iamhivpositive

Nesat

Last Monday, after a long day in the office, I decided to meet up with “Iam” at Starbucks City walk 2. For those who don’t know, “Iam”, is a friend who is positive with HIV, and being an HIV advocate, I find it really stupid how some people can be ignorant about the virus. Ugh.

So anyway, we met, we talked, it was all fun really, and then later on I found out that my ex of 2 years works in the same company as he does, and another friend happens to be his friend too. haha. Talk about small world. :))

I guess my point is, even if you’re positive, I want everyone to know that that doesn’t make you any less of a person. Friendship after all isn’t measured by how healthy someone is.

Oh, and Monday also happened to be the day Nesat started to pick up strength, so kind guy Iam offered to drive me home. How could I reject that offer? :)


“Iam” says hi. :D

79. The Power in Me

I was very particular of the people that I meet through the internet as Iam H. Positive. It would take me months to agree to meet up with someone. I was so scared of being judged by strangers because of the virus that I have. I thought there was no point of meeting them anyway when I can talk and help them by communicating to them through the internet. But that was two years ago. Things have changed.

Sometime last year, I was invited to be a part of what is called “Self Empowerment Training” (SET). This training is for people diagnosed of having HIV. I knew then that it is something that would help me a lot in my battle against HIV in terms of accepting and coping with what I have. So I agreed to be a part of it, registered and I believe I was supposed to be a part of the very first batch. But when the day of the training came closer, I backed out. It was that fear of being seen and known by strangers that made me decide not to go through it. “It’s not worth it” I thought. I also thought that I’m already managing the disease quite well all by myself anyway so there was no point in participating. So I never signed up for it again until about a month ago.

To be honest, my reason for joining the training was flawed. It was the very same reason I decided to meet other people living with HIV with far less apprehension. There was this one HIV person I’ve been speaking to for months through Twitter that I decided to meet. He previously told me he was diagnosed with HIV using his personal Twitter account. We continued talking through Twitter (not exchanging phone numbers because I am very anxious of doing even that) using his HIV account when he created one. I decided to meet him one night while he was at Obar Ortigas with other pozzie friends. I found him very attractive, very soft spoken and very kind. To be blunt, I wanted him as a partner since.

He told me stories of him meeting with groups of other PLHIV (People living with HIV) and how fun it was and the comfort of being able to talk to someone you can really relate to. He knew how cautious I was with meeting anyone and being introduced as Iam so when I told him I want to join the next gathering, he asked me if I was sure several times. Honestly, I was not. But I wanted to be a part of what he’s experiencing and wanted to know him more (and be with him more) so I decided to give it a go.

Then I learned through his tweets that he has not participated in the said training yet and he wanted to. I knew that it was a two-day training and participants stay at a hotel for the night, checked-in in pairs. So when he registered, I asked what date he picked and chose the same date for mine. I also asked him if he wanted to be roommates with me and he said yes. I told you my motive was flawed.

It was more than a month before the day of the day of training when we registered for it. Things happened during that span of time. I was already able to tell him that I liked him and wanted to go out on a date with him. At one point, he said his heart belongs to someone else and he wants us to be friends hence this poem I wrote for him: http://iamhpositive.tumblr.com/post/45664355377/as-a-friend. And we are good friends now and I am very happy with that.

Now that I have said that, I think it is now safe to mention that his twitter name is @survHIVor. Haha!

The night before the first day of training, I was talking to a few people from Twitter. There is this Twitter-famous person that I’ve been talking to for a few days who wanted me to accompany him to take the test. I agreed to do so and told him he can have the test done in RITM Satellite Clinic in Malate, where the SET will be held as well.

I was also talking to someone who I’ve been friends with through Twitter for about a year already. He has HIV and he is talking to me using his personal Twitter account. His Twitter handle name is… I’m kidding; I’m not going to mention it. Hehe. But he likes to be called Ceddie. I told him about the SET I’m attending the next day and he was interested in joining. I knew there were still some slots left so I sent our contact person a message saying that a friend wants to participate. The contact person replied after a few hours and I told Ceddie that he could come.

Oh, Ceddie keeps a blog as well. Read: http://mypositivew.tumblr.com 

The call time was two in the afternoon but since I promised someone that I will accompany him for his test, I left home at around eleven in the morning. I drove to Market! Market! to pick him up and waited for him for quite a few minutes at the drop-off area. So self-less of me. Echos! Haha!

I have no idea where RITM Satellite Clinic is because that was the first time I’m going there. So I turned my Blackberry’s GPS on and searched for “RITM Satellite” and it came up! So with the help of my handy-dandy BB, we arrived at the clinic around noon.

The people in the clinic were very nice and accommodating. My friend was asked to get a number, fill up a tiny sheet of paper, asked to enter a room (for counseling, I assume) and of course had his blood drawn. He did not pay for anything. He was told that the result will be in two hours. I was not there anymore when the result came but he later messaged me saying that it turned out negative. Of course, I was very happy for him. 

Participants of the training started to arrive. Ceddie sent me a text message telling me he was outside the building and he was shy. So I went outside to greet him. I recognized him from his Twitter display picture. He was a lot thinner than I remember him from his picture but still good looking. I remember telling him during one of our direct messages that he looked a lot like Aljur Abrenica. He said he looks nothing like Aljur in person and he was right. Haha! But again, still good looking.

Then my crushie arrived with all his handsomeness. Lol. I went up to the room where the training will be held with him and there were already three other people with Ceddie. Then more people started to enter the room.

My jaw dropped and my eyes widened as I see someone come in. His eyes met mine and he was at the same state of shock. “What are you doing here?” I asked as I started to approach him. “What are YOU doing here.” He answered back. And I hugged him and we exchanged expressions of awe and disbelief.

I can’t tell any details about him or where I know him from. He made me promise. So let’s leave it at that. Small world. Very small world.

Dra. Rita, the training’s facilitator, arrived and introduced herself to us and asked us to introduce ourselves as well. There were seventeen participants, the most number of participants since the program started, apparently.

SET is not really a seminar type of training. Dra. Rita called it “group counseling”. I don’t want to give all the details of the training really because I don’t want to spoil it for future participants. But it is a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

There are a few things I would like to mention though. According to Dra. Rita, we had the longest first day of training in the history of SET - we ended our session a few minutes before midnight. This is primarily attributed to the fact that we are the largest group. I would also like to praise the food that was provided for us participants. I enjoyed them a lot. And also, meeting these new, diverse, wonderful set of people has thought me a lot of things through our sharing.

After the first day of training, we checked in at the New Solanie Hotel. Like I said, we were checked-in in pairs. I was still hoping to be roommates with crushie or if not, I would have loved to be roommates with Ceddie. But no, I was not. I was roommates with @JMAbril1 instead. This, I think, was actually a good thing. Lord knows what I could have done with those two fine pieces of meat. Haha! Kidding. Although  @JMAbril1 was not painful to the eyes either, he was very safe from my worldly tendencies because I saw him as someone very respectable and decent, like an older brother.  

(Just a few pictures of the hotel)

Of course, the participants did not sleep straight away. We spent a few hours talking and bonding and knowing each other more. We finally decided to go back to our own rooms at around three in the morning and were woken up by the front desk at around six as planned.

This is how my roomie and I left our room: abused and devastated. LOL. I’m kidding. The room looked almost the same as when we checked in, nice and tidy.  

I find it amazing how an organization can afford to do all these things (free food, free training, free hotel accommodation, etc.) for PLHIV’s well being. I later found out that the owner of the hotel is one of the supporters of SET. I would like to thank him for his generosity for allowing us, and all other past and future participants, to stay at his hotel.  

The second day of training was shorter. We started at around eight after eating our breakfast. We did a few activities and Dra. Rita discussed things that will definitely help us as we continue living our lives with HIV. I cannot thank her enough for that.

Here’s one of the activities we did. Look at how cocky I was. LOL! There was a reason for that. You’ll know when you’re a part of the training.

