GC is a 32 year old Singaporean male who has been living with HIV for the last three years, having been diagnosed positive for HIV aged 29. He is born and bred in Singapore and works in a local institution in medical research. I am honoured to tell you GC’s story, after discovering through my…
Hi there, you can obtain HIV Post-Exposure Prophylactic (PrEP) meds from all hospitals in Singapore. If you have been exposed to the virus within 24 hours (12 is best), you have to visit any hospital’s Accident & Emergency. Walk in fees woult be $80, and PrEP would cost between $400-$850 (just a rough estimate). Hope I’ve answered your question.
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…
Read @milopozo’s Story as a Malaysian guy living with HIV.
How did you get infected with HIV? Mind sharing please?
Hi, thanks for writing in. There is an article telling my life story on the SilenceSG blog, on how I came to be infected with HIV. Click on this link I’ve provided you with. Stay Safe. FULL FLUSH BUT NOT FLUSTERED - SILENCESG
HIV epidemics are becoming more concentrated in marginalised groups such as sex workers, drug users and gay men, and could defy global attempts to combat AIDS if attitudes do not change, a U.N. expert said. Michel Kazatchkine, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe, says he would like to be able to celebrate without reservation global progress made in the past decade, but stubborn infection rates and alarming growth of outbreaks in hard-to-reach populations make that difficult. The risk, he says, is that as the world turns the tide of the global AIDS epidemic, the virus will return to being a disease that plagues only certain groups and the political will to overcome it may fade. “If we do not address the roots of the problem, if we do not address stigma, discrimination and inappropriate legislation, if we don’t look at these people from a public health perspective, rather than from a delinquent, criminal perspective as we do now, then the trend will only go on,” he said in an interview.
"Then the AIDS epidemic will become more and more a sum of these concentrated epidemics."
EXTRAORDINARY PROGRESS Some 35.3 million people worldwide are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but the rising number of patients reflects great strides in recent years in developing sophisticated HIV tests and combination AIDS drugs and getting them to many of those who need them to stay alive. The annual AIDS death toll is falling, dropping to 1.6 million people in 2012, down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005, and there are also steadily declining rates of new HIV infections: a third fewer in 2013 than in 2011. The progress has generated much hope about the possible end of AIDS, or a potential world without HIV, or the chance of an AIDS-free generation, in our lifetimes. Kazatchkine, who was due to speak at a City Health Conference in the Scottish city of Glasgow on Monday, refers to both the progress and the hope as “extraordinary”.
"I’m really concerned about the future of the AIDS epidemic, especially at a time when we are perhaps a little too optimistic because of the huge progress we are making from a technological and scientific perspective," he said. "
As we celebrate the extraordinary progress, we should also be conscious that we will not stop HIV and AIDS by just having more sophisticated drugs and only focussing on the generalised epidemic and not focussing enough on the complexities of the concentrated epidemics.” The worrisome groups are fairly clearly defined: Injecting drug users, who can pass the AIDS virus to each other by sharing needles and syringes, prostitutes and sex workers, who are often criminalised and have little access to health services, and gay and bisexual men - the population in which the HIV epidemic started.
A TALE OF TWO WOMEN To illustrate how little has changed in the battle against HIV among drugs users - particularly in regions such as Eastern Europe and central Asia - Kazatchkine tells of two women. The first is Andrée, a drug user he met in Paris in 1986 who had no hope of effective HIV treatment, since there was none yet developed, and who ultimately died a lonely death. The second was Larissa from Yekaterinburg in Russia, a drug addict repeatedly arrested and locked up, deprived of medications for years and at one time sentenced to five years in a labour camp. “These stories are remarkably similar,” he said.
Oom Paul [2 June 1955 - 12 June 2013], Vaarwel M'n Lieve Vriend
Yesterday night, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed wondering about my online friend living in the Netherlands who has been so quiet lately, until I found out the most terrible news ever. He died on 12 June 2013 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. And I only found out yesterday. I was on a Facebook fast during that month. I only logged on from my “happy birthday” app to wish him a belated birthday. Little did I know he’d die just 10 days later. It was a sudden death, or some surgery complication, I will never know. He just turned 58.
Before he went for his heart bypass operation in hospital, he actually sent me a Facebook message. WHICH I DID NOT REPLY TO. WTF.
