Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting there...slowly but surely

I will never forget the month of May this year. The month when I fell very ill - side effects of the ARVs I am taking. It started with fever then I had two waves of skin rashes. On top of that, I had allergy from the salted fish I had for breakfast one time. I should really be careful of what I eat while my body is adjusting to the ARVs.

As a result, I incurred several days of absences from work and deductions from my salary because I ran out of paid leaves already. Sigh.

As of today, May 31, I still haven't gotten back my strength and appetite completely but I hope to do so in the weeks to come after getting as much rest and taking multivitamins to compensate for the lack of nourishment.

One thing is for sure, I am recovering well....slowly but surely.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I can't thank you enough

To my Significant Other,

It has been 21 months since we decided to get into a commitment. And I am happy that we are still together up to now because to be frank about it, I wasn't expecting it since we met through a defunct gay website that was known to be a venue to cruise for casual sex. But we've managed to hurdle all sorts of challenges.

Let me thank you for being there for me, for not leaving me despite the many times I was difficult to deal with. It was August of last year when I fell gravely ill and I remembered how you cried because you were afraid you lost me. But I survived it. Little did we know that it was the start of our Calvary.

Then March came, I got hospitalized for pneumonia, something we both were wondering how did I contract it. Then we decided to take the rapid HIV antibody test upon the prodding of a friend because pneumonia is an opportunistic infection that can strike down a HIV-positive individual. I was supposed to take the test only but you decided to take it as well. You came out non-reactive but it was the opposite for me. Our world crashed. I could only cry on your shoulder as we held hands tightly. On our way out of the clinic, you hugged me and I had to stop myself from bawling my heart out, ashamed of people who might see us. We went to Greenbelt chapel where I prayed hard and sought God's forgiveness. We also talked things over and what really tugged my heart was when you said you would not leave me, no matter what, and that you still love me as much as the first time. Then we both broke down. At home, we were locked in a tight embrace in bed as tears continued to flow. We will manage and ride through the crisis, you'd tell me over and over again.

No words are really enough to express my gratitude to you for not giving up on me, for telling me to hang on several times even if I so much wanted to give up because I couldn't stand anymore the pain and discomfort I was going through.

I love you. So much. Happy monthsary.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I need iron!

I went to RITM early Tuesday morning for my scheduled complete blood count (CBC) to find out if the Lamivudine + Zidovudine, one of the ARVs I am taking, has not depleted or reduced my hemoglobin level. It has been known to have that side effect. Aside from my scheduled CBC, I also had to get a fresh supply of ARVs since I was running out of stock.

But first, what is hemoglobin? defines hemoglobin "as the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. It is made up of four protein molecules (globulin chains) that are connected together. Each globulin chain contains an important central structure called the heme molecule. Embedded within the heme molecule is iron that transports the oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood. The iron contained in hemoglobin is also responsible for the red color of blood."

After taking a nap for an hour at home after getting off from work at 6 a.m., I went to RITM and arrived there past 9 a.m. I proceeded to the clinical lab so a blood sample can be extracted from me for the CBC and then I went to the patient's lounge to await the results.

During the wait, I began to itch on my arms and legs and saw red patches appear on the underside of my arms. Oh not, not again! Let this not be a third wave of rashes from the Nevirapine I used to take. I realized later that I was having allergic reaction to the dried fish I had for breakfast earlier. Sigh.

Six hours later, Ate Ana called for me and the doctor on duty informed me that my hemoglogin level has dropped from a little over 150 to the 120s range (the same level as that of a female's!). Tsk tsk. So I was prescribed ferrous sulfate and told to eat green, leafy veggies and animal liver to boost my hemoglobin level. I could take the veggies but not animal liver. Yuck! I also consulted her about my allergy and was prescribed antihistamines.

AA, a fellow pozzie who accompanied a newbie to RITM, told me that my allergy and immune systems are very sensitive and will continue to be that way for the next six months as my blood undergoes reconstitution with the ARVs I am taking so I have to watch carefully what I eat.

The doc said I have to stay away from salty food, poultry, fish, peanuts, milk in the meantime.

My next CBC will be on June 25 and by then, the ferrous sulfate and veggies have worked wonders for my hemoglobin so that my ARV does not have to be replaced by another medicine. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, May 24, 2010


About 2 months ago, I signed up as a member of a Philippine-based forum and have been posting items on the Aids/HIV thread as part of my personal advocacy to increase awareness of the health issue. I have come out in that thread as a HIV-positive individual and for self protection, I use a codename only.

I have received quite a number of personal messages of encouragement, support and inquiries but what appalled me is the amount of misinformation about HIV/Aids and how it breeds so much baseless anxiety.

