Sunday, November 2, 2014

dreaming a dream

Part and parcel of the silence here in my blog is due to professional studies. The last five months was spent memorizing provisions, reading Supreme Court cases and consistently asking myself whether what I opted in my life was the best decision of all. After rebounding from HIV depression, I knew that everything was back to normal; and the dreams are back afire.

My truer friends who know my condition were more concerned than I am after I told them that I would proceed to law school: "Isn't it bad for you to be stressed out given your condition?" I actually pondered about it but would I want HIV to punctuate my ambitions in life? I guess then when it comes to amoral choices, we shoot in the dark. So shoot I did.

The two weeks that passed was spent unwinding. It is the semestral break, although since Monday, I started prepping for second semester. The sheer rote learning employed in law school is so burdening and mentally taxing, notwithstanding that humiliation is a tool of instruction, that sometimes the destination is too far from where I am that it bogs me down. Don't get me wrong. With a costly tuition and a costlier-than-the-usual set of books, the destination will always be relative to the journey.

In short, I feel like giving up. I feel like there is always an easier way out. That I could just sedate my ambitions. I hope I don't cross anyone. For someone with HIV, there is always that gray area in my brain where I keep on telling myself that I have to compete with my May 2, 2011, the date of my diagnosis. I don't have to prove things to anyone, but I am mandated to beat the hell out of my having HIV to prove that I can do things. Then again, when the going gets tough, the tough quibble at times.

But somewhere in the vast uncharted corners of the universe comes wonder. I get to receive emails from people regarding their conditions. And all of them are about employment issues. Truth be told, I cannot answer them with precision everytime. But for these generous email senders who placed their trust on me, I could not thank you enough for making me realize why I want to be a lawyer in the first place.

At the time when I was about to take the law school application test, there was a question that asked the applicants what kind of legal field do we want to specialize on. I ticked, "Labor Law." I dunno why that choice given that Criminal Law and sending people to rot in jail appealed to me back then more than anything. But I also already thought too that as the number of PLHIVs increases, PLHIVs will encounter work-related issues, whether unjust termination in work, insurance coverage, immigration issues, mandatory testing, etc. I could just ask you to watch Tom Hank's Academy Award-winning performance in the 1993 film Philadelphia to get my point.

A while ago, under the spirit of unfettered brazenness and grandiosity, I scoured the Internet to know which American schools offer a Health Law track in their Master of Law degree. There are Georgetown and UPenn that licked my interest.

The Philippines could do so much better if we have a bevy of lawyers adept with health and HIV laws that could tie them with labor, immigration, insurance or even adoption and family issues, on top of human rights, among others. Imagine a free legal assistance group for PLHIVs and whose lawyers are not just gays but who are PLHIVs too, a circumstance that will not hinder people seeking help to pour out their concerns; won't the country be a better place? Ah, the beauty of dreams!

Then again, tomorrow will be the start of the next semester and for now I still have years to burn. Since 2011, what I have proved is that it is us who kill our dreams or let our wounds remain unhealed in open air. We, not HIV.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

overcoming HIV depression

A Sober's Guide to Overcoming HIV Depression

Foreword: No proven effect but it's worth the try. Last time I was in PGH, there's a form asked for me to be filled out. It's a correlation between depression and HIV. And if results show that I am depressed, the kind student said that I could be referred to a psychiatrist for proper consultation and guidance. So I answer the test and voila, not depressed. Below are the things that I thought would be nice to share for those newly-diagnosed PLHIVs. These are exclusively from my experience so I am sure some things won't apply to you. But you consider, maybe it's bound to help one way or another.

1. If you suspect that you are at risk of contracting HIV, get yourself tested. Running away from HIV test--and in the long run from your status--won't make you feel any better. If it gets down to it, not taking a test in spite of perceived risk on your part will only make matters worse. You will feel good by not knowing your status (out of fear) only for a moment, but when the systemic symptoms are already showing, it's gonna be tough.

2. Get help. I will have a solid stand on this: Family-first policy. I know that we have different domestic setup and that some HIV positive gay men are still in the closet but if you can, get help from your family. If you think your family just won't understand you, reach out to your close friends. To whom you will get help and support is a judgment call.

3. Do not seclude yourself. It's not entirely about having HIV. It's about knowing you have HIV. And when you know you have the virus, it sets a trainwreck of depressive thoughts in your head. The more you seclude yourself, the more the devil is playing with your idle mind. Go out there and find distraction.

4. Pay your Philhealth account. Every HIV positive here in the Philippines knows how important Philhealth remittance is. If you're voluntarily paying for your contributions, better. Because at least you are keeping tab of it. If your employer are always late in remitting your contributions, make sure that your local treatment hub knows about it so you can prove that you are not remiss with your obligations, but your employer is. This is to let them know that the remittance of your premium contribution is not within your hands anymore.