That was on 5th June 2013. And I never replied. I only found out yesterday, IN NOVEMBER.
He was a dear friend, like a pen pal. We first corresponded with each other from www.Trevvy.com ‘s forums. I was pretty active there then, before the advent of Facebook & Twitter. We became friends also because I am fluent in Nederlands taal (I grew up in Groningen). At first I thought he was some creepy white guy who liked preying on Asian boys but I saw past that and found that he was actually very funny, respectful and a very caring man!
This is funny, thinking of it, I decided to make him less creepy back in late 2009 and decided to friendzone him by telling him I was HIV positive. And you know what? He responded with so much grace and compassion and from then on, we became very good friends, albeit mere online “pen pals”.
I will always remember his pervy yet funny Facebook messages to me, on why I kept taking topless pictures and posting them on Instagram and Facebook, and the ones where he asks about my health and tell me not to give up. I’ll let you read some of the wonderful, encouraging messages he sent to me. One of which was during my hospitalisation in 2010 (I was hospitalised for 2 months with full blown AIDS, skin & bones, a total mess). He always encouraged me to keep on fighting the HIV.
Oom Paul, Ik wens jij kunt dit bericht lezen. Ik ben sorry ik heb niet de kans hebben om je eindelijk te ontmoeten. Ik ben sorry dat het zo lang om te antwoorden op jouw berichten nam. Ik ben sorry ik had niet de kans om eindelijk afscheid te nemen van jij.
Dankjewel voor jouw vriendschap.
So you are now gone, forever lost, not even a single goodbye will bother you, for you have lightened my heart and understood, but you are now forever gone, never can we see you again.
I hope to see you when it’s finally my turn to go to sleep as well. I will miss you dearly, as with all your other friends from Singapore too. Even though you might not hear my final goodbye, I will say it to you without hesitation now.
Goodbye, old friend. Thank you again for your kind friendship.
I am holding back my tears as I write this post to you guys. If you have a friend, never forget them, tell them, call them, text them, annoy them, send them gifts, Facebook poke them, tweet to them! Tell them how much they mean to you, tell them how much you love them. Tell them how much you care.
You never know how much that friend means to you until they are gone. I just lost a truly special friend. Excuse me while I go and grieve in private now. Thank you for reading. Stay Safe and be kind to one another.
One evening 6 years ago, my husband & I were having dinner with my Mother-in-Law when my husband suddenly said he had something to tell me. I was heavily pregnant with my eldest son at that time. I was curious & really keen to find out what was the surprise about. As we are from a middle-income family, the first candid thought that came to my mind was, "Did he strike lottery?"
I remember vividly that was a 9pm drama serial on Channel 8 that has a character played by actress Belinda Lee & this character was diagnosed with HIV. Why this sudden mention was because my husband then told me that his Mother has the same illness as the TV character. I was in a total state of shock, definitely! My Mother-in-Law then asked me if I did the prerequisite pregnancy HIV test. After coming to terms with the shocking news, I bit my tongue and replied (at that time, I did not have a close relationship with her) saying I was “okay” - I had tested negative. She was glad & continued to have her dinner.
The dinner on that night was my most emotional ever. I had finally understood why my Mother-in-Law hated her husband so so much. I always found my Mother-in-Law to be the stereotypical spiteful Cantonese woman who dislikes Hokkiens like myself. She was, and still is, always the traditional Chinese woman who’s lived through the decades & a world war, thinking she knows everything about the world just by watching the news. And what I hate the most was that she ALWAYS loved to brag to me about how fantastic her only child was. Like hello.. I married your son for love & this definitely wasn’t an arranged one, okay? And also I really hated her for a while because she promised me that she would help take care of my eldest son after he was born, but didn’t. I always have a million & one complaints about her. Such is the love-hate relationship between a Daughter-in-Law & her Mother-in-Law. ;)
But when we scratch the surface, my Mother-in-Law is a actually demure lady who has had no education, coming from a big family. It was not uncommon for girls born in 1940s Singapore to be uneducated. Marriages were also arranged & hers was of course, the same. Having occasional small talk over the dinner table, she would often reminisce about how great life was back in the kampung days. But every time if we were to talk about her marriage or husband, she would fly into a rage & say that her late husband was a bastard (she would say that in Cantonese). Of course every time she said that, I would roll my eyes in disgust & only think to myself, “Then WHY did you marry him?!” Ever since the HIV disclosure has come to light, I now live with my Mother-in-Law more amiably as I can now finally understand why she is always so sensitive over the topic of money, or why she is so particular about cleanliness in the house - especially when it comes to handling wounds & things like that.
