Last Sept. 17, I commemorated my first anniversary as an HIV Positive. While it is true that I may have contracted the virus earlier than a year ago, it was only then that I was confirmed to be an HIV case. Ever since, my life has changed. I have turned away completely from the life I’ve known, seen and lived. That day, I committed to myself that I would help raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS.
With the reproductive health debate heating up, I have never been more interested in the passage of the RH bill in Congress. In my mind, had the bill been passed sooner, I would not have to contend with this virus since I would have had the knowledge to avoid this infection in the first place. I would have been more careful because I would have had the knowledge about the consequences of engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
It’s not that I am blaming government or anybody for my irresponsible actions. I just want to point out that had I been aware of the risks of unprotected sex, I would not be an HIV victim now.
I am a closet homosexual. I never thought that unprotected sex is risky; after all, most STDs are curable. HIV, or the threat of it, never crossed my mind. I thought we didn’t have it in the Philippines, and it’s just a disease of the Western world. I never thought it’s here—hidden, closeted—lurking in the darkness of ignorance, through needle-sharing among drug users, spreading slowly, infecting our society in many other ways. I know I sound ridiculous, but that’s how I saw things before I became an HIV case. That’s how naïve I was.
I am fortunate to belong to the upper middle class. I have the capacity to protect myself and prevent this infection, but still I got infected with HIV. Many of us, victims, can choose and are able to live an ordinary life because we can afford to. But there are people out there who need government support. Some are dying because of late diagnosis. Some, if not most, cannot afford the cost of treatment, even that of AIDS-related complication. While it is true that HIV has been downgraded from being a death sentence to a chronic ailment, it is a fact that living with this virus entails a higher maintenance cost of living. People living with HIV are prone to infections. Medications that prevent (or cure) HIV/AIDS-related infections cost a lot.
Right now, we’re facing an impending pandemic. More and more people are getting infected because of ignorance. The statistics are rising. The HIV threat is real. But the Global Fund just withdrew its provision for the anti-HIV drugs. The HIV infection is slowly and silently spreading to the grassroots. It’s time the government do something urgent to curb this impending pandemic. Awareness is the key to halt this costly battle. It is time that the heated debate on reproductive health be put to a closure and the much-needed RH law passed. Prevention is better and cheaper than treatment; with an informed citizenry, HIV can be prevented, the battle won.