Let me cite two personal messages I received.

One from a married guy who suspects he has HIV simply because he noticed a drastic change in his build and stamina compared to his younger years. He didn't mention any symptom of HIV infection. He also said he is afraid that if he turns out positive of HIV, he would lose his job and thus his family would suffer and that he would be "herded by the health department into a facility for HIV-positive individuals and kept there for the rest of his life." To be honest, I found it funny and felt sorry for the guy.

The second personal message was from someone (I wasn't sure if the letter-sender was male or female), who revealed that their housemate turned out HIV-positive when the latter underwent a test as part of pre-employment requirements for a job abroad. The letter-sender asked for advice on what to do and was fearful of contracting HIV from their housemate.

In response to the first letter, I asked the guy if he has any physical symptoms of HIV infection aside from a drastic change in his body build. I recommended that the guy undergo a medical checkup to find out what's really wrong with him and take a HIV test as well to determine his status. I also said HIV-positive individuals are NOT herded into a facility and imprisoned there. I likewise told him that HIV-positive individuals are protected by a law against discrimination (including termination from one's job because of one's HIV status) and they can still lead healthy and productive lives as long as they live healthy, eat healthy, and take their prescribed medicines religiously. As for the second letter, I assured the letter-sender that he or she need not fear getting infected by their housemate through a mere handshake, use of the same comfort room, staying in the same room, sharing of utensils, among others because HIV is not an airborne virus and can only be transmitted mainly through unprotected sex and sharing of needles (among drug addicts).

In their respective replies, they thanked me for clarifying matters and allaying their fears.

This goes to show how some people still need to be taught adequately about Aids and HIV because really, the lack of information can result in unjustified fear.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Missing my Mom

As I usually do, I scan web videos while at work, a privilege I enjoy since I don't have that much to do in the office especially during the wee hours of the morning. Mind you, these are wholesome videos I watch at Youtube, Facebook and the Ellen Degeneres Show website. In the latter, it featured videos of the 80th birthday celebration of Ellen's mom. As I was watching the videos, I was overcome by emotion. It's been 9 years since Mom passed away but her absence still tugs at my heart every now and then.

I thought -- would things have turned out differently if my mother was still alive today? If she was still around, would I have remained "clean?". I believe that if my Mom was still alive today, I would not have gone astray in terms of my sexual behavior and remained focused on giving her as much a comfortable life that she deserved.

I am sure Mom knows what I am going through right now and that she watching over me, praying for me perhaps, as I overcome the hardships that come with my health status.

I love you Mom and I miss you.

One lucky guy

I was reading blogs by fellow pozzies when I came across an article in that made me realize just how lucky I really am to have survived a bout with pneumonia last March. As I mentioned in my previous blogs, my bout with pneumonia was what prompted me to take an initial HIV test and also upon the prodding of a friend. In that test and in a subsequent confirmatory test, I discovered that I was HIV-positive.

Here's the link to that article ----> If you can't access it from here, go to the website itself. The article is actually a letter lifted from Pure Advocacy by Brian Gorrell. The letter mentioned about a guy who died of pneumonia in a local hospital despite potent antibiotics administered to the patient. At first, doctors were perplexed by the patient's condition until they privately told the patient to go through an HIV test. The patient consented but he died without knowing the results of the test - he was reactive or positive for HIV. Prior to that case, another guy who was unaware of his HIV status died of tuberculosis despite aggressive life-saving measures.

Looking back when I was confined for pneumonia, I was still unaware of my status then and the attending doctors told me what was ailing me. Where the heck did I get this pneumonia?! The doctors were hazy about it. Anyway, it was really a good thing I responded well to the antibiotics prescribed for me. I shudder at the thought of what could have happened had my body didn't respond to the medicines and my condition worsened.

But I survived and later on, I got to know the real reason why I got sick.

As it is right now, my body is still adjusting to the ARVs I am taking and it is no joke. The itching, pain, lethargy, fever and loss of appetite is taxing me physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially. But I am thankful that my partner, my family and fellow pozzies are there to encourage me to hang on and not give up, to bear with the discomfort because it is just temporary and it will soon be over, and to cheer me up even if it is hard to even smile through the pain. I am particularly grateful to my partner who I know is extending his patience for me despite my irritability and temper.

