Thursday, February 23, 2012

HIV/AIDS and poverty in the Philippines, a call for help

I came upon an article that photographed the conditions and situations of the patients and how it is to be confine in a public hospital by Melchizedek Maquiso. The photographer's subject of interest were the patients of my home Treatment Hub, San Lazaro Hospital, but he was restricted to shoot in the TB Ward and Children's Wards only. I will put through text my first hand experiences, as shooting in the H4 Ward where HIV patients are confined are impossible knowing how strict the ward is when it comes to confidentiality of the patient's identity.

Being confined in a typical public hospital means one is poor or lacks the financial capabilities of being in a better health care institution , it lacks the typical comforts and luxuries of a private hospital such as air-conditioning, private comfort rooms, TV, and a nice comfortable bed. However, what lacks in comfort is what the health care workers make-up for... Being very nice. I cannot comment anything more on how nice I was treated during my time when I was confined in the hospital (H4 Ward). The nurses were fun and were very attentive to our needs. Although drugs were lacking, and patient's have to buy them outside the hospital, they do keep up with the moral support for the patients. That's the best thing I like being with San Lazaro Hospital, it is the people who takes care of us. Our doctors in the H4 ward may be just less than a handful to the number (thousands) of HIV infected patients enrolled under SLH's care, but I saw how hard working they are, also, they have been taking care of PLHIVs longer than any other institution in the country, I think (although I don't have any data to support that theory). 

When I was confined, I saw how the worst of what poverty can do and the best of human emotional endurance. Some of the relatives or the care-takers of the patients have nothing to eat at all, because only the patients have free hospital food, and because they are so poor, they do not have enough money to buy food for themselves. There are free medicines if available in the hospital pharmacy, but if none, the patients have to buy them elsewhere. There are antibiotics that costs as much as P4,000 per bottle that the HIV patients need, most of them couldn't even afford a decent meal what more a medicine with the price of a low-end cellphone. So most them tend to stay in the ward longer because of lack of money to buy the needed medicines. In public hospitals, most equipment are donated by charitable institutions or by other countries. I can proudly say that the machines that caters to HIV/AIDS health care in San Lazaro is complete as well as some of the other hospital equipment, thanks to the help of the Japanese government. The medical equipment used by the staff in the H4 ward as I have heard were donations from private people and institutions. The public hospitals mainly gets its equipment and other machinery from donations and private funding, that is what makes the public health system a little better that it seems. Also , the fees from the pay-wards help pay the bills in the public non-paying wards. The pay-wards, although I haven't seen it, has the usual air-conditioning, private comfort rooms and better beds as they say, but it costs a lot to be there than in the public non-paying wards but definitely cheaper than to be in a private hospital. 

It is heartbreaking to see a fellow patient cry for desperate help when he has no money to spend for medicines and we all know his life is already in dire danger, it is even more heartbreaking to see their relatives specially their parents cry at their bed side saying they don't have any money to buy any medicine at all. One fellow patient was the son of a food peddler, she sells food to construction sites, and along roadsides just for them to have something to eat. Seeing her go to the hospital to check on her son and looking tired after a day's work with no money for medicines and just enough for fare and for the budget on the next day's goods, is just heart wrenching. These are the people who really needs help. There are patients who were even younger, those who has not even finished college yet or just started to work. It is sad to know that their dreams to get out of poverty are cut short by the virus.

I am not against the HIV/AIDS prevention, but I think it already reached a certain popularity that most people already knows about it, and on the importance of getting tested, we cannot force the public to do what we want them to, we can only do so much. What do these institutions (NGOs) do? Make public ads, help those who needs counseling, then help people get tested and more counseling if they tested positive, what else? Does your help extend beyond the counseling up to the point wherein they need Philhealth assistance, medical assistance, food and medicines? The antibiotics prescribed for People/Person Living with HIV (PLHIV) are very expensive, just a little help will extend the lives of my fellow patients. Some patients were so poor and jobless that they themselves cannot even pay for a small fee for the Philhealth insurance, which is a major requirement for a PLHIV. My point is, why not give some funds to the needy, to the Treatment Hubs specially where the poorest of the poor are concentrated like in San Lazaro Hospital. 

The government has so many to spend upon, education, healthcare, paying the country's debts, infrastructure and so on, it is useless to call for them for help, and they already know the impoverish conditions of the public hospital patients. I am calling the attention of private citizens, those who has money to spare and NGOs to donate and help people in the public healthcare system. We are already so attached enjoying the luxuries of what our hard earned cash can give and provide us with. A little help to extend the lives of poverty stricken patients is not a lot to lose from a weekly budget that affords us an exaggeratedly priced coffee or an overpriced meal which has the price equivalent to a week's dose of a life saving antibiotic. 

