Hello everyone, I’m back with another story for the It Gets Better Project! After being very involved in the previous General Elections of Malaysia, I have come to realise that since, Malaysia, our former sibling, shares a similar culture & patois (even family, for some of us) with us Singaporeans, we can easily relate to their trials & tribulations.
I’ve decided to also help tell the stories of Malaysians who are living with HIV, whether they work/study in Singapore or are back in Malaysia. So I’ve extended the invitation to let Malaysians living with HIV to email me their experiences and response has been very good, I must say!
Today, I will be telling Milo’s story. Milo is a 23 year old guy living in Malaysia, and an aspiring doctor who has already completed his medical degree. I will let his words do the talking now.
I am Milo, 23 years old HIV-positive gay guy living in Malaysia. This, however, would be the first time I’d be reaching out to you, in response to your call for your It Gets Better personal project for PLHIV.
I tested as HIV + middle of last year (when I was 22 years old). At that time, I was a final year medical student studying in KL, Malaysia. Prior to my positive result, I have tested negative twice before (up until a few months before my diagnosis). It was around April to May last year that I’d noticed I’d have multiple swollen lymph nodes around my neck area (what I now know was persistent generalized lymphadenopathy). I’d gone to the doctor at my university to run a few tests just to rule out whether I had any serious condition like lymphoma or whatnot. Only when my physician pried on the my sexual behavior, did it occur to me that I could have HIV. And so I agreed to have my blood taken for the test.
Now I have to also tell you I have been dating a guy for more than a year (then), but my boyfriend was then busy studying for his exams, so I’d figured it would be wise holding back the information from him until his exams were over. The gravity of the situation only sank in when I told my best girl friend (fag hag, whatever you want to call it), after I came out of the physician’s office. She sat firmly beside me, lending me a crying shoulder, as I went through the most agonizing week of my life, holding back the information from my other-half and pretending everything was fine and dandy. When his exams were over, I finally sat him down in his bedroom, and told him everything with a straight face. That was when I knew he was the person with whom I am going to spend the rest of my life. Understandably, his problem was more with my infidelity (I’d slept with the stranger from an online gay-dating website when he was away for a weekend) than my diagnosis. I was prepared for the worse, and I did tell him I would understand if he wants me out of his life. But only after less than one day of deliberation, he’d decided that he loves me too much to let me go, and his love would be a lie, if he abandoned me when I needed him the most. True to his words, he has been my main source of strength, for me to come to terms with my diagnosis.
Nevertheless, our relationship was definitely strained. He’d needed a gesture from me to show that I, too, am committed to the relationship as he is. To do that, we drove back to my hometown, and I came out to my parents about my sexuality, and our relationship, but I chose to withhold my diagnosis from them.
My parents did not take the news too well. It turned out to be a tearful affair, as they’d thought they were going to lose me. My mother simply does not approve of a gay son, and my dad.. after that just chose to ignore it and decided that he should bond more with me. I have a sister, who, unfortunately, is working in a faraway land, and therefore, quite unavailable. Till now, I still am deliberating whether I should disclose my diagnosis to them. It would break my parents’ hearts. But the only reason I could survive without telling my family, was because I had the moral support from my partner to get things together. With regards to this issue, my take is that you should make sure you have a support system in place, people you can trust to be there when you need it, and trust me, you need the support.
My support system mainly consisted of my partner in my now serodiscordant relationship, his sister (who turned out to be incredibly positive and supportive) and her boyfriend, and my fag hag. One year on, only these four people know about my diagnosis. I will possibly tell my parents, once my affairs are all in order, meaning, once I am financially independent.
I started ART relatively early. After reading on the pros and cons of early commencement of treatment, I am convinced that starting treatment early is the better option. I knew I have to live with taking pills for the rest of my life, but why not, if the pills could keep me from dying a horrible, premature death. 4 months after my diagnosis (6 months after contracting it, according to my calculation), my physician started me on TENVIR-EM and Stocrin. As I had sought help in the public healthcare system, fortunately for me, the government of Malaysia fully subsidizes the first line of HAART, and I have not needed to pay a single cent for my treatment so far. Half a year into commencement of HAART, my viral load was found to be undetectable, but CD4 count was still rather low.