5. Share your experience. It need not have to be with a company. Much better if you can volunteer, but if you don't, keep a blog, a social media account or an open line for pieces of advice. For all we know, a newly-diagnosed HIV patient who is depressed and lost may be out there. Keeping a journal of your transformation and coping mechanism will help them. Do it for them.

6. Pray. In deference to apatheists, this one is entirely personal and subjective. Then again, go there and renew your sense of faith. The bitter part of acquiring HIV, especially in the Philippine context where male-to-male sex is the most viable transmission, is that it seems to be looked upon as a maleficent karma on our promiscuity or lack of sexual restraint. Renewing your faith, as I can attest, will dampen the stigma associated with the condition. In times of moral danger, sometimes the best hope is to cling to the Man Upstairs. If you know deep inside you're sorry and willing to change, no amount of stinging remark will ever get you.

7. Drink your ARVs as soon as possible. When I was diagnosed back in 2011 my CD4 count was well above the 200-mark. My doctor gave me an option, which means that I can defer drinking my ARVs. But I asked for her honest-to-goodness opinion and she recommended to discount the figure and push on with the ARVs. I did. Now, I am back within the healthy range.

8. Be fit in all sense and aspect of your life: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Go hit the gym. Help other people. Do away with stressors. Hush a prayer. Sleep long. It's not necessary for you to go on a Juju cleanse or a six-pack abs. Just make sure that in common human experience, you are functioning well. Don't just settle with "Yes, I'm okay." Make it, "I feel damn alive."

9. Instead of asking why, ask how. Finding out you have HIV won't turn the movement of tides. It's already there. As defeating as it sounds, asking why won't do anything good. Why prompts us to look for answer. Sure we can ask that but it is dangerous to be fixated to looking for answers that won't come a day after, a week, a month or years. Our having HIV will make sense when we have already change our inner core. How do we change our inner core? How do we stop from poisoning our thoughts with hopelessness? Simple, ask How? How can I move on? How can I move past the situation? By asking how, we look for solutions more proximate than the answers that would fill our whys. How elicits action. Why hopes for a distant answer. Action to how is more at our disposal than answers to why. At a time when we are at the most vulnerable, ask yourself, "How can I rise up from here?"

10. Forgive yourself. You have a special circumstance as to why you contracted the disease. Maybe you've had unprotected sex. Maybe due to syringe sharing. And all sorts of reasons attendant to it as well: apathy to condom use, lack of knowledge about HIV, misinformation about transmission, or simple carelessness. Whatever those are, it's good for you to look back and admit it to yourself that you erred, that you've had a lapse of judgment, and you know you could have done better. You can only do so much running away from your mistakes. Time will come, it will catch up on you. It will be better if once in a while, you admit that you made a mistake. Forgive yourself first because in so doing, you befriend your past. Your mistakes will not haunt but actually will guide you in arriving at a wiser and more mature decision when the situation presents itself again: "I will use condom always. I'll be very picky with my sexual encounters, if not keep my sexual encounters to a low. I will make a conscious effort by not infecting others." When you forgive yourself, you're bound to be kinder and more gentler with other people. And it will make you want to preserve those who are not yet infected. Forgive yourself, because it's the only way to carry the burden of your past and make them light.

They say that the toughest battle belong to the strongest soldier. If any, we should look at HIV as a chance to pull ourselves together and redefine our lives. HIV is human immunodeficiency syndrome. Right. But I'd rather make a more positive note out of it. HIV: Here Is Victory.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

giving back

A life-changing event will happen this June and it will necessitate me from sinking into the depths of oblivion. In this vein, I could not promise to at least monthly update this blog (though I do hope I still can). I have had been once out of the radar here, so repeating it would be easy.

Then again, to those people who are losing hope, especially the newly-diagnosed who stumbled upon this blog, or anyone wanting to have a sort of lifehack on how to go about with this condition, I am opening up my email to take the stead of my would-be moribund blog life. Right there beneath Dr. Freud's quote is everything you need to know.

I hope in the littlest of my way, I can share what I have experienced and am still going through in this second lease of life, a phase that started three years ago. I cannot personally volunteer for and involve myself in a support group because I am menacingly shy in person. So, I will allow you to drop a message and hopefully I can respond within arm's reach.

And if I can give one really, really important advice to the non-positive and still healthy individuals out there, especially to Filipino gay men: Please, if you can't discipline yourself--where I have failed in-- don't be sexually involved with just about any other guy in Planet Romeo or just about any other gay dating sites. This isn't a smear campaign against the website, because, agree or not, this blog won't change anything in there.

I know that there is Abraham Maslow to defend your need for sex, but rusty as the adage is, the person who so deserves your naked body should see first the nudity of your soul. Stay away if your dickhead and your brain are switching places, with the former lording over your entirety.