In this era of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, it is not just prevention that we must face, battle, and uphold, it is the ongoing fight to live. Let us help those who are bedridden and sore, with malnourished pockets and nothing more to spare but their hope of going home alive. 

Self medication and careful observation (HIV and natural remedies)

As of this writing it is now 4 minutes before 4 AM. I am supposed and was planning to go to San Lazaro to have myself checked. However, I don't feel that there's anything wrong with my anymore, no more cough and colds nor sore throat. It seemed that as every day passed, I am getting better. I was thinking of the blood incident the other day that every time I blow my nose there was blood, someone told me that every time I sleep I poke my nose too hard, and I have a history of a waking up finding myself with a bleeding face. So it was my fingers that were the culprit. I looked at my nails and the tips were black and long as if I lived back in the caveman era, I did cut my nails right away.

I have decided not to go to the hospital to have myself checked. Of reasons such as... the long lines and long wait might just make me more stressed thus will make me sick again, and the commute all the way to Manila will make me sick and tired. I will only go to the hospital to get my refills and submit my lab tests or for my CD4 count. Besides, I can go there in dire cases such as when I had a 41 degree fever last year. As of right now, I am completely okay. No more blood whenever I blow my nose, taking into consideration that whenever I cough there was no blood, but only when I sneeze, that means my nasal cavity is wounded, is that because I poke my nose too hard when sleeping? The cold and tonsillitis, I am not sure if these two are related, but whenever I have colds I get tonsillitis. So as long as I get rid of the damn cold, the tonsillitis will go away.

Why did I had colds in the first place? I went to the UP Fair and got home at 5 AM, I was already awake at 4 AM the day before, this was Saturday. Sunday night, me and PJ had a late dinner, I went home at midnight then woke up at 3 AM. Monday, went to work without an umbrella and stayed late night with my friend Monica and ate a lot of sweets including 12 ounces of ice cream from Dairy Queen, which might have triggered the bacterial infection. Tuesday morning, had a terrible case of colds and tonsillitis. So there, I lacked sleep and never had enough rest for the past couple of days, thus a lowered immune response resulting to bacterial infection of the throat and sinus.

I did not really take anything synthetic aside from the ARVs when I got sick. I just stayed in bed for hours on end, only getting up to go to the bathroom or to eat. Plus I eat spicy food, they say spicy food helps eliminate bacteria from the body. I was all clear in just three days, including today. Taking into consideration that as someone with HIV I am still prone to bacterial and fungal infections, thus, I will then make some research on an antibacterial diet. the ARVs already make me less prone to even the strongest viruses, err.. HIV? So the only thing I have to address are bad bacterias and fungi. I don't want to take so much antibiotics anymore, aside from they rid of the body of also the good bacteria, they might be bad for the liver too. Antibiotics that were always prescribed to me are either Azithromycin and Ciprofloxacin which are both strong classes of drugs. I will only succumb to these drugs when natural remedies can no longer fight the infections within, but as long as it can, I will use natural remedies as well as my own body to fight foreign invaders inside me.

So back to bed I go for more sleep. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Last Tuesday morning I woke up feeling feverish. I was sneezing uncontrollably. Then at one big sneeze, blood spritzed out of my mouth, it scared the hell out of me. My fever began at 37 degrees then it was constant at that. I called up the office saying I cannot make it that day, then I sent an email to my boss saying I'm sick.

I wasn't coughing but I kept on sneezing and I felt terrible, I felt weak. the mucus whenever I blow nose had blood in it and I had tonsillitis, I had difficulty swallowing. I haven't told my dad yet until earlier through a text message, although I know my dad was already trying to call me up on my landline, I was in no mood to talk to anyone.

I was supposed to go to San Lazaro right away last Tuesday or today, but I ought to go there tomorrow. I thought of saving my strength because the commute might just drain so much of me. I haven't done any of the required bi-annual lab tests yet, but I'll have them soon. Tomorrow, I just want to have myself checked. I am thinking that I am having another bout with Pneumonia, this is how I felt with my last two attacks back in 2010 and earlier part of 2011 which was both Community Acquired Pneumonia.

Right now, I am already coughing although my throat doesn't hurt that much anymore and I don't have any fever, my body temperature's down to 36.9 degrees.

