Being a man living with HIV is something shocking to most people or everyone. It has been more than a year since I got diagnosed, and if my calculations are correct, I have been living with the virus since 2008. Having HIV has always been my fear when I was younger. Year 2007, when I watched Rent for the first time, I was very depressed for a week after watching it. I don't want to be one of those bohemians who has AIDS. I don't want to count days when I will die or how long do I have left. I was scared, very scared that everyday I pray to God... "please, don't let me have HIV, please take care of me and protect me from it". I was afraid that if ever I have it, my life will end before I even enjoy it fully, that I will not be able to reach my dreams and goals in life and not being able to know how it is to live. I was afraid that I will be different, abnormally different, someone sick, someone weak. I was afraid to be someone who is being pitied at.
2010, in the middle of summer, on a very hot afternoon. I got a call from Fred, an ex of mine. He said in a sad and shaky yet commanding voice that he just found out he has HIV, I didn't know how to react. After a few minutes of silence, I was able to utter a few words, like the usual "how are you?", "how are you feeling?", "what made you take the test?". He said that someone sent him a text message saying he should get tested because that person has just been diagnosed. He was determined to know who sent the message, I am just not sure if he was able to know who it really was. That day was still normal for me, I was sad for Fred, but I felt nothing for myself. After our somewhat long conversation, I immediately made a research on HIV testing centers. I listed down phone numbers and locations of hospitals where I can take the test. Of course, on top of the list was San Lazaro Hospital. The next day, Monday morning, I called up the phone numbers of San Lazaro Hospital. I asked the guy over the phone on how to get there and where and how can I have the HIV test. The guy was very friendly, so I was excited to take the test. I arrived in the hospital late afternoon. After two weeks, I got the result, and a series of life changing moments started to take place. It was a rebirth for me. That knowledge set me free from self doubts and fears. However, the first few weeks weren't easy at all. There were more fears, the fears that I have been dreading all those years were finally at their very peak.
Watching Rent for the nth time was never the same again, knowing that I too, has HIV, just like most of the characters in that very popular musical. I felt like I was one of them, freethinking and free spirited bohemians living their lives and living life, writing songs, making music, singing, living with the virus.
I am only scared of that moment where one will lay in bed, dying... then dead. It is a sad truth that nobody dare to talk about. All of us will die in whatever way, everyone, HIV positive or not. The only difference is that we (people living with HIV) are widely aware that if we are not extra careful with our health we can die faster than everyone else. Being scared is normal, being scared is okay. I too, am scared, I am constantly scared, but I face it, I swallow that fear, because no matter what I do, there will be threats. I just walk on by, being careful each step of the way. People living with HIV have a constantly deteriorating immune system, that only a lifetime of medicines can help slow down or stop. For us to have a close to normal immune system and to survive longer, we have to make sure that our health is on top condition. We have to make sure that our organs and the rest of our body are all functioning well and are free of other viruses and diseases. Thus, making us some of the supposedly healthiest individuals alive. Ironically, we have the healthiest body that's on constant threat from many diseases. As many say and it is true, that we can die from something that normal people will just sleep off and get well the next day.
After all the depression I've gone through during the first weeks, after all of my revelations to my closest friends, talks with my dad, prayers, looking back and thinking forward; I can say that I am living a better life. Better, because I now have a better outlook. I sorted my priorities, and I am going after my dreams and fighting for what I believe. Reaching out to many, making them realize that HIV is not the end of the world, but a start of a new beginning. There are and will always be challenges along the way with this fragile body, but it is the strength of our soul that can walk us towards a brighter tomorrow. I can say that I am still normal, I feel normal, and I am obligated to be happy. After all, happiness is a choice. I am living healthier, I am thinking healthier, and dreaming more. HIV has been a catalyst for a better life for me. I quit dying the moment I realized I have a lot to live for. The virus made me realize that lingering in depression on something that happened in the past is a very worthless way to spend time. Forget regrets, after all, what happened to us now, is something that we inflicted ourselves in one way or another, so we have to accept and face it. One big thing I realized is that self acceptance is a major step to becoming happy. There are always something to look back may it be good or bad, but there's only one way towards a better future, and we have to face it chin up, with a brave perspective and a smile. Look back, think forward, act now.