Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy World Aids Day!

I was nonchalant about World Aids Day celebrations year in and year out but not this year. This is the first time I am marking the occasion as a pozzie.

Unlike the previous years when I lacked knowledge about HIV and Aids, now I can say that I have learned so much about it. It is actually a complex issue and not just about how NOT to get it and having safe sex.

And I am now involved in organizations that cater to and support persons living with HIV (PLHIV) aside from raising public awareness about HIV and Aids. I will continue with this advocacy for as long as I can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A very touching letter

As my usual routine, I check my emails when I get to the office. In my email account that is linked to this blog, I received a very touching letter from a mother of a young man, who has been recently diagnosed with HIV. I was teary-eyed after reading her letter because it reminded me so much of my late mother. I am happy that my blog is serving as a source of inspiration and strength not only for HIV-positive individuals but for their family members as well.

I am reprinting her letter here and my reply.

HI Juan dela Cruz!
I would like to tell you that I, as a mother, am very happy and inspired by your blog. The reason I got to your blog page was because I was googling SACCL to find out their confidentiality clause (if they have one). The reason being that my son has recently gone thru a test and he only told us about this 2 months after he was carrying the burden of knowing he was positive. Anyways, to cut the long story short, we are now cooperating and helping each other try to live a normal life, but this is all new to us and when I saw that there was a number after SACCL, I got to thinking: secret kaya ito o baka mamya naka-post na pala ang name ng anak ko sa airport, or kung saan man?
To which I was searching and found you. Ano ba ang ibig sabihin kapag na-register ang result sa SACCL? (Had I known he was going to have a test done, I could have taught him to use an alias.)
I hope you can help me with this. Kse this is all new to us and of course, I cannot blame my son if he went to have the test alone. It's not easy to be in his shoes, altho we have tried so hard to show him how we've become open to his sexuality over the years, I can understand he has his inhibitions. Anyway, anjan na. Ngayon we are going to fight this together and we are praying for good things to come. We just had our CD4 test done a few days ago and still waiting for the results. Bakit pala yun sa yo kaagad mo nalaman while we have to wait for 2 weeks pa yata?
Juan, how old are you na ba? You are a very good young man in doing this blog and reaching out to others by joining organizations. How are your parents dealing with it? You are a very brave young man, and I am happy that you look at life in a different light now. My son is still new to the idea but he has shown us that he is OK with and he's the one pa telling us na OK lang yan mom and dad. He explained to us what the doctor told him. He seems fine with it and you know what, yun din ang nagpapalakas ng loob ko, na nakikita kong ok sya. Since he was young naman he was always accepting of any given situation. Mabait na bata kasi tong anak ko. Ako, I try not to think about it too much because I don't wanna show him I am saddened by it. Sino ba ang matutuwa diba? But after talking to his Dr (sya din ang kumuha ng Dr nya), naliwanagan naman ako at naintidihan ko na wala pa pala akong dapat ika-bahala. Every person really needs to be educated kse tayong mga Pinoy esp kaming mga nanay, exag kami e. Kaya nga siguro my son was apprehensive in telling me. Anyways....Good luck to you Juan and best regards to your parents, bec kung ako nga na stranger, na-a-amaze sa katapangan mo, ano pa kaya ang mga magulang mo? God bless... at salamat sa pagbasa mo nito at sa pag-sagot (if ever).
Pasensha ka na sa akin, nag kwento na ako sa yo...Ikaw kasi ang unang blog na nakita ko. (hehe) More power sa mga adhikain mo Juan, and I shall be one with in prayers. Sana kami din idamay mo sa prayers mo. =)

My reply:

Hello there!

First of all, I was very touched by your letter and you are the first mother of a person living with HIV (PLWHIV) who has written to me. The acronym PLWHIV is the official term for those like me and your son who have this medical condition. I am happy that my blog has inspired you in some way.

I was teary-eyed after reading your letter because it reminded me so much of my late mother. Naisip ko nga na if my Mom was still alive, she could have written the same letter. She passed away already in 2001 because of complications from brain tumor. My dad and mom are separated, by the way. Namatay na rin dad ko nun 1997 of lung cancer in Hawaii. He was then living with another family.

Before I proceed, Juan dela Cruz is just an alias and soon enough, I will reveal to you my real name. This email account is one of four I have kept for a long time already. Nung nalaman ko HIV status ko, ginawa kong active ulit itong email account na to kasi medyo naging inactive ito. I am 43 years old, originally from Cebu, and I live and work in Makati as a night shift supervisor in a software development company. May 2 akong kapatid na babae and alam nila status ko. Nalungkot ang mga kapatid ko nung nalaman nila kalagayan ko pero we have agreed to move on and continue fighting this challenge in our family together. I am in a same-sex relationship for two years and almost 3 months now. Ang partner ko ay negative sa HIV and nagpapasalamat ako na negative pa rin sya hanggang ngayon.

