Thursday, February 28, 2013

Latest HIV stats - and the number keeps rising

I came across a tweet from Dr. Eric Tayag of the Department of Health (DOH) wherein he revealed the latest HIV statistics in the country, as follows:

"Doc Eric Tayag ‏@erictayagSays

#HIV alert: #DOH reports 380 new cases in January, the most number of new cases per month since 1984 Cumulative total now at 12,082."

Normally, I'd just shrug off the latest stats because I know that it would show a further increase in the number of HIV cases in the country but what caught my attention was the phrase - the most number of new cases per month since 1984.  1984 was when the first HIV case was recorded in the country.

If that isn't very alarming - then I dunno what it is. This means that more than 300 souls now harbor the virus that still has no cure. 380 persons who lives have been drastically changed. 380 persons who I am sure are going through a rough time dealing with their status.

It is very sad that the number of HIV cases in the country keeps rising and I think that it won't stop increasing anytime soon.  The Philippines is only one of 2 Asian countries where HIV cases are going up.

When will the government take drastic steps to stem the rising cases of HIV? Something needs to be done - and done fast.  Individually, we should find out our status as early as possible and strictly practice safe sex.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Goodbye and hello

Sounds like a movie title, huh.

I'm saying goodbye by March 1 to the old place I live in Makati City and say hello to a new pad.

It's a bittersweet goodbye because the old place harbors memories - both good and bad. It is in that old place that I was bedridden for almost a day when I contracted pneumonia and then hospitalized.  Luckily, I survived.  It was also in that same place that I went home crying my heart out after learning that of my status.

But life has to move on and I have a good feeling about the new place. It will be a fresh start and hopefully it will mostly be good times there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Much as I welcome the existence of non-government organizations (NGOs) dedicated to raising HIV awareness and helping stem the increase in HIV cases in the country, I can't help but be disappointed how personal interests, even egos, get in the way of coming up with a united front on the issue.

I'm talking of the feud between two famous groups that are separately engaged in the HIV and Aids campaign.  They'd come up with separate projects aimed at keeping the number of HIV cases in the country from reaching epidemic proportions.

From where I sit and after learning the respective sides of the 2 groups from people I know who are members of the two organizations, it is saddening to know that instead of working together so as to make their campaign more effective and wide-reaching, differences on how a project should be taken, personal issues, and pride are the obstacles to reaching that goal.

If only they'd realize that lives are at stake and they should unite to make sure that there are no more new cases of HIV infection and deaths due to HIV-related complications, then that would be such a welcome development.


I don't mean to be morbid by choosing Deaths as the title of this post but it best describes what the topic precisely is.

In the months that I was "away" from the blogosphere, I've heard of the demise of young guys due to HIV-related ailments and complications.  Two of those who passed away were dear friends.

One was more than 30 years old and a very good friend of mine.  He and I belonged to a Facebook group.  Before he passed away, I never knew he was HIV positive since he was full of life and ambition. Months before he died, he was in and out of the hospital because of ailments left and right. Then he expired.  I was completely speechless and shocked when I learned that he died at such a young age and I had a suspicion that he was a PLHIV.  My suspicion was confirmed by my friend's siblings, who revealed to me his status.  They told me my friend simply gave up on living and became depressed. He stopped taking ARVs, which led to health complications.  As a return gesture for revealing the status of my friend, I came out to them and we hugged each other.  It was such an emotional moment.  They would remind me every now and then to never give up like what their brother did.  They instantly became my "sisters."  We still keep in touch every now and then.

The second guy died at the age of 21. He was from the southern part of the metro. We encountered each other via Twitter as he had a poz account.  We never got to meet but we'd often chat with each other via YM.  Then a few months before he moved on, he was acting weird and complained of not feeling well.  The next thing I knew, he passed away several hours after he was rushed to his treatment hub.  I never knew the exact cause of his death but later learned from a common friend what he died of.  I will not reveal here the ailment he died of to protect his privacy and his family.  I was so saddened by his death and since I couldn't go to his wake, I had a Mass sponsored for the eternal repose of his soul.

Before my two friends died, I've been hearings of young guys dying left and right - presumably due to opportunistic infections.  Just last week, I learned that a guy in his early 30s, a model and a regular fixture in the local gay scene, died in a hospital.  I didn't know what he died of but I came across his Facebook profile.  I've seen him already - I told myself.

It is really sad to learn of young guys who have died due to HIV-related illnesses - either because they learned of their status too late and medical intervention couldn't help reverse the effects of HIV infections or worse, they didn't know their status at all.

This is where it is really important to know one's HIV status as early as possible. Like I did. And I am lucky that I survived a bout of pneumonia before I learned of my status in 2010 and thankful that medical intervention is keeping the virus in me at bay.  I am not rid of HIV but I have managed to "tame" it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

RITM visit and an awkward encounter

As I mentioned last week, I went to RITM-ARG this morning to get my fresh supply of antiretrovirals (ARVs). I am taking efavirenz and lamivudine-zidovudine.

I left my place around 8:30 a.m. and expected to be at RITM at 10 a.m. and by then, I expected that there won't be many patients at the ARG by that time since CD4 and other laboratory tests were scheduled from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. only. I was wrong and I will get to that later.