She then also told us about how she got infected with HIV via her late husband, having always known that her husband was a philanderer. She also further explained why she did not (and of course could not!) have another child after having her only son (now my husband), even if she wanted to, as that would be very selfish to the child. It is not an easy route I would say but since we have a family member who needs extra care from us. We now try to spend more time with her, have family meals together. Sometimes we even joke about how she can actually work even with the HIV. But of course, its just in jest as we really don’t want her to over strain herself especially since she’s already 65 years old - a Senior Citizen.
My Mother-in-Law stopped working since her husband passed away in 1997 & depends solely on her life savings for her HIV medications. Her latest “income” came from selling her HDB flat in 2005 before moving in with my husband & myself. I also believe that the money made from the sale of the flat helps fund her medications. My husband does give her an allowance every month & I believe it does help with her expenses to live comfortably. On a personal level, I will always try to read more about my Mother-in-Law’s medical condition & try to understand her more through banter at the dinnertable. Small talk like these might mean nothing to many people I know, but I know deep down inside, it really means alot to her.
Recently she’s talked to me about death again. It is such a contradictory topic here I know. As much as there is a love-hate relationship with her & I sometimes dislike staying with her & enduring her odd habits & quirks, but I pray God will let her stay on for more years with us because I know these support & love from us would ultimately be the best for her. Thank you for giving me a chance to share my personal story with you, and how I live with a family member who is HIV+. :)
How long does the ORD Hiv test result takes? Lets say if they test you on a Tuesday and your review is the following Monday, if you are found to be HIV +, would they contact you immediately or wait till the review?
Hi, thanks for writing in, I am not too sure how that would work, but from experience and stories from other people, the SAF would want to inform you immediately should you test positive after your HIV diagnosis.
But since you have another medical review on the following Monday, they might let you know on that day itself too to save you the trip to the Medical Centre. Hope this answers your question, Stay Safe.
Hi angel in disguise, you have been an inspiration! I believe you are the main reason why GOOD KARMA exists! Keep up your passion to help a burning qns on hand, if they detect you as HIV positive during your ORD ffi, will they send you to DB?
Hello, thank you for writing in. If karma exists, I do hope I get reborn as a better human being in the next conciousness! Since apparently after meeting some holy dude, I was a very very evil person in my past life, so am paying for my misdeeds in this current life (I dunno if this is legit but maybe, I dunno).
Back to your question. I tested positive for HIV during my ORD FFI. Nothing happened to me. In fact, when the OC of my subunit found out, he called me to his office and gave me a hug, then I bawled my eyes out. But that’s that. Nothing untoward shall happen should you test positive for HIV during your ORD FFI. I hope you won’t too, so please Stay Safe!
I've heard you can't eat raw food anymore. Is it true? I'm missing my sashimi :(
Hello, thank you for writing in! This is a very good question! I too, simply adore sushi and sashimi (SAKE, MAGURO, SALMON BELLY GIMME ALLZ!!!!). At the start of my diagnosis, I was already with a very low CD4 count and very high Viral Load, my doctor advised against eating sushi for the risk of contamination from Salmonella and other pathogens. It was owing to the fact that I was also in hospital for a few months because of a water-borne parasite which totally screwed up my digestive system. My mother also forbade me from having sushi anymore. I was so sad!
Today, thanks to my HIV medications, my CD4 count is 890 and my viral load is Undetectable, I have begun to have my favourite Maguro sashimi like a freaking walrus. Mmm WAZZABI~ The trick is to be on HIV meds and have your sushi from reputable restaurants, nothing will go wrong.
For more information on HIV and Sushi Consumption, please CLICK HERE. Hope I’ve answered your question, Stay Safe!
I meant to ask how long can you live with HIV before it kills you? the doctor hasnt told you after you were diagnosed ?
