Archive for January, 2011

Q&A: A Supplement

Posted: January 12, 2011 in HIV/AIDS

So, I’m sure, to those who have chosen to read my entry I’m Positive, I’m Negative, I am damn sure you’ve got questions. This entry will attempt to answer most of them. So here we go:

Q:  Why did you want to get tested?

A:  Well I get tested every year. Starting from 2007 I have been retesting every end of the year. Last year was no exception.

Q:  Do you get tested because you engage in risky behavior, ie. bareback sex?

A:  No. I have been advocate for safe sex. Even for my first encounter, I had used a condom. I get tested because there’s always what you call theoretical risk. Only this year, if you have been reading my blog, I had a high risk encounter with my latino papi… There was also one encounter when I was the insertive partner and my partner removed the condom and wanted me to fuck (for a while) bare. However, I sort of trust this person so… well yeah, the risk was there. And lastly there was one incident when I felt really… violated. I was the receptive partner for a couple. Don’t ask me how I got into that situation but I did. I thought I was just meeting up with one person only to find out he has a partner and this was a Buy One, Take One kind of deal. Although they claimed to be clean, I had my doubts. Especially when they would deliberately remove the condom every now and then. We used a lot of condoms this way. And I regret ever subjecting myself to this. Although they did not cum inside me, this has actually been the source of my worry, hence, the test.

Q:  When you thought you were positive did you engage in sex?

A:  Well yes. But I made sure that it was safe. When it was inevitable that I had to have sex, I made sure we had protection. I always brought condoms with me. A lot of guys, and I’ll say again, A LOT of guys wanted to have sex with me bare. I was like Jesus. Are these guys so uninformed, oblivious to the existence and threat of HIV? Or are they positive already? If I had been positive, I could’ve infected them if I had succumbed to what one would like to call ‘thrill’. And there is also such a thing as re-infection. Even when I thought I was positive, I didn’t want to spread the virus. I wanted it to end with me. I guess I was brought up that way.

Q:  How did the news of being positive make you feel?

A:  I was disappointed with myself. I wished I could turn back time. Words cannot express what I felt back then. I knew that having HIV was not the end of the world, but the life changes I knew were going to be significant. I was afraid. And depressed.

Q:  Did you ever think of trying to kill yourself?

A:  No. Although suicide did come to mind as a question rather than as something I can do. In my head, it was always, “Should I kill myself?” not “I should kill myself.” And “No”, was always the answer to the former.

Q:  Were you vengeful to the point of wanting to spread the virus?

A:  Again no. I am hardwired this way. Instead, I wanted to be an advocate, be a volunteer or a counselor for HIV/AIDS.

Q:  How did you feel when you found out that you were actually NEGATIVE?

A:  I said, “Thank you, Jesus for another chance”. I felt free. My guilt disappeared. I wanted the whole world to know that I am OK.

Q:  Will you take the test again?

A:  Yes. It takes a lot of courage to take the test. No one, I say, NO ONE IS READY TO FIND OUT HIS STATUS. You just aren’t. I have been taking the test for 4 years and the anxiety is always there. Although I may be clear now since I am beyond the window period, I’ll do it again. FYI, the window period is the time by which the body is certain to have produced antibodies against HIV. In some countries, it is 6 months (like the Philippines) to some countries, 3 months. The body is known to have produced the antibodies to HIV (which HIV tests detect) as early as 6 weeks, or even less. It is very rare for the body to react to the virus late, say after 6 months. Internationally, 3 months is the accepted window period. If you test Negative after a risky encounter after 3 Months, you are most likely negative. My risky encounter with my Latino Papi was last June 2010, and that stupid couple encounter was September 11, 2010 (I took note of the date). So its been roughly 4 months since my latest risky encounter so I am most likely clean. Unless of course I am another rare case or my immune system hasn’t detected HIV yet which is highly unlikely.

Q:  What can you say about your false-positive result?

A:  I now believe in miracles. What happened is something out of this world. I lifted it all up to Him and said, “I let go, you take control. Do whatever you think is best for me”. I never expected to come back from this. As I’ve said I am so happy that I get to be this kind of exception. But yeah why did my ELISA turn out positive initially. Here are possible explanations:

  • I may have had the flu when I got tested or other viral infection. Some say this happens.
  • Human Error. My blood sample may have been contaminated.
  • I was just starting to seroconvert which is why it was INDETERMINATE. My body has just realized the existence of HIV. I thought this was my case
  • I was positive and my body has somehow killed the Virus. Highly Unlikely. LOL

So to those who read my stuff any comments are welcome. If any of you want to get tested, I could probably accompany you, or forward you to the NGO that helped me during my test at the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic. Oh and there should be pre-counseling for anyone who wants to take the test. It is required by law. Post-counseling as well, no matter what the result.