It was quite a quick trip to Alabang except for traffic in certain areas of the South Luzon Expressway and I arrived in Alabang at 9:30. I took the FX to RITM and got in the facility almost 10 a.m. When I entered the clinic, there were about 10 other PLHIVs there, one of whom was an old friend of mine and it was only that moment I learned that he was a PLHIV also.  He was filling up Philhealth papers.  I learned that he was diagnosed in 2007 and into ARVs too.  Frankly, it was an awkward meeting and we just exchanged pleasantries for a short while.  Awkward because of the discovery that we were both PLHIVs and we didn't know what to tell each other or how to start telling our sob story.

My friend resumed filling up Philhealth papers while I sat nearby and preoccupied myself with my phones.  Within a 20-minute waiting period, 10 more guys entered the RITM-ARG and I told myself: Whoa, there are really many PLHIVs already. The ARG was getting too crowded so it was a good thing that my name was called and after getting the papers I needed, I went to the pharmacy to get my ARV supply.

I stayed in RITM for less than an hour.  After getting my ARVs, I proceeded to Festival Mall to have snacks and then went home to Makati. During the bus ride home from Alabang to Makati, I felt sad because of the reality that the HIV situation in the country has gone from bad to worse as evidenced by the many PLHIVs we now have.  I recalled way back in 2010 that the ARG won't get too crowded with many patients unlike now.

With the number of PLHIVs growing by leaps and bounds, the sense of privacy in government-run treatment hubs (THs) is now non-existent.  I should seriously consider moving to another TH soon where there's more privacy for PLHIVs like me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How do I explain my need for a CF1 document

Every three months or at regular intervals, PLHIVs like me who visit their government-run treatment hub (THs) need to present the Philhealth CF1 (Claim Form 1) to be able to avail of the OHAT package that Philhealth gives so as to get free antiretrovirals and undergo lab tests free of charge.

And a common predicament faced by PLHIVs who ask for it from their administrative or human resources department is how to explain why the need to secure the document.

Luckily for me, I head the administrative/HR department of our company so I just fill up the CF1 form and have it signed by our general manager. No questions asked of me but I tell my boss what the CF1 is for. But what about those who need to explain  to their administrative or HR officers?

Here are 2 tips I can share:

*Explain that you are paying for the Philhealth contribution of a dependent (parent, unemployed sibling, wife or kid) so you need to get it every 3 months.  I use this as reason.

*You need to present the CF1 form for your regular checkup.  Ask your TH to make a document stating that you need to undergo a checkup every three months for a respiratory ailment or anything the doctor or TH staff can think of without giving away your HIV status.

I hope this can be of help to you out there who need a reason to explain the need for a CF1.

Monday, February 11, 2013

About taking ARVs

"Di ko pa need mag-ARV (antiretroviral). So happy."

So goes a tweet I read from an account of a PLHIV. I have a Twitter account but I am not out with regard my HIV status in that account.

While I am happy for that PLHIV, whose Twitter account I shall not name, that he needs not take ARVs (for now) probably because his CD4 count is still way beyond the threshold of 350, I believe that even if one's CD4 count is still above normal, it is best to take ARVs to make sure that a PLHIV doesn't contract an opportunistic infection (OI) during the lull from one CD4 test to another.

From what I know, in the US, PLHIVs take ARVs even if their CD4 count is way above the threshold. It is only in the Philippines where a PLHIV is required to take ARV already and they have remained healthy with minimal to no incidence of OIs for a long time.

I have been taking ARVs - Lamivudine-Zidovudine and Efavirenz - since April 2010.  So far, I haven't had any serious OI or health setback.

While I do understand that taking ARVs would require a PLHIV's strict adherence to taking it, "an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure", so they say.

I believe that taking ARV, along with regular exercise, a healthy daily diet, getting enough sleep, taking multivitamins, cutting any unhealthy vices like smoking, and keeping oneself happy most of the time (no to depression!) would ensure that a PLHIV's CD4 count remains high.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


And what the heck is BTDT, some of you out there would ask?

It's "been there, done that." I came across that acronym for an oft-repeated phrase in a recent conversation with a friend.

I use the acronym BTDT to refer to the aggressiveness of newly-diagnosed PLHIVs in helping stem the rising cases of HIV and Aids through counselling, pushing for taking a HIV test and blogging.

It's actually nice to see more and more PLHIVs blogging about their experience, sharing info and even advice especially to those newly-diagnosed.  I too went through that stage until work took up most of my free time especially after I got promoted and was moved to daytime schedule.  Writing down your thoughts can help one cope with and accept one's status, especially if you've just learned about it.

So, I can say I've "been there, done that."

Now it's time for the others to "shine". :D

Reposting - Terminologies clarified

In the past, I've come across news reports and people who use HIV victim/sufferer or AIDS victim/sufferer and even terms like HIV/AIDS, which are actually incorrect.

So to be politically-correct, let me mention here that there is no such term as HIV or AIDS victim or sufferer. They are called person living with HIV (PLHIV) or person living with AIDS (PLWA). This is also meant to be more humane to those who have contracted the virus.

It would also be wise to refrain from writing HIV and AIDS as HIV/AIDS or HIV-AIDS because they are two entirely different matters. HIV refers to the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by progressive failure of one's immune system, thus resulting in life-threatening opportunistic infections (OIs) like pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, and cancers to thrive. It's the last stage of HIV infection.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Visiting RITM again

I'm scheduled to go to RITM-ARG on February 13 to get a fresh supply of ARVs (Efavirez, Lamivudine-Zidovudine).

If it weren't that important to my health, I wouldn't want to go to RITM because of the distance, hassle of going there and coming from there, and dealing with certain staffers at the ARG who I don't like. Sigh

My next visit would be on April 11 for my anniversary tests and CD4 count.