There is this text message from a AA, poz-friend, that struck me as I go through this adjustment phase. It lifted my spirit. He said "malakas na class of drugs kasi ang ARVs. They primarily tax our liver, which happens to be the same organ responsible for energy (metabolism). Good sign na medyo nanghihina tayo sa initial doses ng ARVs, it means na nakakapag-adjust ang liver natin. Tiyaga lang ******* (my name), kain ng healthy at pahinga lang para makabawi. Think of what's happening now as 'preparation/training' time ng system natin for our limited number of soldiers to become better fighters of invaders. Ginagawang ninja ng droga natin ang kakarampot nating mga CD4 cells!. :-)" To you, AA, maraming salamat. I owe you and the other pozzies a lot. Soon, I will pay forward to others what you've done for me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wishful thinking

If only I had been careful. If only I had put my mind over my dick and not give it to my lust for unprotected sex, then I would not be going through this really rough period as my body gets adjusted to the ARVs I am taking.

I am very tired most of the time, itching all over and nearly my entire body has skin rashes, making it difficult for me to get a good sleep.

When oh when will this end?! Oh God, please help me. I don't think I can handle much more any longer.

I wish my sufferings would end tomorrow. I wish I won't be itching all over anymore. I wish my skin rashes would disappear altogether in one instant. I wish I didn't have this virus in me but that's wishful thinking indeed because the reality is, I have it and it's with me for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


It's 1:50 a.m. and I write this while I am at work, trying so hard to fight off the lethargy while suffering from lower back pain. On top of that, I am dizzy and depressed.

It's been almost 2 weeks since I lasted posted a blog, the main reason for which is fever (as a side effect of the ARVs I began taking) struck me down. It was after breakfast last May 4 at the Batangas resort where we had our company outing that I suddenly felt ill. I decided to take a nap and woke up feeling fine. On the road back to Manila, the sick feeling began creeping in again. I tried to shrug it off. When I got home, I was so beat that I could went straight to bed after taking my clothes off. Then fever set it. I texted Ate Ana and informed her of my condition, while updating her on my temperature. I also stopped taking Nevirapine and did not take paracetamol as instructed. I was also itching all over so badly, I couldn't sleep. My partner accompanied me to RITM on May 7 where the doctor took a look at me and prescribed another ARV - Efavirenz. I was forewarned to expect skin rashes to appear after the fever and to go back to RITM IF THE SKIN RASHES get worse. The next day, May 8, the skin rashes appeared.... they were a few at first on my neck and arms but as the day progressed, it grew in number. Oh God, I prayed, please don't let this spread all over my face as well. It didn't, thank God!

The itchiness, lethargy and fever made me stay in bed the whole day of Saturday until Sunday. I barely slept for 2 days because I was rubbing my skin most of the time to ease the itch. I broke down while watching the Sunday Mass on TV. I couldn't handle this any longer, I told myself. I texted J and D. I told them how the rashes are making me depressed when I look at it and when I look at myself in the mirror. The reality of my status struck me harder than ever with the rashes I see on my body. They told me to cheer up and assured me that it will be all over soon.

Monday, election day, came and the itchiness had stopped but I was weak and had barely enough appetite to eat. The elections kept my mind preoccupied for the most part of the day. I was in bed most of the day on Tuesday like the previous day. Wednesday came and I texted P to ask how he was while letting out my angst. I saw to it that I got as much rest as I could for the night's work. Usually, it took me less than 15 minutes to walk from the house to the office but because I was dizzy and weak, it took longer. I took small steps and walked slowly...

I am weary to the bone. It isn't even the middle of the year yet but things have already been physically and emotionally taxing for me. From getting confined to pneumonia last March to knowing my status that same month and now I am going through the adverse side effects of the ARVs.

I am on the verge of surrendering... of giving up the fight against this virus and let it take its course. I don't want to be lethargic anymore, I don't want to be dizzy and nauseous anymore, I don't want to have fever again. I can't take seeing these spots on my body. I want to be free from the discomfort and pain....I want to rest...

Saturday, May 1, 2010


It was one of the most fun days I've had after a very long time.

I'm talking about the lunch get-together of pozzies at the RITM held yesterday (Friday). The pozzies "enrolled" at RITM gather every 30th of the month to celebrate the current month's birthday celebrants. And since it was my birthday last April 10, I had to go of course. My partner also came along. It was also going to be our 1st time to attend the get-together. I was excited, mainly because I was going to meet more pozzies, including those I have been keeping in touch with through Facebook, YM and text.

At RITM, we first dropped by the clinic to say hi to Miss Ana and introduce my partner to her then we went to the so-called "lounge" where Ate Ellen entertained us. One by one, other pozzies and volunteers from support groups for HIV-positive persons arrived. Sister Amy also came. She has got to be the friendliest nun I've ever encountered in my life. Really!

Looking at the other pozzies, you could never tell they are HIV positive. They looked healthy and happy. They were fun to be with and rowdy. Hahahaha. I appreciated it that all those in the get-together sincerely welcomed me and my partner.

I am looking forward to joining the next get-together. :)