#StayNegatHIVe #LivePositive: How life does not end with HIV

Reginald Gregg Ceballos

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#StayNegatHIVe #LivePositive: How life does not end with HIV
Mikee is just one of the 521 people in Pampanga diagnosed with HIV. This number only includes those who have willingly gotten tested.

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – It is a common misconception that when you get diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it is the end of the line for you, a literal dead.

Mikee*, who tested positive for HIV in December 2014, proved that life doesn’t need to end after getting diagnosed with HIV. 

‘Rocky start’

Mikee got diagnosed with HIV when a friend urged him to get tested. 

It was unplanned. My friend told me to get tested (for HIV). He said it was free. At first, I didn’t want to get tested, but in the end I got tested because I really want to know,” Mikee said. (READ: Thinking about taking an HIV test? Be brave)

When the results came, Mikee’s friend was negative or non-reactive but Mikee tested positive.

That moment was a sad twist of fate for Mikee. He was so devastated that he stopped showing up for work or even bothered showing up to his family and friends. He also skipped meals and did not leave his house because he lost the sense of these things when he knew that he will one day or another die of HIV. 

I really didn’t know what to do. I tried to ignore it – let it be. But in the end it was all for naught. It was like I was just fooling myself, pretending that there was nothing wrong when there really is,” he added.

Bad decisions

Mikee believes that he got infected with HIV because of bad decisions. 

“Feel ko, kasalanan ko rin naman talaga ito. Kung kani-kanino na lang ako nakikipag-sex tapos wala pang proteksyon. Minsan kasi nadadala ka lang talaga sa libog,” he explained. (I feel that it is really my fault. I had unprotected sex with just anyone. Sometimes, you get overridden by lust.)

He further explained that before he got diagnosed he was fond of using dating apps as a medium to hook up with someone. 

Mikee also explained that, even though he feels that it is wrong in the inside, somehow he was always drawn to use sex to fill up a missing hole in his life. It removed an empty feeling inside him. 

Coming to terms 

The first year after he got diagnosed was very rough. The first few months were the roughest. Mikee did not know what to do and felt that his world was about to cave in. 

But, with the help of his family and friends, Mikee came into terms with himself. They contacted local support groups wherein he could meet other people living with HIV (PLHIV).

At first, he was afraid because he thought that other people with HIV would look like drug addicts or the likes but he was shocked that they looked normal just like him.

“They we’re like normal people. The type of people you see on the streets,” he added.

Mikee was even more shocked when he heard their stories, of how they got infected and how they still try to live a normal life. It made him realize that HIV is dangerous but he should not be down about it.

“I realized that it [HIV] is already there and we can’t change that. Nothing will happen if I would just sulk in a corner. I realized that I should just continue with my life,” Mikee said.

Mikee still tries to live a normal life. He is happy that he still has time to spend with his loved ones. Aside from managing their families’ small business, he keeps himself busy by helping and counseling others who are also HIV positive. (READ: How to fight HIV: Show you care or sow fear?)

HIV in Pampanga 

Mikee is just one of the 521 people in Pampanga diagnosed with HIV. This number only includes those who have willingly gotten tested and the real number of people who have HIV is potentially higher. 

Most of these cases are linked to the highly urbanized areas of Pampanga, particularly Angeles City which ranked second in terms of HIV and AIDS cases increase based on the study created by Human Life International. These numbers also extends to the less urbanized or rural municipalities of Pampanga including Guagua where there are cases that are as early as 6 years old.

Aside from the usual method of transmission via unprotected sex and needle sharing, there have also been records of HIV passed through birth from an HIV positive mother like in the case of a young child from Guagua Pampanga. (READ: What you need to know about children with HIV/AIDS)

The Guagua Municipal Health Office withheld to release further information regarding the child to protect the child’s privacy. 

HIV a rising threat to Pampanga 

HIV continues to become a threat to Pampanga with the continuously rising number of cases.

For the first 6 months of 2015, the Department of Health (DOH) has already recorded 61 cases of HIV in Pampanga beating last year’s tally of 49 cases.  

DOH has also recorded one full blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) case, 17 asymptomatic cases or patients who do not show any symptoms, and 5 AIDS-related deaths. (READ: WHO: PH has fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world)

This number is significantly higher than the number of cases in the other provinces of Central Luzon. Both Tarlac and Nueva Ecija have 5 asymptomatic cases while Zambales has 4 and Bataan has one. All 4 of these provinces have not reported any full-blown AIDS cases.

The only province in Central Luzon to have a higher number of cases is Bulacan which has one full-blown HIV case and 27 asymptomatic cases.  

Pampanga also topped last year’s number of HIV cases in Central Luzon with a total of 95 new cases. 

The DOH attributes the rise of the number of HIV/AIDS cases to the rising number of individuals who opt to get tested. – Rappler.com

*The real name of the individual has been changed to protect his identity and privacy.

Reginald Gregg Ceballos, a student of Holy Angel University, is one of Rappler’s lead movers in Pampanga.

#StayNegatHIVe is MovePH’s HIV/AIDS awareness campaign spearheaded by our communities across the Philippines, and held in partnership with DM9 and LoveYourself.

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