We ended at around noon but refused to leave even after we finished eating our sumptuous lunch. We spent more time talking, laughing and knowing each other more. Someone said he will create a closed group account in Facebook and we can communicate with each other there. We asked someone to take a photo of us as an entire group then we started bidding each other goodbye. That was actually quite an emotional moment for me but I know that was not the last time that I will see this wonderful group of people.

My reason for joining the training may have been wrong but my decision for participating proved to be right. I thought I would not gain anything from this training thinking that I am already handling the disease well but I was so wrong. I learned a lot not only on how I will handle HIV but more importantly, I learned how I can live a happier, more fulfilled life.

43. The Battle Continues

Last Friday, I was reminded that I am fighting a battle with HIV. It’s not that I got sick or felt like dying or anything. It’s just the ARV’s side effects are taking its toll on me. The ARV’s side effects seem like HIV’s best weapon against me right now. It’s funny because if you think of it, I use ARV as my weapon against HIV.

So, anyway. Last Friday I went to PGH-SAGIP for my ARV “refill”. I was running out of it so I texted the SAGIP “hotline” (yes, we have a hotline! Lol!) a few days before Friday. I’m sure it is Nurse Cellene who’s in charge of that number and she replied I can drop by Friday at 10am and my doctor also wants to see me.

So, here’s what happened last Friday. My shift ends at 5am, so I was home at around 6. I decided to leave my car and just take the trains to PGH. I figured it would take longer for me to drive anyway. I slept for around 2 hours, woke up at 8:30am, took my ARVs, ate breakfast, and prepared for PGH.

At exactly 10am I’m at SAGIP. Nurse Cellene saw me and asked me to wait for a few minutes so I pretended to read my Garage Magazine (February issue). After a while, I was summoned by another nurse to come in. It turns out that her name is Karen.

I never saw Karen before so while she was taking my vital signs I asked her “Bago ka dito sa SAGIP?” (Are you [a] new [nurse] here in SAGIP?). She said yes and held out her hand and introduced herself. I shook her hand and told her my name. She seems nice. I thought she looks pretty, actually. I noticed how she seemed unsure of some of the process and when I asked her things she would direct the questions to Nurse Cellene whom she calls “Ma’am Cellene.”

So after taking my vital signs, my doctor came and talked to me. She asked me if I have had my viral count test done yet and I said no. I told her I thought it would be done with my CD4 test. She said I will have to have it done soon. She also told me that I have to have an optic exam. I actually don’t know what kind of test exactly but it has something to do with the eyes. She said that I will have to talk to Nurse Cellene to have it scheduled. Towards the end of our conversation, she said that she will not be my doctor anymore. She will endorse me to another doctor. I asked her why and she said that she will be graduating. I automatically replied “Congratulations po!” So which means that she is probably just spending her internship in SAGIP?

After my conversation with my doctor, I talked to Nurse Karen again. She gave just one set of Lamivudine, Tenofovir and Efavirenz because the delivery for Lamivudine has not arrived yet. We then talked about my CD4 tests and viral count test and also the test for my eyes we decided to have done next Friday. She was unsure about few questions I asked her and I’m sure she felt relieved when Nurse Cellene stepped in.

So, I am to go back to SAGIP next Friday for the eye test thing at 9am and they will give me an endorsement to San Lazaro Hospital for my viral count. We will talk about my CD4 test then as well.

One important thing she informed me though is that I will not be able to see clearly after the eye exam for a few hours and it’s going to be painful because of the ointment they will put in it. That got me scared a bit because of two things. I don’t want to go blind and second, I will still have to go to work at 8pm. She told me to ask for a sick leave if possible or even just a half day. I’m planning to get a medical certificate from whoever is going to do the test on me on Friday so they will allow me not to take in calls. LOL!

By the time Nurse Cellene and I bid farewell I am already dizzy. I’ve been noticing that the side effect of my meds takes effect after 2 hours and will last for another 2 hours. I would normally not feel this because at these hours I would normally be already fast asleep.

I went to my partner’s workplace as promised the previous day and I watched him work. We left his work for lunch and ate at CHICKBOY. It was my first time to eat there. I compared it to Mang Inasal. Mang Inasal’s chicken was a bit bigger though.

I told him that I’m already feeling dizzy and he asked me if I can still go home. I told him I’m sure it will go away at 12nn – which turned out to be accurate!

And then he gave me this:

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He knows how much I love the brand so I was really happy to receive this from him. I always wanted to have a footwear from TOPMAN. I have a lot of shirts, a jacket, a pair of jeans but this is my first pair of shoes. And on top of that, this cost more than half of his fifteen-day salary so this means so much more. He is not earning a lot on his current job that’s actually why one of the things on my Bucketlist is to help him find a better paying job. I’m not earning a lot either but my salary is twice as much as he’s making. This is starting to sound like a Math exam. If you’ll know how much the shoes are, you’d probably get a good idea of how much we are earning. Haha.

He took a chance with the shoe size and it fits perfectly. I love him!

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So we ate and enjoyed our lunch.

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By the time we finished eating, it’s already 15 pass 12 so as I foresaw, the dizziness was already gone.

Taking ARVs is not easy. First you have to make sure you take them every day and make sure you’re taking them at the right time. Second there are the side effects. My partner said that I get angry too easily now and one of his doctor friends said that it’s a side effect of the drug. I actually read the paper that comes with the drugs and he is right. Efavirenz, for example, can cause severe depression, suicidal ideation, nonfatal suicide attempts, aggressive behavior, paranoid reactions and manic reactions. Fantastic!

Here’s a picture of my ARV’s by the way. It’s in a different packaging. New look, same great taste! Lol.

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While on my way home, I’m thinking about things that HIV continuously change in my life, things that it takes away from me, things that I don’t get to enjoy as much anymore. I would be fighting this battle whole heartedly, my entire life and I refuse to give up and I refuse to die at a young age because of it. In a couple of months I’m turning 23. My first birthday as an HIV diagnosed individual and I am looking forward to a lot more birthdays to come. Someone messaged me that he’s been living with HIV even before I was born so that gives me hope. And then there’s Timothy Brown - the boy who lived, my symbol of hope that a cure will soon be found.

On my way out of the train in Katipunan LRT Station, two men on wheelchairs got out of the train on the other door, pushing themselves up on the escalator then out of the station itself. I watched them making their way in the middle of the sea of people and one of them actually crossed the street (Aurora Avenue). I thought to myself “I am not fighting the worst battle.”

67. Courage

Yes, I am talking about that dog when you read this entry’s title. Courage, the cowardly dog.

I’ve been getting a lot of praises for my “courage” because of the things that I am doing regarding my medical condition. They would say that it is very brave of me to keep this blog. They would say that I have inspired them in whatever way they would say that I did. It’s very heart warming to hear them. It makes me happy. But for some reason, I find it hard to agree with them and believe.

I don’t think I’m courageous. I don’t think I’m brave. I’m actually a coward. And this saddens me.

Just a few days ago, someone left a comment on my chatbox on this blog. The name was so familiar that it freaked the hell out of me. I casually answered his message on my chatbox pretending that I am treating it like any other individual who would leave a message in my chatbox. But in fact, I was terrified.

That thought never left my mind from the moment I saw the message until I arrived in the office and asked the person who left the message on how he would spell his name when he chats. He spells it in a different way. I was able to breath.

So what’s so courageous about what I’m doing? When I am still very scared that someone I know, who may judge me and my disease, will find out who I am. What’s so courageous about hiding my identity in a pseudonym and the red ribbon? What’s so courageous about declining to meet someone who clearly needs help because of senseless fear that that person may just be bluffing and just want to know who I really am? Yes, I am still that paranoid.

What’s so courageous about declining to talk in a university to help educate more people who may be at risk?  What’s so courageous about hesitating and eventually declining to meet other HIV positive individuals who wants to meet you for a friendly dinner, coffee or movie? What’s so courageous about choosing who to befriend out of the cyberworld? That, as a matter of fact, is shameful!

The only excuse I have to do (or not do, for that matter) those things is my mother. It’s her command that I am following. “Never let anyone else know about you and your HIV!”