I am currently applying for a job as a trainee doctor with the government, and I have, in good faith, declared my condition to the governing body of doctors, in hopes that they would still hire me, since I have an undetectable viral load. I am still nervously waiting for the results of my application. God knows what they will do with my application form. I can only pray the people up there still have an ounce of respect for patient confidentiality.
After all I’ve gone through this past year, I know I can count myself lucky, to still have a roof over my head, to still have a loving partner (despite souring ties with my parents), and to have free HAART. Still, my struggles continue, particularly, in searching for a job now that I have graduated. It’d be great to know that I’m not alone in this struggle (and I know I’m not alone). I am very interested to know any pozzies in the medical field who have faced/are facing the same dilemma as I am now.
I am on twitter as @milopozo . I follow a few pozzies in M’sia and SG. I don’t tweet much, but I do regularly check my feed, as it makes me feel like I’m not alone in this world. Although this sometimes makes me feel like the creep at the corner of the playground happy with just watching the rest of the kids play. So I figured this is sort of my coming-out story as well, and to the pozzies in M’sia (and SG), feel free to add me on twitter. I really wouldn’t mind making a few poz friends since I frankly have none.
(POZboySG’s Ed note: If you’d like to send Milo words of encouragement or follow his tweets, you can find him at https://twitter.com/milopozo)
Thank you for writing in, you’ve asked about how I’ve been coping with my HIV condition for the past few years. My answer is that I live a day at the time, & I am thankful for the sunrise I see every day. Also my activism & volunteering work with animal welfare organisations & human rights NGOs fulfils me. In a strange twist of fate, HIV has ignited my deepest passion for advocacy work & human rights so I might have to thank it (though it might seem very odd! LOL)
My support system consists of immediate family members (who know of my status) & I am required to update my day to day status, especially my Dad. He loves me very much & makes sure I email him weekly to update him (I live away from them). Also, I have a select group of friends who are also HIV positive & we regularly hang out for coffee & noms, & when circumstance does not permit, we keep in contact through WhatsApp chat. Technology is a wonderful thing!
When it comes to the issue of dealing with difficult social dynamics (be it at the office or in school), HIV has taught me to not pay too much attention to people who want to make your life difficult. Its best to forgive & forget. Sure, you will want to have a big argument with your ‘nemesis’, I do that too, but after I’ve let all my anger out, I ignore the cause of the problem & move. Let me quote Sweet Brown, “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO DAT!”
Because ultimately, what you need time for is your health & wellbeing as a HIV+ person. Your health is important. Be happy always, don’t take things so seriously, always care & show empathy for your fellow living creatures & I’m pretty sure life will be smooth sailing ahead! :)
If you have any more questions, especially the private ones, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Stay Safe!
We are all One & the Same. ASEAN. Can you spot your nation’s flag?
Hello there, thank you for writing in, when I was initially infected with HIV, I was sent to the National Public Health Unit and asked to provide the numbers of my previous sex partners. If I can recall, I only gave three phone numbers because at that point of time, I just changed my contact number and was *trying* to rid my self of my Village Bicycle past.
I’m sorry I can’t help you with how the Ministry of Health functions with regards to the contact tracing programme but all I hear is that they ar eprettu thorough with the process? They either send an non reply text message to said person OR a letter to the person’s residence.
If you have any more questions to ask me, feel free to email me at email@example.com . Stay Safe.
Hello there again, good points from you. But always remember even if there is a diminished risk of infection if one is top, it is NOT zero risk. Proper precautions should always be endured. Stay Safe.
Hello there, thank you for writing in. Glad to know your partner and you are a healthy couple. I am currently on a personal project aptly named “It Gets Better” which will focus on the HIV/AIDS issue in Singapore. My focus will be on HIV positive men and women living in Singapore and I speak to them and help tell my blogreaders their HIV story.
I work now so I generally don’t have much time to speak to these people in person so they usually email me their deets and I’d craft an article for them. You could do the same too, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I can always do a feature story for you, looking at how it *might not* be related to HIV.
If you are interested to know more about my ongoing project, I do have a blogpost on it, feel free to check it out so you can have an inkling. http://tmblr.co/ZQNSdvXsMhNN
I hope you guys are well, Stay Safe and have a good weekend.