No paracetamols or any drug were used to hasten down my fever nor to address the colds and cough. No cough medicines has any effect on me anyway, paracetamols are not allowed until fever goes as high as 40 degrees. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Walang Kapalit - Peryodiko (audio and lyrics)

wag na malungkot..hindi naman kailangan na ganito..
ang lahat ay may hangganan..nakatali sa pinagmulan

ang pait ng ngayon ay bahagi ng kaligayahan ng kahapon..
wag kalimutan mga masayang sandali..

wag mag-alala kung ang iba'y nananatili sa nakaraan..
at ang iba’y aalis dahil sa kasalukuyan..
pag-ibig ay duyan, at madalas pag-tuonan ang pait lang ng ngayon..
di na nabibilang, napag-iisipan mga masayang sandali ng kahapon

ito na ang huli..
at di mo na mababawi..
pilitin man ay di na kayang pigilin ang ihip ng hangin..
ito man ang huling gabing ng ating pagsasama..
ang bukas ay nag-aabang na...

napapangiti ka pa ba ng ulan?...
may pangarap bang walang dahilan?..

ito na ang huli..
at di mo na mababawi..
pilitin man ay di na kayang pigilin ang ihip ng hangin..
ito man ang huling gabing ating pagsasama..
ang bukas ay nag-aabang na...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pedro, the boy with a beautiful big piece...

A piece of artwork that is! Pedro, is whom I call the drummer boy, because he plays the drums in the band (obviously). I have mentioned him quite a few times here in the blog, and he is one of the few straight close friends I have.

The boy with the fish tattoo 02

The boy with the fish tattoo 01

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Xperia Mini Pro camera test shots

On my way home, I thought that I should try my Xperia's camera on how it performs on the street.

Original shot:
Stock Exchange - original

Processed in Lightroom 3: Stock Exchange - processed

Original shot:
Sunset on my way home - original

Processed in Lightroom 3: Sunset on my home - processed

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pulling up the numbers - Making your CD4 count higher

My latest CD4 count as of January 2012 was 589, it was 294 points up from my previous count, almost 300 points increase. I did change a bit of my lifestyle, and I am willing to do more better changes. Here are the usual things I did on the 6 months I was battling to gain back the normalcy of my immune system. So therefore, here are my tips:

  1. Don't stress - Stress is the biggest factor of why the CD4 count drops significantly low. 
  2. Eat well - This is subjective based on one's needs. Do eat well and in moderation, make sure you get enough nutrients in whatever you put in your mouth. 
  3. Sleep - Sleep well and get lots of it. 
  4. Listen and feel the body - Those aches and pains are signs that something is wrong. Do something  to alleviate it and investigate the cause. Do not over work your body, it has its limitations, you may want to push it to the limit or beyond, but it can only perform so much. 
  5. Relax - As much as you want, whenever. 
  6. Get the rage out - Keeping your rage in, may cause you to be stressed out. I express myself by listening to loud music or just tweeting away some thoughts. 
  7. Walk - It's just healthy and simple. 
  8. Keep yourself busy - Learn a new hobby, read, write, day dream.
  9. Have alone time - Being alone will get you to know yourself more, and you will also know what your body needs and what your soul desires. 
  10. Smile.
Note: My ARV cocktail - Lamivudine/Zidovudine, Efavirenz

Thursday, February 2, 2012


04-00-2010: 526
12-16-2010: 385
06-09-2011: 295
01-05-2012: 589

The numbers in blue are my CD4 count for the past two years since I was diagnosed with HIV last April of 2010. It has been on a steep decline from April to December then slowed down on June, but still it went down. A healthy and normal CD4 count is between 500 - 1500. 

It was a very long wait earlier at the hospital (San Lazaro Hospital) because I woke up late (around 5:30 AM), and I arrived there at around 8:30 AM and I was already the 62nd patient! There were such a huge number of new patients there that I barely know anyone. Good thing that some of my "batch mates" arrived a few minutes later and some a few hours later. Those batch mates of mine were diagnosed at the same year I was, we are given codes, like student numbers, which we will know what year a person was diagnosed. I very good friend of mine accompanied me to the hospital all that time which I really appreciated because he was asked if he was "one of us" too. Fortunately, he isn't. Me, my friend, and my batch mates spent time to the nearby Day Care Center inside the hospital compound where we spent hours chatting with other patients and  social workers, we had a few good laughs, which was one thing that I always look forward whenever I am going to visit the H4 Ward. The laughter, the fun, the socializing, and all that buzz and "bubbliness" of the other patients is what I always miss in H4 Ward, and what I always look forward to. Socializing amidst the stress and boredom of the long wait until our name is called for our turn to see the doctor is always a key for us not to be so crazy and dead bored inside the SLH compound. A patient can wait for the whole day if he listed his name late, like what I did earlier. There was a mass held in the H4 Ward - Clinic, yes, we now have a separate air-conditioned clinic from the ward; so everything has to be cut and stopped. The priests and very handsome seminarians from the St. Camillus Seminary came to celebrate mass. Operations in the clinic resumed at around 4:30 PM, right after the mass. My doctor told me that most of her patients today who came for their CD4 test, got an increased result. That's why despite of her tending to more than a hundred patients that day, I can see that she's happy. Most of the patients earlier came for their CD4 test results anyway, only a handful were there for a health check-up. 

I was on my way home at sundown with a smile on my face. After a very long time... I am now, walking, normally.

Thank you so much to everyone who included me in their prayers. Thank you, God.