Quezon City, Philippines

Positive since 2017

I was admitted to a local hospital for a fever that somehow escalated to the point where I couldn’t go to work anymore. I am not the type to miss work, so it was something really, really serious.

The nightmare started when the doctor visited my hospital room and asked to speak with me privately. I kept my cool and acted as normal as I possibly could. “Have you ever had an HIV test?” he asked. I said, “No.” That was the truth. I had never even considered it before, but the question weighed on my mind the entire time I was in the hospital—all four days I was there.

After he left the room, I remember picking up my phone and researching everything I could about HIV testing and symptoms. What I read scared me but also left me hopeful because I did not have any of the symptoms that were described. Still, the nagging feeling of not knowing for sure was too much to bear. I couldn’t wait to get discharged and get tested. I remember praying that I didn’t have the dreaded virus. I remember being calm about it, or maybe I wanted to believe that I was calm about the whole thing.

Fast-forward to the day I was discharged from the hospital. You would think I’d take a few days, at least hours, to rest, but no. I needed to get the HIV test out of the way. I needed to know.

I got tested that same day, and I was told that the results would probably take about three days to a week. Well, it took about four weeks. I remember thinking, What could be taking so long? I was fantasizing about my case being so peculiar that I’d turn out to be the cure they were looking for and that my blood rejects and kills the virus.

I got the call from the clinic on a Friday and was told that my results were in. They handed me a sealed envelope and asked me to open it right there. I didn’t understand what I was looking at at first. Then, it caught my eye: “Positive for HIV antibody.”

To be completely honest, I wasn’t surprised. Yet, somewhere deep down inside, I wanted to dispute the results and wanted a retest. I didn’t cry or anything, but I was in a state of shock. It took about a full minute before I was able to utter the words, “So I’m HIV positive.”

The nurse took the results from my hands and confirmed what I just read. She explained the reason it took so long for the results to come in was because the facility that did the testing had to confirm the positive result. (There went the retest option.)

I knew enough about the virus to know that I could die not from HIV but from complications resulting from a weakened immune system. I also knew that if medication was started right away, then I would have a shot at living a normal life. There was nothing the nurse could tell me that I didn’t know already, as I was already obsessing about it since that day at the hospital.

I was asked to see a doctor who would become my HIV specialist. I saw him the following week, and he was impressed by how much I knew about HIV and how positively—no pun intended—I was reacting to the whole ordeal. He told me that given that this is such a life-altering moment, I should tell one family member in case I was too out of it or too emotional to make decisions on my own. He also told me that this was a personal decision.

I still haven’t told a single soul about my condition. Perhaps, that’s what has been eating me up. Hence, I’m writing about it.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Positive, resilient and compassionate.

What is your greatest achievement?

Of all the things life has thrown my way so far, I have never thought of taking my own life.

What is your greatest regret?

I may never find someone who can truly love me.

What keeps you up at night?

Not that I’m complaining, but I wish the medication didn’t make me so sleepy all the time.

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?

I’m still the same person. HIV doesn’t have to change you.

What is the best advice you ever received?

People who are open about their situation can help others deal with their situation.

What drives you to do what you do?

My family and the hope that I’ll meet someone that will accept me, HIV and all.

What is your motto?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?

My phone.

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?

An eagle because I want to fly.