I know life will be complicated for us if people will know. The unnecessary disgrace and shame she will feel for having an adopted son who is HIV positive will be unbearable. But is that reason enough? Right now, I believe it is.

This is just probably the ARVs talking. But what the hell, this is a part of who I am now. 

I hope I can do more. But I can’t. I’m a coward. So I guess yes, I am Courage, the cowardly dog.

41. Splash

As I said in my previous entry, I am currently working at night (well, I’m night yet technically working because I’m still under training…) so I am taking my medications in the morning. I am taking them at around 8 in the morning (well, I try to, at least) before going to sleep.

Now, my partner and I are planning to go to Splash Island this coming Sunday and this is posing a problem for me. I am planning to drive ourselves there so obviously I can’t take my medication at 8 in the morning before driving unless I want to cause Final Destination 2 incident in SLEX. So no, I can’t take my meds on Sunday morning.

By the way, for my imaginary readers who may not be familiar of Splash Island, it is the biggest waterpark in the Philippines and it is located in Biñan, Laguna.

 

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So, I had to make a few adjustments on how I will take the meds. Basically, the general rule is that I cannot allow myself not to take my medications in a span of 24 hours or else I’ll die instantly. No, I’m kidding. It’s just that not taking my meds after more 24 hours will allow the virus to mutate and somehow become resistant to the ARVs that I am currently taking. Or something like that. If that happens, I will have to change my meds to a different set of ARVs and if this will keep on happening and if I will keep on changing my meds, there will come a time that the virus will be resistant to all ARVs hence I will ultimately die. That’s the gist of it but of course I think it is more complicated than that. Anyway.

I had to think it through and I finally came out with a time table (I’m not sure what else to call it). Look at my Starbucks journal:

 

A closer look:

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This means that I will pretty much be nauseous the entire day of Saturday.

Oh well. I hope my partner and I will have fun.

80. Disabled

I’ve had the card for more than a month now and it’s turning out to be quite of a help. I’m talking about my PWD card.

Just to get it out of the way, and since I’m going to direct all questions about the card in this entry in the future, let me first tell you how to get one.

I learned about it through one of my pozzie friends (and SETmate) who happens to have one. I later asked him how he learned about it and he told me it’s through another pozzie.

So apparently, if you have HIV, you are eligible to have a PWD card (or Persons With Disablity card). So I asked him how to get one and he graciously instructed me how to.

What you will need are the following:

1. a copy of your Confirmatory Test (that you indeed have HIV)

2. a Barangay Clearance (proving that you live in that city)

3. a photocopy of 2 valid IDs

4. 2 1x1 picture

5. fill up a PWD form (that will be provided to you in the Municipal Hall)

Once you have the first four requirements, you need to bring these to your Municipal Hall. Ask the ever friendly lady guards where the PWD section is (I was told that it is usually located in the DSWD section).

Once you find the area, just tell the people there that you would be applying for a PWD card. Naturally, they would ask you what your disability is (although I was never asked that myself) and a friend told me to just reply with “I’ll just tell it po to the person in charge.”

What happened with my application is that I immediately asked where the DSWD section is and I was instructed where it is. I asked the first person I saw who I can talk to about PWD cards and I was pointed to a very accommodating lady. I told him I want to get a PWD card and handed him my two documents that I had at the time, the Barangay Clearance and the Confirmatory Test Result. she then told me that I would also need a photocopy of 2 valid IDs and 2 1x1 pictures and asked me to fill up the PWD form.

The name that I had on my Confirmatory Test Result is different from what I had on my IDs and on my Barangay Clearance but it apparently was not an issue. She didn’t even bother commenting about it. So I guess they understood why it was.

On the form, there are a list of disabilities that you would need to tick. I ticked “Psychosocial” only because it was the same thing I saw written on my friend’s card. 

It was a Friday when processed it and the lady asked me to come back for it exactly a week after. So the following Friday, I went back for it and it was ready.

It was very easy. I was informed by other pozzie friends though that other municipalities are much stricter with providing the cards than others. In Makati City, for instance, I was told that they would consider your occupation or financial status before they grant you with the card. Many people think it’s because Makati gives a lot of free benefits to PWD card holders (such as free movie passes).

So there.

I’ve been using the card quite extensively, I must say. The very first time I used it was in a fastfood chain. I felt I was very privileged. Twenty percent discount on food is a very good deal.

I know it’s a bit abusive of me to do it but I actually used it to park on the reserved parking space for PWD. I don’t think I will ever do that again ‘cause I felt a bit guilty after. What if someone who really really needed that parking space came. It felt robbing someone else’s right of something. It feels good to know that if I really really need a parking space though (and I feel extra bad. lol) I can always resort to use my disability card to my advantage. Evil Iam, evil! 

 I went home to my province last month and I also used it for my fare. 

As I am writing this, I’m actually sick (I have a flu) and just this morning I got the most discounted thing I got from using my disability card. I bought the medicine the doctor asked me to take and I got to use the PWD card. One hundred forty one pesos and three centavos is quite a lot of help.  

Most of the time, when I show people my PWD card, they don’t have any qualms of giving you the discount straight away. It’s not always that way though.

For instance, when I was coming back to Manila from the province, the person taking the fare looked at me from head to toe and asked in a very suspecting tone: “Ano naman disability mo?” (What’s your disability?) I looked at him in the eyes and answered him with: “Psych.”

Quite honestly, I felt a bit embarrassed. But what the hell. Twenty percent discount is twenty percent discount.

There are times when the manager of a fast food chain (when asked by a cashier person to approve a discount) would look at my card, then at me, then at my card again as if calculating if I’m doing something fraudulent. They never decline it though.

One funny story. So, I also use the PWD card at cinemas and one time, my partner and I went to a movie house which PWD discounted tickets look exactly like the one of a senior citizen. When we were entering the cinema, the lady at the entrance looked at both of us, wide-eyed in disbelief and uttered: “Senior Citizen po?!” It was so funny how she reacted. I just said “Ay, hindi po. disability po ‘yan. Baliw po ang isa sa amin.” (Oh no. That’s for disability. One of us is crazy.) We laughed so hard even after we were already sited. Crazy!

So, as you have read, Having a PWD card is quite a privilege. It really is. Again a 20 percent discount on a lot of things is such a huge deal.

My partner at one point actually asked, “Don’t you feel guilty?”

I actually did a bit. But then I thought, if the government actually thinks we deserve to have one, then why should I? And then I would think of the difficulty I have to go through when I’m taking my ARVs, I would then say to myself, I think I deserve it.

It makes sense that my disease is actually categorized as “Psychosocial.” Again, for one, my meds does make me a bit crazy for a few hours every single day. And I’ve been going through it for more than two years now and I don’t think the side effects will be going away any time soon.

Also, although the community has become a bit more understanding and accepting about the disease (thanks to the numerous efforts of the government and NGOs to educate the public) we can’t deny the fact that there are still a great deal of stigma going on.

I still hear stories of people living with HIV who would have a hard time with their jobs or forced to resign in fear of being judged. Some people living with HIV are still not comfortable disclosing their status even to their family. There are people who can’t have the job that they desire just because they have the virus. So I guess that’s the “social” part of the disability.

Now people without HIV might say things such as “You don’t deserve that priviledge” or “It’s not fair” or “If they have that just because of having the virus, then I want the virus too.” The first two statements I might understand but the last one, that would be crazy to say.

What I can only say is that, see it as an assistance for people living with the virus. Having HIV is expensive. Yes, right now our ARVs are free, our consultation at treatment hubs are free but that’s not all that there is to it.There are a lot of laboratory examinations that we are asked to take to monitor our health status and a lot of them are not free. We are prone to having sickness a lot more and we have to buy medicine for diseases for common colds and cough and fever or whatever.

And there will come a time that this will be a public knowledge, that people with “Psychosocial” PWD card most probably have HIV. So just imagine the look on other people’s face every time we would use it in public. That’s exactly why it took time for me write about the PWD card. I was contemplating if I really want to help the dissemination of this knowledge. But then I thought, I wouldn’t be doing it for the judgmental people who don’t have it. I’m doing it for the people who are living the same life as I am and I know how much it will help them.  