So guys, please be safe. Respect yourselves. Love your partners. Spread the love. Not the Virus.

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So… It looks like I get to keep this blog after all.

It actually seems like some of my readers understood all the euphemisms in my recent blog entry, and you were all correct. All of my blogging activities stopped on one fateful day on the last week of October. And now I am going to say why.

I tested positive for HIV last October. Well, not exactly. See, when the nurse told me that my specimen had to be sent to San Lazaro for a confirmatory test (Western-Blot), I assumed I was.  To someone who is not familiar with HIV-testing, a positive ELISA is usually re-tested using the Western Blot method. And if this turns positive then you are really positive. I cannot begin to express the whirlwind of emotions I experienced back then. My mouth suddenly went dry and it was as if I couldn’t speak. She had to let me fill-up some forms with pertinent information such as travel history, sexual preference, sexual activity etc. I was not even sure if I filled them up correctly. While thinking about what’s going to happen to my life now, I was thinking, “Shit, I am going to be a demographic… how can this be?”

I went to get my results from the private clinic in the morning and had planned to go to work in the afternoon on a half-day. I didn’t. I went straight home and of course my Mom found it weird for me to be back home, and as Mother’s intuition instinctively picked up, she said: “What’s wrong?” I told her. She cried. I wanted to cry with her but I couldn’t. Somehow at that very moment, I wanted to show her that I will be strong… That we will be strong, that somehow I will be OK. I hated myself, for letting it happen, for bringing pain into our house. I had vowed to bring happiness to my Mother’s life for the rest of her days and now I disappoint her with this? I was more pissed with what I made my Mom feel, more than what I was feeling for myself, which wasn’t necessarily good either.

So, I researched and researched. That was all I could do. I found out that PLWHIV (People Living With HIV) can now live longer lives as much as a normal person. Well some even live longer because they have a tendency to take care of themselves better. With the help of ARTs (Anti-Retroviral Therapy) which are drugs that must be taken faithfully, HIV+ individuals can keep the virus at bay, even to undetectable levels. It doesn’t kill the virus, but it prevents it from replicating, and so it allows CD4 cells, the antibody cells that HIV kills, to gain momentum and reproduce. So HIV+ individuals can still be healthy. Living with HIV will definitely be a lifetime and lifestyle change, because being immunocompromised, you need to have enough sleep, cannot eat raw foods (like sushi) which may contain bacteria that the immune system has to deal with etc. But all of this is nothing compared to the emotional turmoil one has to go through.

There is a stigma associated with HIV. And that is not easily overcome. I worried about how am I going to live my life, socially, spiritually, sexually. Do I tell my friends? What if Irony slaps me back and I fall in love? What do I tell my partner to be? Will he accept me? I’ve always wanted to have a son, can I still? In all this confusion, I used the internet to find help. I came in contact with an HIV+ individual and I told him my case. He listened. He urged me to wait for my confirmatory test results before anything. I had questions, and though I didn’t ask them all, he tried to answer them as they came.

I had to leave the country for a 2-week assignment. And after researching the odds of a false-positive result (an initial positive result which turns out to be negative) the odds were not in my favor. I thought and lived like I was dying. During my stay in some European-country, I knew I could not escape my fate. I asked my Mom to get my confirmatory test results and send me a message on Facebook. And so, after a month of waiting the results came: INDETERMINATE.

Oh my God. An indeterminate result on a Western-Blot happens rarely. A false-positive happens in like 1 out of 200,000. At that point, I cannot be considered positive nor negative. Somewhat in between. In the crossroads. And what a splendid position I have found myself into. I had to re-take the test after 4 weeks for a more conclusive result. So after throwing in the towel, a sliver of hope. But is hope what I am supposed to feel?

I let the holiday season pass by. My Mom also agreed to the idea. I didn’t want a positive result to be a detriment to our holiday celebration. January 7, I decided to take the test again. With the help of my HIV+ contact, I was accompanied by someone from an NGO to the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic. Here, HIV and other STD tests are free. They also have the RAPID HIV test which is like a pregnancy test, where you get the results in 15 minutes, as opposed to a week using the classic test. I had to choose a codename. After 3 changes to my alias, it finally became Piolo… And after 15minutes Piolo’s results came back… Result: NON-REACTIVE.

Again I was in shock, after two months of living, thinking i was HIV+, I am NEGATIVE.