Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:52:00 03/16/2011
Filed Under: Health, Diseases
I WAS diagnosed as HIV positive a couple of months ago, and my perspective on life changed dramatically. Truly, we cannot be in complete control of everything. Getting such a diagnosis really changes you. In one instant, your life and the lives of those around you turn 180 degrees.
You can respond in two different ways: One is negatively, by either being in denial, or feeling very bad and blaming God, forever ranting, and eventually ending up very depressed. People who react this way think that their life is over, and there’s no future to look forward to anymore, and some end up committing suicide. Or you can respond positively and in a pro-active way. You consult the doctors, take your medicines, and live a relatively long and fulfilling life.
When I was told I was HIV positive, my whole view of the world and of my experiences changed. I don’t want to waste my life anymore. I seize every opportunity to be happy. I want to live a meaningful life—a relatively shorter life, yes, but a more meaningful one.
It is a blessing in disguise. I just need to reprogram my thinking, to learn how to look at things differently. I have never been happier. Knowing that your days are numbered (somewhat) makes a whole lot of difference.
I have a strong support system in my family and closest friends. To them, I am very thankful, and of course, to God, and the universe, for eventually, slowly, making everything fall into place. Now, I can say that I know what my life’s meaning is, and the reason I am here. I know whom and what I am living for.
I am very healthy now, thanks to God, the doctors, the medicines, and those who know my condition.
Many recent scientific studies say that if you start treatment at around 20 years old and it works, and you are still in the latent stage, and you live a relatively healthy and stress-free life, HIV will cut your life span by just about 10 years. So having HIV is not much of a death sentence after all.
Those who are scared to have themselves tested, shouldn’t feel that way. It is not the end of the world, as many would think. You can choose to face the reality now, or just die without even giving a fight. You can either be in denial forever, or you can face it and have it treated. You can postpone and postpone having yourself tested, or you can do it now. But there’s no other day but today to do it.
Another advantage of having yourself tested is that if you are indeed positive, you start treatment early. If you tested early, the prognosis (disease progression or outcome) is really good. But if you are diagnosed, say, 8 or 10 years after the virus entered your system, then you are likely to get a real death sentence, with all sorts of opportunistic infections manifesting themselves.
It’s time to turn our lives around, guys. Be brave. Get on your feet and have the courage to have yourself tested, and show that you love yourself indeed, and that you are socially responsible. You don’t want to be sleeping around, just passing the virus on to everyone you have sex with.
If you have yourselves tested and you turn out to be negative, you get rid of perpetual paranoia and you are given another chance to be more cautious.
And if you are positive, well, live life. You are not alone. I am okay. I have never felt better in my life.
And the medicines are free, yes, free. There are funds from the government and from the rest of the world. The expenses for treatment are therefore minimal.
An HIV test only costs P200 to P300 in government hospitals. Check out the San Lazaro Hospital, the Philippine General Hospital, or the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. Please, let us all be responsible.
If you are positive, it is not the end of the world. It may actually be the beginning of a better, more fulfilling life for you.
What are the symptoms? Well, you really wouldn’t have symptoms. Once the virus enters your body, you will feel a bit feverish and be a little weak. It’s just like you have a common flu. Then after a few days, these flu-like symptoms will disappear. You will then be asymptomatic (without any symptoms) for approximately 8 to 10 years. This means that you will not feel anything wrong with you. You will seem very healthy, to yourself and to those around you. Therefore, you wouldn’t know you have it, until after the 8-10 year period, and then your immune system is already compromised, unable to protect you against all sorts of infections.
The important lesson here is that you really wouldn’t know merely by looking and asking whether a person is HIV positive or not. The most alarming thing is that many people are infected with the virus but they do not know it precisely because there are no symptoms. This, coupled with the fact that they are hesitant to have themselves tested, means they will continue to spread the virus. And it become a vicious cycle.
It is best to have yourself tested so you know the real score.
If you have questions, or you want to learn some more about my experience, reach me through: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is also my YM! account. And here is my cell-phone number: 09279268855.
Ian, 23, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines. He wrote this piece to promote greater awareness of HIV/AIDS and encourage early testing.