So yes, take my 20 percent discount. I would definitely exchange it in a heartbeat with not having the virus.

46. Angels

I feel so blessed.

I didn’t even think it was possible.

After I posted my last entry yesterday, I really didn’t expect anything will come out of it. If you read the post, putting the donation box on my side bar was something I did just for kicks. But I was blessed by angels.

Thirty minutes after I posted the entry I received an email that contained this:

My first reaction, for some reason, was panic. I panicked. And then I reread the email and I stared at in for at least 2 minutes in disbelief. I was in awe.

I called my partner straight away and told him what just happened. Almost crying. After a few exchanges of expressions of amazement and gratitude, I was finally able to collect myself. I sent an email to the address where the donation came from.

At the same time I posted a picture of the email in my Twitter account. I was so stupid not to mask his name and email address. I just wanted for people to know about the great thing he did. He saw the post and he politely asked for the picture to be removed. I apologized for my tactlessness, of course, and thank him numerous times.

Now, there’s that.

But it didn’t end there. Five hours later I received a similar email:

Again I was just amazed by how people would selflessly do such things. I sent him an email and I also noticed that he added my Facebook account. On his profile he wrote: “I just did a random act of kindness”. I replied to that post: “Yes you did. Yes you did. I’m still crying.”

We exchange a couple of messages via Facebook and here’s a part of it:

We have generous people living among us, my dear imaginary readers. There is still hope for mankind. This is a living proof. I am a living proof of their manifestations.

To the two angels who did it, I know you will be reading this. Words are inadequate for me to express how thankful I am for what you just did.

Now my PayPal account looks like this:

I didn’t think I would be able to have that viral load test done but people are helping. Angels are holding out their generous helping hands so I just might. I just might.  

42. New Friend

Someone sent me a message in Facebook. Once I read it, I replied to it and immediately asked for his permission to have it published here. I am so happy that he allowed me to. Here it goes:

Hey there, I learned about you from twitter, you seem to be a friend of a friend (there goes six degrees of separation out to the window for us, thanks to these social network sites, huh?) Anyway, I am also a nurse, now employed here in the US…but mind you, this opportunity didn’t come until after 11 years of waiting. Thank God, US passed that law granting special privilege visa for nurses before or else, I may still be there until now. However, My days in PI was among the best if I may say, I always look forward of being with my students every day. For eleven years, I was a clinical instructor/lecturer at West Visayas State University in Iloilo City.


Now, maybe let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Why do I want to befriend you? we may never meet personally. Though, I felt sorry about learning of your affliction, the HIV at such an early age. But then, what amazes me just the same is your attitude towards it. A friend succumbed to it last year. We didn’t realize he had it until it had gone full blown and became too late for all of us. I had wished he had shared the information to us, not to be privy but just being a friend and be with him as he traverse through the journey in life he was given.


HIV has become a real concern to our generation (hey, that’s only 20 years between us, LOL). It has become the real and present danger, right at the first time we have to do it with a stranger, in some dark places under the nose of a self-righteous society. I am quite sorry you ended up in the hard end of the bargain, but definitely I am NOT sorry for you because of how you handle your predicament. Taking the bull by its horns, facing and accepting what life had thrown in your lot. It just takes the stronger person to hurdle the heavier burden, to make victory sweeter.


I remember before when students ask me if my test will be hard and would respond right away, “Of course! Or else, you won’t deserve it.” I believe tests were made not to realize what we know, but more to guide us on things we never realize we don’t know yet. For that is what learning is all about…and the very essence of the academe. Mind you, preparing a good test to evaluate student’s fitness in a chosen course is a lot harder than it seems…but then, I make it so because of the real love I have for them to make good in the nursing profession, considering our nurses need to be world class into to be employed abroad.


Maybe our “Great Teacher” has this in mind for you too, when he gave this test upon your enrolment in this bigger school called Life…where tests are given, before lessons are learned. But hang on, all of us share this class…I only have a different version of the test. (Kudos to this great Great Teacher for preparing so many versions for exam, huh…but i bet, He only has one thing in mind…for us to ace the test and leave a good mark in this particular class).


Brilliant students always amaze me, those who face bravely whatever tests that come their way. By coming out with having an HIV, is to be considered quite a feat..not because you let others know but more because it shows that you acknowledge it yourself…the first step in fighting a battle is to face the adversary upfront.


Well, this may be enough for now (as this has seems to be a really a very long message of introduction. LOL) . Just want to let you know, I would want to be there as a witness to your personal journey… for they do serve to inspire me. 

.

..

That’s it… I felt blessed by his letter so I really wanted to share it.

Hey, VP! Again, thank you! :) ..And enjoy the Superbowl! :D

36. Freaked Out? Nah.
  • There's this someone who I've been exchanging direct messages with in twitter for quite some time. His twitter name is @poz_angel. He is a pozzie too. We live in the same city apparently and I think we also go to the same treatment hub.
  • Just recently, the two of us had this fascinating conversation, again, though twitter direct message.
  • Here’s how it went. (I’ll try to crudely translate it to my non-Tagalog speaking imaginary readers. Wish me luck. Hahaha!)
  • .
  • poz_angel:What color is the car you're driving?
  • Iamhivpositivem:Pula. :D (Red. :D)
  • poz_angel:Is it a red Mazda?
  • Iamhivpositivem:Ay hindi. It’s a Hyundai. (Oh, no. It’s a Hyundai.)
  • poz_angel:Good morning! Oh, ok. Were you driving along libis yesterday between 4-430pm?
  • Iamhivpositivem:Oh, no. I’d be at work by then.
  • poz_angel:Oh ok. Kasi I went to tiendesitas yesterday, may nakatabi yung cab sa may Libis na red na car and may Ray-ban glasses. Assumptionista lang. (Oh, ok. It’s just that I went to Tiendesitas yesterday and along Libis, the taxi I was in stopped beside a red car and the one driving was wearing Ray-ban glasses. I just assumed.)
  • poz_angel:Hehehe!
  • Iamhivpositivem:Hala. Baka ako nga yun. Hahahaha! Sana nag hi ka. :) (Hey! Maybe that was really me. Hahahaha! You should have said “hi!” :))
  • poz_angel:Hindi ba tinted car mo? (Isn’t your car tinted?)
  • Iamhivpositivem:Malamang ako nga yung nakita mo. Hahaha! (Most likely, that was really me you saw. Hahaha!)
  • Iamhivpositivem:Siguro kung nakita mo yung Fitness kong gym bag na sure mo na na ako yun noh? Hahaha! (Maybe if you saw my Fitness gym bag you were sure it was me, huh? Hahaha!)
  • poz_angel:Hahaha! What were you wearing yesterday?
  • Iamhivpositivem:Hulaan mo nga. I'll tell you if tama ka. Promise. Haha (Try to make a guess. I’ll tell you if you’re right. Promise. Haha!)
  • poz_angel:Light yellow or beige or white basta light colored. Hehehe! (Light yellow or beige or white but I’m sure it’s light colored. Hehehe!)
  • Iamhivpositivem:So ako nga yun. Hahaha. Ang galing mo naman. Siguro naman hindi mo namemorize plate number ko? Hahaha! But if ever. shhh na lang. Haha! (So it was really me you saw. Hahaha. That’s fascinating of you. You didn’t get to memorize my plate number, did you? Hahaha! But if ever. Just sshh. Haha!)
  • poz_angel:Nope. Nagkasabay lang tapos napalingon ako. Una ko nakita yung sun glasses. Tapos red car. Ayun. Hehehe! Magkita na nga tayo minsan. (Nope. The cars just happened to be side by side and I just happened to look your way. I first saw the sun glasses. Then the red car. There. Hehehe! We really should meet some time.)
  • Iamhivpositivem:Haha. Nakakatuwa naman. :D ... sige minsan... (Haha. That’s fascinating. :D … Yes, we’ll do it some time.)
  • poz_angel:Hahaha! Hope I'm not freaking you out.
  • Iamhivpositivem:No, of course not. :D
  • poz_angel:Ok. Matandain lang talaga. Or instinct. Haha! (OK. I just remember things well. Or instinct. Haha!)
  • .
  • So, why was I not freaked out?
  • Well, first, maybe because he is a pozzie too. I didn’t really cared much if he recognized me or not because he is like me too. And secondly, the fact that he recognized me with just the shades and the car means that he is reading my blog and I don’t think anyone who even cares to read this blog would judge me.
  • I take comfort in the fact that people who may recognize me through my blog will understand what I have been through and still going through. I just hope I am right. Tell me imaginary reader, would you think hateful things about me when you, by any chance, know me and see me in the flesh?
  • I really hope not. That would just mean I failed terribly on what I am trying to do here.
  • Also, I think I was not freaked out because I was very amused with the thought that someone actually recognized me. I felt like a celebrity. Haha! Read my Bucketlist and you will understand how badly I want to be famous.
  • I’m starting to become less and less anxious of people who will know me as “Iam”. I’m still very careful of my identity being known but I’m starting to agree to meet some people I feel like I really became friends with through this blog and other social networking sites. I just hope I’m giving my trust to the right people.
  • I let another best friend know my case. You guys might probably now be asking how many best friends I have. Haha! Well, I have quite a few and I really treasure all of them like they are a part of me.
  • I felt a little guilty that it took time before I told her about it and she actually said that she was a little sad that I didn’t tell her straight away. She said she was sorry for not being there during the hardest parts. I said it was ok because I knew she will always be there no matter what. No crying this time. This friend is the godliest of all the friends I have. She said that she truly believes that God will heal me and she prayed for me inside my car. That was such a special moment. There was no crying, no tears shed but surely, it was very emotional.
  • With everything happening so nicely amidst taking ARV’s everyday and making sure (like crazy) that I’m healthy, I can honestly say I am no longer freaking out. Bring it!
  • (Oh, by the way, I hope the two toned background did not bother you a lot. I was just trying Tumblr's chat functionality.)