No matter how unpopular my decision, I will tooth and nail recommended against social networking sites because despite the Department of Health being one-too-careful in admitting that these seedy sites is "just one" of the vectors of increasing HIV numbers, I could say that it is the biggest factor why men are having the opportunity to have sex with men. I could just look back to some three years ago, my stupidity coupled with raging hormones, and my gay, reckless and wanton need for carnal desire to defend my case.

Beyoncé may have dodged the bullet better than I did, but it is in this picking up of a fractured soul and the healing of wound I can certainly give back.

Friday, May 23, 2014

hospital buddy

The homily of the priest reminded me of the boyfriend.

It's been more than half a year since H.S. and I got together. I've known him from three years back since the day I admitted to him that I like him (What gall have I, no? Lol.) and I never thought that the second time is sweeter.

He knows I am HIV positive. I disclosed my status. He needed no less than transparency and I owe him full disclosure of the events past. He accepted me and my 206-pound baggage, and until now I never thought that someone so amazing like him could see past through me and share this magnetic relationship so resplendent and beauteous.

I usually don't write about my happiness (hence the long hiatus) because you know how sometimes diabolical and diabetical love could be and I want to spare you from all that. But I come to write about it now because there's this one "mysterious" thoughtfulness that he always do to me.

I've been in and out of PGH-Sagip for the last I'm-too-lazy-to-count years to the point that I have already had three medical fellows graduated and a bunch of nurses known. Short to speak, I can go to Sagip alone because it has become a routine. Even if that means only getting my refills, updating Philhealth documents, which takes no longer than 20 minutes. I can even manage a routine check-up on my own.

That changed since we became a couple. He would always make it a point that he will join me in Sagip regardless of my agenda and regardless of how much time we will spend there.

So it came that the former solo wait became a pair. Though we would talk under whispers or him going over his phone and I with my book while waiting, the scene has changed: I am not alone anymore.

For the many times he was with me in PGH, he could have just stayed at home, gone home to rest after a day's work or minded his own affairs, but the pigheaded in him wants to join me in PGH.

"I want to be always there because the hospital is a scary place and I don't want you to be alone." That he would always tell me whenever I'd ask him why the needed company.

Believe me, it is heartwarming, but I too would not want to be the demanding partner. H knows that I will understand him and find it okay if he will just stay at home.

I left his answer like that for the longest time until a while ago. Thursday. The novena of St. Jude was on and the priest gave a moving homily.

Linguistically-speaking, the priest tells that the Pangasinenses (the priest being one) say "help" as a noun just like the Tagalogs do, which is "tulong." But the verb form is different. Pardon me but I forgot the exact word. I think it's imaanan ta ka or imanaan ta ka? I cannot recall anymore.

The point being is, the dialect provides a more fraternal meaning in the verb "to help" to the Pangasinenses. He said that in their dialect, the verb "to help" also means "to accompany." So if one would say "I will help you," it's pretty much like saying that "I will accompany you." Hence, the dialect reflects that to help (tulungan) means to accompany (samahan) the one who needed help.

The homily reminded me of the boyfriend and his vague (at least for me) answer to my question. I never knew that the answer lies in a different tongue. That he is helping and accompanying me at the same time.

I left the the district of San Miguel, Manila in a reflective state, smiling bashfully knowing that my question has been answered twice: by the boyfriend and by the heavens. And in that drop of a subtle answer from the heavens, my case is closed. The hospital buddy is here to stay for too long a time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

HIV and employment

To anyone here in the Philippines, I just want to know what's out there.

Have you heard of or witnessed any incident of employment regarding HIV condition? Among others, but not limited to:

a.) denial of work promotion due to his/her condition
b.) enforced work demotion due to his/her condition
c.) denial of medical procedure and/or hospital admission by an insurance company in line with HIV-related medication
d.) mandatory HIV testing for pre-employment
e.) continuous non-remittance of the employer of Philhealth contributions (this is pretty much a perennial problem)

Or perhaps, your experience not necessarily listed above that concerned your condition with your present employment.

Names are not needed to be divulged.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

after three quarters


Not that I don't want to update this, but I am resolved to post entries here sporadically. And during the intermission, I forgot what email I use to log in Blogger. Hence, the seemingly interminable silence.

I really don't know why I still bothered to have this blog kept alive. Perhaps because I want to make a quick detour when an HIV-related thought pops out of my head (yes, I mean to keep the topic that way) or to comment on other blogs here and there (which I don't believe myself since I'm not privy to other people's rundowns anymore). Eitherway, it's not necessarily to document my life as often as possible. I've learned to keep my thoughts tucked under the folds of my diaphragm or to purposefully select ears who will afford me undivided attention. I'm not pay-moose for the whole of unknown names and faces to know every bit of my drab of a life.

So to you, my still-interested readers, may you find a reason to go back here despite my next post may be already in eons to come.