Hello, I have to correct you on a few things. I understand the question you are asking but it is rather insensitive in my eyes. Would you like it if I came up to you and asked how long more you have to go before you mampos? Of course not.
The correct term is “what is the average life expectancy of a person living with HIV?” This manner will cause least offence to the person you are asking (who might be HIV+) and is as neutral a tone as it gets.
Coming back to the average life expectancy of a person living with HIV (PLHIV), it is 70 years for both men and women. For men who have sex with other men (MSM / homosexual men), the life expectancy is even higher. This is thanks to the advancements in HIV healthcare and disease management from medical professionals. Meaning to say that if you have tested positive for HIV, you must listen to your doctor’s advice to start your HIV medications when the time comes. In order to enjoy a normal life expectancy.
You WILL NOT die early from HIV anymore. But if your HIV is left untreated and unmanaged, the risk of dying from a HIV-related opportunistic infection will be higher. With HIV meds, you have a higher risk of dying from a car accident, a murder or a terrorist attack than dying from HIV itself.
does one swollen lymph glad on the neck mean that someone might have HIV ? I am so scared :(
Hello, thank you for writing in. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, an important part of the immune system, the body’s defense system against disease. Lymph nodes filter lymph fluid as it flows through them, trapping bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances, which are then destroyed by special white blood cells called lymphocytes.
Common sites for swollen lymph nodes include the neck (cervical), groin (inguinal), and underarms (axillary). They often swell in one location when a problem such as an injury, infection, or tumour develops in or near the lymph node. Which lymph nodes are swollen can help identify the problem.
The glands on either side of the neck, under the jaw, or behind the ears commonly swell when you have a cold, flu or sore throat. Glands can also swell following an injury, such as a cut or bite near the gland occurs in the mouth, head, or neck.
Having just one swollen lymph node is no cause for concern. Do not worry. Your body is fighting off a localised minor infection, nothing too serious. Do have adequate rest and get well soon! Stay Safe.
How did you get infected with HIV? Mind sharing please?
Hi, thanks for writing in. There is an article telling my life story on the SilenceSG blog, on how I came to be infected with HIV. Click on this link I’ve provided you with. Stay Safe. FULL FLUSH BUT NOT FLUSTERED - SILENCESG
I'm a HIV negative bottom, and have safe sex. But I'm interested in getting involved in bathhouses and anonymous scenes and most of those guys want bareback. You're positive, but seem to have a great sex life without much complication. Is HIV so bad? I've been thinking of going bareback and just seeing what happens, HIV doesn't seem like a big deal, does it actually affect your life? What would you suggest?
Ok, this is a very long and complex question for me to be answering first thing on a Monday morning…but here goes: If you’re an HIV negative bottom and you’re finding that “most guys want bareback” that doesn’t mean you need to let them have unprotected sex with you. You are in charge of your own sexual health, asking someone to wear a condom isn’t a taboo. I have a good sex life, yeah, but I don’t have sex *all the time* and I don’t often have unprotected sex unless it’s pre-discussed with my partners and there’s been full-disclosure about HIV/Hepatitis statuses. You are right that living with HIV isn’t that bad, but that depends on where you live. I’m lucky enough to be British and have the NHS that provides decent healthcare and free treatment for HIV+ people. The medication alone can cost thousands of dollars/pounds, not to mention aftercare, follow-up, blood tests, clinical trials, support, counselling etc. It’s a huge, huge, huge impact to live with HIV, not only because it means that your immune system is about as strong as a baby mouse’s, but it also means that you have to constantly ensure that you take extra care to protect your sexual partners as well as yourself. The fact that HIV transmission can be deemed a criminal offence means that there’s increased stigma surrounding the virus, that’s already added onto the huge amounts of mis-information people seem to have. Being HIV+ means there are travelling restrictions around the world (up until a few years ago I wouldn’t have been granted access to the USA based on the grounds of me having a blood-borne viral infection). You will have to disclose your status to every healthcare professional you come into contact with, you will have to disclose your status to anyone who gives you a tattoo or a piercing and you may end up having to tell your employer. It’s not fun. My life isn’t overly impacted by it so much now; I mean, I’ve had it for 7 years, so I’m kind of “over it”. My medications keep me healthy, without them I would get very ill very quickly and could end up dead. My medication also gives me bad dreams, night sweats, diarrhoea, migraines and fatigue. I also face constant scrutiny/rejection from potential sexual partners based on my HIV status, which is why it’s generally easier to go with guys who already have the infection, but that also leads to an increased risk of contracting any other STI (this year alone I’ve had Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea), treatment for these can is made more complicated by my compromised immune system.