So I decided to make a watermark for my photos.

I love photography. And I’m starting to learn how to use Photoshop. (Thank you best friend A!) I am considering to study again - no, I actually kind of already decided  that I WILL be studying again when I turn twenty-five: Multimedia Arts. I still have a little more than two years to save up for it. Aja!

Anyway, how do you like (or hate - how dare you imaginary reader!) the watermark?

The photo was taken at UN Avenue in Manila by the way. Useless info lang. Haha!

51. It's Been a Year

That’s how long it has been since I learned about my HIV status.

I still can vividly remember the day my doctor told me that I tested positive for HIV. I still vividly remember the things I did that day that led me to creating all this accounts under this pseudonym Iam H. Positive. It has been a year since I wrote this very first entry, the very same day I was diagnosed. And then I later followed this entry with this one, narrating my experience of the day and how I knew about my medical condition.

It feels a long time ago and too many things has happened and yet it’s just a year. In some ways it feels like I’ve been through so much but at the same time it also feels that one year is just one year, short and insignificant.

Considering everything, I still think that there is still something that needs to celebrate about that one year. I have learned a lot of things not only about HIV but about life. I was enlightened about a lot of things partly because of the new perspective that being a pozzie gave me. I have gained tremendous amount of friends I would have not met  if I did not create this account. I am closer to my mother than ever. But most specially, I did not die.

No, I am not saying that I am thankful that I have HIV. I am thankful about the good things that came with it. Who knew there would be good things that comes with it? I didn’t. I am thankful that I am alive. Very thankful.

So, after 229 Facebook friends, 3,918 Twitter followers, 186 Tumblr followers, 50 Tumblr posts (yes, that’s how many entries you need to back read if your interested in doing so) and more than 10,500 pesos donations later, I am continuing to fight this battle against HIV.

I am hopeful that a cure will be discovered during my lifetime and there will come a time that I will stop taking my ARVs religiously, every single day without the fear of the virus taking over my immune system. I am hopeful that I will still be able to build a successful career, have my own family, have a son or a daughter (or both) that really came from me (if you know what I mean) without the fear of HIV’s stigma and the judging eye of the public. I am hopeful that there will come a time that I will no longer worry about hurting the one’s that I love, physically and emotionally, because of this virus. I am hopeful.

But if by any chance none of those happens, life goes on. The fight continues and I will promise you, I will fight long and hard.

(not that, you perv. lol.)

Thank you imaginary readers

Keep reading

45. Funds

As planned, I went to PGH again last Monday to get my endorsement letter for my viral count test to be done at San Lazaro hospital. I took my meds just before leaving the house. I was no longer worried about the side effects of my ARVs because I already knew what it will do to me and I knew that it will only last for a few hours.

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I took my usual route: a jeepney to LRT2 Santolan Station, a train to Recto Station, then another train from Dorote Jose to Pedro Gil. I wore a Philippine Flag inspired polo shirt from Boardwalk (I actually like their clothes), my favorite blue jeans from Vurve and boat shoes I bought from Marikina fair last Christmas.

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My travel was uneventful except for the fact that LRT1 was insanely full of people when I arrived. It took three trains to pass before I was able to take one. Crazy!

I didn’t even have to consciously walk myself inside the train. People literally pushed me inside the train. The worst part is, the man in front of me kept on coughing and didn’t make any attempts to cover his mouth so I ended up covering mine. I really should start bringing a face mask so I am prepared for these kinds of things.

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So I knocked at SAGIP’s door once I arrived and Nurse Cellene opened the door. Nurse Karen and Nurse Jenny were also there. Nurse Jenny asked for my CF1 which I totally forgot about and was only a matter of chance that I happen to have it in my bag. She made me fill up some forms. Nurse Cellene was talking to a patient and I was overhearing their conversation. The guy seems to think that he has HIV and wants to have himself tested. Nurse Cellene informed him things about HIV and later asked him to pay for his test in the cashier. So, HIV testing is not free in PGH then.

After I finished the forms, I talked to the nurses for a bit. I found out that Nurse Cellene will be leaving the SAGIP unit that coming Wednesday. I commented about her leaving us and she said that we (I’m guessing she means us pozzies) don’t have to worry because we will have Nurse Karen and she is way kinder than her. We laughed. I also commented about her not being a part of my blog anymore and Nurse Jenny seemed to be interested and she made me write this blog’s URL on a paper using a very small pencil. I should have taken a picture of that pencil.

To Nurse Karen, Nurse Cellene and Nurse Jenny, if you are by any chance reading this, thank you. And I am giving you the permission to give out the URL of this blog to anyone who might be interested in reading the rumblings of a young, handsome, sexy pozzie. LOL!

Nurse Cellene gave me the endorsement letter that I should show to the nurses in San Lazaro and she reminded me on how to get there. I bid her farewell as that may be the last time that I will see her. Nurse Cellene, you will always be a big part of my pozzie life. Thank you for everything!

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As promised, I went to my partner’s workplace first before going to San Lazaro. We kissed and hugged somewhere where no one can see us. He walked with me halfway to UN Station before we said our goodbyes.

I arrived at San Lazaro a bit excited to have my viral load count done. I don’t know why. Maybe I was hoping that it will turn that it is undetectable because I’ve been very good with taking my ARVs every single day. Yes, I sometimes miss to take them on time but I always take them as soon as I can.

Before I enter the hospital premises, I took a photo of one of the clinics that does free HIV tests, Manila Social Hygiene Clinic. It is right across San Lazaro Hospital. You can even see their contact number from this picture so please, if you don’t know your HIV status yet, go ahead and give them a call. Here’s a link of other clinics that does testing too.

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Once I entered San Lazaro Hospital, went straight to SACCL (I’m not sure what it stands for but it’s San Lazaro’s version of SAGIP) and handed the letter to an elderly nurse. She said “Ah, Magpapaviral count. Six Thousand Two Hundred Fifty Pesos” (Ah, you’re going to have your viral count done. Six Thousand Two Hundred Fifty Pesos)

My heart sank.