Now, about your son being registered at SACCL, it means that your son has been officially recorded as a PLWHIV and that San Lazaro is his treatment hub. Ang treatment hub ko ay ang Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) sa Alabang, Muntinlupa. Rest assured po, ang records ng anak nyo ay strictly confidential and there is a law - Republic Act 8504 - that mandates confidentiality of all records of a PLWHIV.

To be honest, I don't know why it would take two weeks bago malaman CD4 count ng anak nyo kasi in my case, I had my CD4 count in the morning sa RITM tapos tinatawagan ko ang in-charge ng clinic for PLWHIVs at sinasabi na sakin ang result. Ang nagcoconduct kasi ng CD4 count ay tumatawag sa clinic at nirereport na ang results ng CD4 counts conducted for the day pero ang official document/report as sinasubmit after a week yet.

Regarding sa blog ko, I decided to create it as a way of helping me cope with the emotional turmoil I underwent nung bago ko lang nalaman status ko. Kahit na andyan ang 2 sisters ko, partner ko and some friends who continue to give their utmost support and love, iba pa rin ang nagagawa ng pagsusulat ng mga damdamin sa isang blog. It helps a lot when I put into writing my thoughts and feelings. Ang blog ko rin as isang paraan ko to reach out to others with HIV and help raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. Naging advocacy ko na ang pagtulong sa mga kapwa kong merong HIV after ko malaman status ko.

Totoo ang sinabi ng duktor sa inyo na wala kayong dapat ikabahala with regard sa status ng anak nyo. May mga gamot na tinatawag na antiretrovirals na kinokontrol ang epekto ng virus sa katawan. I am taking ARVs already kasi nung first CD4 ko, below na ako sa threshold na 350. Na mention ko yon sa blog ko.

Life still goes on and kami mga PLWHIV can still live a productive and normal life provided na inaalagaan namin mabuti ang kalusugan namin, nagtetake na ARV on time kung naka ARV na ang isang PLWHIV, and sinusunod namin ang medical regimen na bigay ng duktor.

I am happy that you are accepting of your son's sexuality and more so of his condition. He needs all the support and of course all the love you can give at this time and with his status. No one is prepared for anything like this to happen to one's son or daughter or brother or sister so full support and love should be given to a PLWHIV.

A lot still has to be desired when it comes to educating Filipinos about HIV kasi ang problemang kinakaharap naming mga PLWHIV ay ang stigma at discrimination. Hopefully, mas magiging malawak ang kaalaman ng publiko when it comes to HIV para ma lessen ang stigma and discrimination of PLWHIV.

Mabuhay po kayo and Godbless. Thanks for the prayers and I will also pray for you, your son and your entire family. Hugs.


Monday, November 15, 2010


I got to realize one of my goals that I set after I learned that I was HIV-positive early this year. That is, to be part of a poz organization that would cater to and assist HIV-positive individuals.

After initial discussions with the famous dyingyoung, who heads Youth Aids Filipinas Alliance (Yafa), I am now one of their consultants/advisers. I will advise them on media relations, care and support.

Yafa caters primarily to HIV-positive youths aged 29 and below. To know more about Yafa, you can visit their website at http://www.youthaidsfilipinas.org or look up their Facebook site by typing yafa in the search bar of that social networking website.

My first interaction with the group's leader and some officers was last October 31 when they had their Halloween party in their office at 2040 Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila. It was a small party but it was fun!

Dyingyoung and I had discussed the terms of reference to cover my consultancy job with the group and to formalize my affiliation with Yafa.

Aside from Yafa, I have also been in touch since last August with the current head of Pinoy Plus Association, the pioneer organization of people living with HIV (PLWHIVs) in the country, and have visited their office in Sta. Cruz, Manila also. I have been briefed about their office's goals and projects and soon, I will be participating in the association's activities.

Pinoy Plus has been in existence for 15 years and the group will be marking its 16th anniversary this month. It is composed of PLHIVs and renders services and support to fellow PLHIVs, aside from engaging in HIV and Aids awareness projects.

I am very happy that I have established linkages with these groups and grateful for their welcome. This shows that when one is HIV-positive, he or she can still be a productive member of the poz community and of society as a whole.