I’m positive, I’m negative

Posted: January 11, 2011 in HIV/AIDS, Life in General

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.

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