For a minute I didn’t know what to say. Then I was able to let out: “Galing po akong SAGIP ang sabi po sasagutin po ng PhilHealth yung test” (I’m from SAGIP and they said that PhilHealth will pay for the test) which is not entirely true. The nurse said that I should talk to the people in SAGIP because if that is the case, they will not be able to do it. So I walked out and called SAGIP straight away. Nurse Cellene answered and explained that there is really a fee for having the test done and she was under the impression that I already know about it. She said that PhilHealth will only pay for the test after a year of being a patient in SAGIP. And then I remembered my doctor telling me the same thing. How could I have forgotten? Damn it! At that point felt so stupid and pathetic.

I remember: PhilHealth will pay for CD4 tests after 6 months of approved claims and will pay for viral count after 1 year of approved claims. By claims, I mean the proof of payment that I give to Nurse Jenny who take care of these stuff. Unless, of course, if I understood everything incorrectly, in which case anyone is free to enlighten me.

I called my partner immediately and told him what happened. I knew that he really can’t do much about it. I just wanted to let someone know at that very moment. He always has something to say about stuff so it’s a always a good thing to call him. He said that maybe I really don’t need to have the test done and maybe I should ask my doctor and wait until PhilHealth to pay for it to have it done.

It’s really frustration that I was feeling more than anything. It reminded me that I am not fully equipped with this fight. I don’t have all the resources and it is very possible for me to lose this battle.

I sent my mother and one of my best friends (the first best friend who knew) about what happened. My mom replied immediately and asked me why I can’t have my health card (the one from my company) pay for it. I told her that HIV and any other STD’s for that matter is not covered by the health card. And then we exchanged more text messages about her being extremely worried every time she remembers about my condition, about what else she could have possibly not done for me to have this, about me possibly dying.

My best friend was not able to reply but I got texts asking me to call her: one from her sister and one from her partner. My best friend can’t text me but she asked her sister and her partner to text me instead asking me to call her. By this time I’m already on a train going back to LRT Santolan Station and before I can help myself, I’m already crying.

I really can’t pin point why I was crying. Maybe it was because I pitied myself for not being able to do the test. Or maybe because I thought I’m helpless. Or maybe because I was simply frustrated for being so stupid not remembering that I had to pay for it. Or maybe because I felt that even though I may lose this fight in the end, I know that there are people who are willing to fight with me.

I noticed two girls who in a CEU uniform are sitting across me glancing at me weeping. I didn’t care. Let them think that this handsome young sexy man just got dumped by his girlfriend. LOL. (I am thick, I know.)

I decided to go to SM Marikina to have my other lab test done. I can’t have that god forsaken viral count done but maybe the other way less expensive (and even possibly free) tests I can. So, to The Medical City Clinic I went.

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I showed the lab requests to the nurse at the front desk and handed them my health card. He made a call to have them approved but the health card required me to have myself seen by a doctor there first before I have the lab tests done.

So I waited for my turn to be seen by the doctor. The doctor asked me what I was there for and I shown him the lab requests from my doctor in SAGIP. My requests shows that I need to be tested CBC, ALT and AST and it is for Hepatitis B. So he asked me where I got my Hepatitis from and I told her the story. I have a feeling that he actually knows what it’s really for but he never went there. And my suspicion was confirmed when he said that he knows my doctor and that my doctor was his resident doctor when he was an intern in PGH. Which got me confused because I thought my doctor was just graduating from her internship. I guess he is either referring to a different doctor which is very unlikely because my doctor’s “trodat’ was all over my lab requests or that I am wrong about my doctor being an intern.

Anyway, after my consultation, I ended up with more lab request because that doctor decided to have myself tested for diabetes too.

So I went back to the front desk, handed the new lab requests to the nurse and had it approved. The tests cannot be done though because I had to fast for 10 hours and come back the morning after.

I decided to have my hair cut instead at Fix Salon. I liked my new haircut and my colleagues in the office complemented my look for it. So I was happy with it. I bought a styling product from them too and paid this much:

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Did I think it was expensive? Yes, of course. But I thought of the viral count test. So at that time, an expensive haircut was very easy for me to stomach.

This doesn’t change the fact though that I don’t have enough funds against my battle with HIV which gave me a few ideas.

I know it is a long shot but I decided to put a donate button on my side bar. This is powered by PayPal. I doubt it if anyone will be kind enough to donate anything but you’ll never know. My imaginary readers have been so kind to me so far and who knows if they can stretch their kindness a little bit more.

Aside from that, I decided to put some advertisement on my side bar too. This is powered by Google Adsense.

I’m not the sole individual who will benefit from the funds generated. And that’s a promise.

 

39. Tuesday

Second day of work. I’m writing this while inside the shuttle going to the office. I just hope I rode the right shuttle though. I’m sitting comfortably now but MRT was outrageous!

The reason why I’m taking the shuttle right now is because my car can’t travel during specific hours on Tuesdays. (Huh, another clue about my identity for my imaginary readers.) For my imaginary readers outside the Philippines (sosyal!), we have what we call “number coding” or more commonly known as “color coding”.

So today,Ii took a jeepney to an LRT Station, took the train to Cubao, then took another train (MRT, this time) to Ayala, then from Ayala Station I took one of the shuttle buses that goes around Global City. They have a "west route” and an “east route”. I overheard from my colleague yesterday that one should take the west route when going to our office. So I did. We’ll see if I rode the right one. I really hope what I overheard is correct.

(About 10 minutes later)

Yes, I did take the right route.

(I’m now writing this entry way after my training shift, in the comfort of my room. Haha!)

About the number coding, I googled more about it for more information and I’m very happy to find the very information I am looking for from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) website. I print-screened a part of the memorandum for you. :)

 

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You can read the entire memorandum in this link if you’re interested.

Some cities or municipalities would have some special rules about this program. You can read about it in this link. I am very glad to know that both the cities I live in and work at do not implement the number coding scheme. Yehey! Too bad the cities are not beside each other though.

I hope that it helped in a way. It was very helpful for me.

Tomorrow, we’re changing our training shift to night and I am assuming that it will be the case for the rest of the training period. This is a concern for me because not only will it change my sleeping pattern again but more importantly, it will change how I take my ARVs drastically. As of the moment, I’m taking them at 10pm (which I just did) before going to sleep because I still do get nauseous. But since I’m going to start working at night, 9pm to be exact, I obviously can’t take it at ten in the evening. (Although I’m very curious to see what I’d be like during training if I’m “under the influences of drugs”. LOL)

So what I would have to do is take another set of ARVs at 9am tomorrow morning when I wake up and then try to sleep again. Insane! The reason for this is, in layman’s terms, I have to take ARV’s within 24 hours. So in this instance, I took at 10pm I’ll take it again at 9am tomorrow (that’s 11 hours after) and then I’ll just take it again 9am of the following day after tomorrow (24 hours after). I hope you got that imaginary reader because I don’t think I can get any clearer than that. I’m starting to get dizzy.

Haaay. The joys of taking ARVs.

Love Ordeal

by: Iam H. Positive

Chasing after love

That’s what I’ve been doing

Hurting myself in the process

And how it is ending

.

I envy the people who receive

The love I’ve been hoping

I envy the people who give

Reciprocated without expecting

.

Love will find you

Myself, I often remind

But waiting gets tiring

Alone, myself, I still find

.

Giving up on love is so easy

When you failed so many times

It’s like an art with no beauty

A soundless parade of chimes

.

I now understand why some would choose

To build a wall and be alone

Is the risk worth the pain and suffering

When happiness is short lived and not shown? 

82. Immunity Booster

When I learned that I have HIV, there was a sudden urge to look for things that would help me boost my immune system. Google has been a very useful to aid me in that search.

But it was actually one of my closest friends from college who introduced me to this food supplement that I found very helpful.

