills the heart of every people living with HIV whenever they come across prejudice, stigma, and disparaging swipe made against them.

If only people were aware of how hard it is for HIV-positive people to rise above themselves on times when it seems the world crashed in on them because of the disease, I guess they wouldn't add another round of hardships on us, call our wounds as an HIV person's wound, and dwell on their hang-ups. They'd just call it, "a wound."

As for me, I'm doing everything I can so as not to cut myself, and I'm starting by gently pulling out my laptop from its sleeve.

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