It was a few months after I found out that I have HIV when she introduced me the product. I haven’t told her of my condition then but she knew I get sick very easily. So she told me that she’s a retailer of this product that she’s almost certain will help me with my allergic rhinitis. She said that for the longest time that we’ve been friends, she remembers me having more days suffering from colds than not. The product is called Grape Seed Extract.

She told me that it is 50 times more potent than Vitamin C and 20 times more potent than Vitamin E so it really is very good immunity booster. She also told me that it helps in regularizing one’s sleep and is also very good in wound healing when applied topically.

At the time, honestly, I was a bit skeptical these benefits that she told me and that it’s just probably sales pitch BS. But because she is a very good friend and because of the idea that I need all the help I can get to boost my immunity, I decided to indulge my friend and give Grape Seed a try.

My friend told me to take a dose before I sleep because of its narcotic effect so that’s how I’ve been taking it ever since. I’m quite delighted with the benefits that I got from taking it.

After a couple of days, I started to notice that I don’t have to blow my nose all the time or keep on wiping free flowing clear liquid dripping from my nostrils. My sleep really felt more restful. Few hours of sleep feels like they’re longer than they actually are. I’m not exaggerating. I know better though to still get as much sleep as possible even I don’t feel like I don’t need to. So I try my best to sleep 8 hours a day. The good thing is, if I don’t get that much sleep due to some reasons out of my control, I rarely feel deprived of it.

It was only after I enjoyed the effects of Grape Seed Extract that I decided to look up what the world of Science actually says about it. Out of curiosity, I also searched for its possible effects to people living with HIV. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found in the World Wide Web.

www.scielo.cl:

Flavonoids and related polyphenols, in addition to their cardioprotective, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-allergic activities, also possess promising anti-HIV effects. Recent studies documented that the ß-chemokine receptors, CCR2b, CCR3 and CCR5, and the a-chemokine receptors, CXCR1, CXCR2 and CXCR4 serve as entry coreceptors for HIV-1. Although flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds elicit anti-HIV effects such as inhibition of HIV-1 expression and virus replication, the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects remain to be clearly elucidated. We hypothesize that flavonoids exert their anti-HIV effects, possibly by interfering at the HIV co-receptor level. We investigated the effect of flavonoid constituents of a proprietary grape seed extract (GSE) on the expression of HIV-1 coentry receptors by immunocompetent mononuclear leukocytes. Our results showed that GSE significantly downregulated the expression of the HIV-1 entry co-receptors, CCR2b , CCR3 and CCR5 in normal PBMC in a dose dependent manner. Further , GSE treated cultures showed significantly lower number of CCR3 positive cells as quantitated by flow cytometry analysis which supports RT-PCR gene expression data.Investigations of the mechanisms underlying the anti-HIV-1 effects of grape seed extracts may help to identify promising natural products useful in the prevention and /or amelioration of HIV-1 infection.

#nosebleed. LOL! But don’t fret, Here are some more I found.

Dr. Brian Conway of TheBody.com:

It is a potent antioxidant and can thus reverse the strong and destructive pro-oxidant state of chronic diseases such as HIV. It may also protect cells from dying by some means, and may even specifically block the entry of HIV into cells… 

…please keep up all of your good habits, including grapeseed oil. It will continue to serve you well.

1-minute-aids-test.com:

Grape seed powdered extract is also a great source of polyphenols. These substances are helpful in combating heart disease, as well as reduce the levels of bad cholesterol. Polyphenols are also helpful in combating cancer thus, reducing the production and reproduction of cancer cells and even HIV cells

HerbWisdom.com:

A similar effect was seen in laboratory studies of grape seed extract against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Although the exact ways that grape seed extract may fight HIV and other viruses are not known, it is thought that grape seed extract interferes with viral multiplication, possibly by preventing viral attachment to host cells. 

www.superfoods-scientific-research.com:

So there. Amazing, right?

The brand of Grape Seed Extract I’m taking is Luxxe Protect. It is manufactured in Ontario, California by AIE Pharmaceuticals.

(Read more about the brand here) 

I tried looking at other Grape Seed Extract products available in the Philippine Market and in my opinion it is one of the best in the market. As opposed to other Grape Seed I came across with (which are usually capsule/tablet form) Luxxe Protect - Grape Seed Extract is soft gel form so you can take it sublingually for faster absorption or apply it topically for its wound healing benefits. Each soft gel capsule contains 500mg of Grape Seed Oil.

I believe in the product so much because I am taking it myself and I have experienced its benefits first hand.

I believe in the product so much that I decided to make myself a retailer of the product primarily so I can get the supplement at a cheaper retailer’s price.

A fellow Filipino Pozzie, @pozziepinoy, also wrote something about Grape Seed Extract in his blog (here). And just like him, I would also be urging you to ask your doctors before taking any other medications or supplements. I did ask mine and she said it wouldn’t hurt me to continue taking it.

Take care everyone! Stay healthy!

78. Friends

As we journey through our lives, we would meet certain people that we would develop special friendship with that we can call our “true friends”. The ones who you know will accept you no matter what you become and will understand no matter what happens.

Sometimes I think I may have too many of them. But that’s ridiculous. Whatever environment I would end up in, I would always have a group of people who I will build friendship with that would last for the rest of my life. I guess I can say I never had any problems building friendly relationships.

It’s crazy because I have too many set of friends. I am someone who treasures friendship a lot so that’s probably why I ended having too many “close” friends as I journey through life. But thinking about it, I can’t fully comprehend how I ended up having too many diverse groups of friends. You’d imagine that one would be friends with people with similar interests and characteristics. That’s not the case for me.

I imagine what it would be like if I’m able to gather all of them in one place. First, they’d be amazed by how many “close” friends I have. Then second, they would realize how different they are from the others.

Just to paint the picture, let me cite an example. Back in high school, I have two set of friends. The first one I’d like to think as the “straighter” group just because in that set of friends I have my straight friends and we’re into computer games and gym and stuff. The other group is the “gayer” group because, well, in that group, everyone’s gay. I still see both of these set of friends until now. Only one of them knows about my HIV status so far (and he’s from the “gayer” group. LOL!).

Then I have my college friends. I have a lot of friends in college but we’re talking about the “close” ones so let’s narrow it down based on which group the person who knows about HIV status belongs to. So that would be my “freshmen” group of friends and my “RLE” group.  Four friends from college know about my status (3 from freshmen, 1 from RLE). But then again I also have the “cheerdance” group, the “choir” group and my “senior year section” group.

I would also have friends from all four companies that I have worked with so far and I would still see them from time to time. Two of them (both from my current company) know about my HIV status.

There was a point in time when I was into joining clans and I have met great friends from there too. When I was hospitalized for pneumonia and ultimately diagnosed for HIV, a very good friend I met from joining clans is the one who helped nursed me back to health. He still doesn’t know my HIV status until now but I have all the intention of telling him.

Then Iam H. Positive came and now I have new two set of friends: The “non-pozzies” and the “pozzies”. Of course I can’t meet these set of friends at the same place at the same time for obvious reasons. (And this is actually what this entry is about. Ang dame ko pang sinasabi.)

The “non-pozzies” is really not a group but individuals I decided to meet as Iam. Most of them don’t know each other (two of them do): A celebrity doctor, a food blogger, a gadget blogger, a chemist, a frustrated porn star, and a fag hag. Obviously it’s the frustrated porn star and the fag hag who knows each other. LOL!

I have met with the “pozzies” for the first time last Saturday and it was exhilarating. It reminded me so much of a clan but this time it’s with a deeper purpose. We met at Greenbelt and ate dinner at a restaurant then later went out videoke-ing. Some of the pozzies had the same sentiment as I did when more and more just kept on arriving. We were scared that someone we know (or who knows us) might arrive and we’ll have the shock of our lives. I think someone did. I’m not sure.

While having dinner, I received a direct message on Twitter:

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It so happens that I was talking to that person’s brother and we were actually talking about her when I received the message so I showed it to him and I replied:

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She replied:

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And enjoyed the night, I did. :) 

I find it fascinating how conversations would usually start with “how were you diagnosed”, or “what meds are you taking”, or “what is your CD4”, or “where is your treatment hub”. It really made me smile how conversations about HIV with this group of people were so casual like it’s just like any other disease – which is how it should be anyway. Most jokes would reference to the disease and I find it very amusing. At one point someone was offering another chicharon saying “Oh, kumain ka nito para bumaba CD4 mo!” and it cracked me up. I found it so funny and I was laughing so hard for at least entire minute.

Being a frustrated singer that I am, I sang my lungs out (and I was not alone). I sang all the songs titled “Home” that I can find in the song book (I found three: M. Buble’s, C. Daughtry’s and B. McKnight’s) and a few more random songs. It was so much fun.

A couple of people later commented that they liked my knit jacket (thank you, thank you), some appreciated my attempt to sing (well, thank you) and someone said they he liked my ass (uh, I have no idea where that came from but, yeah, thank you. LOL)

I regret that I did not get to take photos of our dinner and whereabouts. This would have been a nice entry with actual pictures. I think I’m losing my blogging instincts. Next time.

Oh! There was this incident that proved something about how I was feeling about someone. Uhm, but let’s not elaborate on that. But let me say this, I wanted to punch someone in the face. Okay. Enough.

Not that I am looking forward to it but if and when I die and all of these group of friends would go to my wake and burial, it would be fantabulous. Haha! I can only imagine the amount of coffee and pastries they would consume. Oh gosh. So, this only means one thing, I have to be rich before I die to gather them all. :D

77. The Transfer

This entry is way too long overdue. I may not be able to write or remember everything that I intended to include in this entry, but I’ll try. And if I miss anything and remember them later, I’ll just include them on the next entry.

Deal? (I’m asking you as if you have a choice. You don’t. LOL.)

If you’re reading this blog for the very first time, let me just give you a quick summary. I was hospitalized March of 2011 for pneumonia, agreed to test for HIV and diagnosed for being positive April 8 of that year. My infectious disease doctor then endorsed me to SAGIP – PGH and it has been my treatment hub ever since.

If you would want to read more about the details of those, please, feel free to back read and endure reading lengthy and grammatically incorrect entries. If you can help me proof read them, I’d be forever thankful. You can start with this one. I’m serious. :D

Anyway, I decided to transfer treatment hubs, hence the title of this entry. The Medical City has their own treatment hub now and the reason for my transfer is generally for proximity purposes. It’s way nearer than PGH.

So I told the new nurses in SAGIP about my intention to transfer treatment hubs. I wasn’t able to process it straight away though. Then one day, Doc Kate Leyritana sent me a text message after reading one of my tweets about my concern.

Doc Leyritana was never my doctor but she has been a very good doctor and a very good friend to me. She would always send me text messages every time she would get to read some troubling tweets from me. She did a follow up check up for me for more than once when my doctors were not available. She did it for free even if she should charge because she is a private practitioner.

So, going back, she sent me a text message and told me what I needed to do so I can process my transfer. But then later that day, she told me that my doctor is on medical leave and no one else can process my papers so she will be doing it herself. She fixed all my records and agreed to meet with me on one of her satellite clinics so she can brief me and give me my papers. For that, I am eternally grateful.

I’m sure this will not be the end of her kindness to me. I’m sure, some time in the near future, something HIV related will come up and I will be texting her again asking for her much needed expert advice.

So, I called The Medical City hotline and asked to be connected to I-REACT. That’s what they call their treatment hub - which stands for “I Am Responsible thru Early Assessment, Consultation and Treatment. (I think it’s their spin to Apple’s brands. Whatever. Hehe!) I was so glad that the operator knew what I-REACT was. I was afraid I needed to explain what I was calling about to an operator because the treatment hub was new.

I talked to Nurse Lucie immediately and she sounded really nice and accommodating. AND she was speaking in English! Sorry, I just had to say that. :D

She scheduled for me to go there that Wednesday, eight in the morning. So I had to go there right after work. (I work at night, just so you know – which I am determined to change, by the way) I was supposed to meet with my new doctor as well but she wasn’t available that day. Nurse Lucie was as accommodating and as nice as she sounded over the phone. Our first meeting lasted for more than an hour (maybe even two) and we talked about a lot of things. We talked about my condition, of course, but we also talked about other things that maybe affecting my well being: family, work, love-life, etc. We spent a lot of time discussing about love-life though. I’m sure she will never forget me because I shared something of much interest to her. Juicy stuff. LOL. I later found out it’s something that would cause my paranoia when Efavirenz’s side effect kicks in. She received a paranoid text message from me that day. Haha! She promised the secret and confidentiality is safe with her and ended her text with: “matulog ka na.” (Go to sleep.) Hahaha!

Well, here are some few things that I remember that may be worth mentioning for my imaginary readers who may consider making I-REACT as their treatment hub as well:

  • It will definitely be more expensive compared to other treatment hubs being a private hospital and all
  • If your doctor will be conducting his/her routine consultation with you in the I-REACT clinic, it’s free of charge. If it will be in their own private clinics, there will be a professional fee (600 or 800, I’m not sure)
  • CD4 test is worth 6 thousand pesos (the same amount for viral load test in San Lazaro Hospital)  
  • Viral Load is worth something like 13 thousand pesos (almost the same amount as our house rent. LOL)
  • You can have these tests done somewhere else though. They will give you endorsement letters
  • Once PhilHealth claims are established though, everything will be free
  • There’s a 2 peso charge per bottle for ARVs for inventory purposes
  • They do not accept walk-ins, for privacy purposes. Everything should be scheduled before hand

That’s all I can remember for now. I’ll tell you more if there’s more that would come to mind. And ask questions if you have any so I can ask them about it next time I go there.

I went back the following Wednesday to meet with my new doctor. Her name is Dr. Berba. She is very very very soft spoken. I was uncomfortable at first because everything sounded so serious in a very quiet manner. As the consultation went on though, I became more comfortable and she started to laugh. We talked about Iam and what he did from the very beginning - how his blog generated following and hits. I told him how Iam seemed to be of help to others and how others would tell him that they are inspired by him. We both laughed with how I was telling him these things as if Iam and I were really two different people. “Para ka nang schizo!” (You sound like you’re schizophrenic!) She said laughing. I laughed with her because it’s true.

I told her about Efavirenz’s psychological side effect on me and I also told her about recent life events that seemed to have led me to be more emotionally unstable. She said that if I would want, she can endorse me to meet with a good psychiatrist. I actually agreed with her when she said it may help me a lot. 

She asked for this blog’s URL and said she will be reading it. “You’ll be reading about yourself there soon” I said. (Doc! Here it is! Haha!)

She then instructed me to have some tests done: CBC, creatinine, ALT, lipid profile, urinalysis and chest X-ray. I’m not sure when I will be able to have all of these done though. (OK, I’d do them this week. Sorry Doc!)

I’m also due to have my CD4 done this month. She said maybe I can still claim my last CD4 with SAGIP because they have filed for my PhilHealth claim for this quarter (in fact I still have an entire set of ARVs that will last for the entire month). I’m not sure how this will pan out. Well, if I can’t, maybe I’ll have it done in San Lazaro or in PGH or maybe RITM (treatment hub hopping??)

I also told her about my intention “to do more” about my advocacy. I told her I want to become a counselor. She said she will keep me posted about possible trainings that I can attend to become one. But am I ready to face others as Iam? I think I am, especially if I know I would be of some help to others. I’ve been there. I know how it felt to be so scared fearing that there is no one that I can trust, that there is no one who can talk to me about my condition without judgment. I want others to know that there is always at least one person that they can trust and they can talk to without fear and I can be that one person if they would want to.

Dr. Berba said that I am young and she knows I will be able to do more. I love how she ended our consultation with “I hope we can help you.” To me, it felt like the intention is really there to help me with my health and with my advocacy. So I am happy.

So that’s it!

Oh, and about my heart, I’m doing fine. I think I’m becoming whole again – even without anyone to call as my partner. I’m single. Not courting or dating or anything like that. I’m enjoying this. I really am.