It’s totally up to you what you make of this information and like I said; you’re in charge of your sexual health. Make your own mind up and just ensure you’re aware of the risks and consequences. Get tested regularly, I would say every 3 months if you’re having regular unprotected anal sex. Ok?
Hi, how do you bring your medicine here in Singapore? Thanks
Hello, thanks for writing in, I actually buy my HIV medications from the pharmacy at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s CDC. If you are asking about how you bring in generic medications you buy from Thailand, always have your prescription with you in your hand carry, next to your passport and wallet. Singapore usually allows in 3 months worth of medications in. Hope I’ve answered your question. Thanks.
Doctors announced on Sunday that a baby had been cured of an H.I.V. infection for the first time, a startling development that could change how infected newborns are treated and sharply reduce the number of children living with the virus that causes AIDS.
The baby, born in rural Mississippi, was treated aggressively with antiretroviral drugs starting around 30 hours after birth, something that is not usually done. If further study shows this works in other babies, it will almost certainly change the way newborns of infected mothers are treated all over the world. The United Nations estimates that 330,000 babies were newly infected in 2011, the most recent year for which there is data, and that more than 3 million children globally are living with H.I.V.
If the report is confirmed, the child born in Mississippi would be only the second well-documented case of a cure in the world, giving a boost to research aimed at a cure, something that only a few years ago was thought to be virtually impossible.
The first person cured was Timothy Brown, known as the “Berlin patient,’’ a middle-aged man with leukemia who received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor genetically resistant to H.I.V. infection.
“For pediatrics, this is our Timothy Brown,’’ said Dr. Deborah Persaud, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and lead author of the report on the baby. “It’s proof of principle that we can cure H.I.V. infection if we can replicate this case.’’
Dr. Persaud and other researchers spoke in advance of a presentation of the findings on Monday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.
Some outside experts, who have not yet heard all the details, said they needed convincing that the baby had truly been infected. If not, this would be a case of prevention, something already done for babies born to infected mothers.
“The one uncertainty is really definitive evidence that the child was indeed infected,” said Dr. Daniel R. Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Dr. Persaud and some other outside scientists said they were certain the baby – whose name and gender were not disclosed – had been infected. There were five positive tests in the baby’s first month of life – four for viral RNA and one for DNA. And once the treatment started, the virus levels in the baby’s blood declined in the pattern characteristic of infected patients.
Dr. Persaud said there was also little doubt that the child experienced what she called a “functional cure.” Now 2½ , the child has been off drugs for a year with no sign of functioning virus.
”—The New York Times, “In Medical First, A Baby with HIV Is Called Cured” (via inothernews)
I have just reposted the story of Jessica, a Singaporean married woman in her late 20s who is living with HIV. Please take the time to read thru her personal story as she lives with her diagnosis. There’s a love story inside too! :)
Jessica - My Life, Love & Story As A HIV Positive Singaporean Woman
Like any other person, I like to dream BIG. Fresh from completing my ‘A’ Levels, I chased after my dream, which was to see the world. At that time, I was with my boyfriend, who was an international footballer. I also thought that if I studied an internationally recognised vocational profession, moving around the world would be of no problem. So I decided to study healthcare. Thus, my journey began.
I was a regular blood donor, donating once or twice a year on average. One fateful day in the late of 2005, during my third year Pre-Registration Clinical Placement (PRCP) phase of healthcare nursing school, I received a call (the much dreaded call) from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). In Singapore, all blood products from donor are screened for infectious diseases, and if the batch is found to be infected with HIV, the donor will be notified immediately.
I was told to come down to their centre and it was in that private room that my dream and GOAL shattered. By then, I was no longer with my footballer boyfriend, but was in a relationship with another man. I was 24 years old.
I was really scared and I did not know who I could run to. There were 2 main things that were running through my mind when the doctor broke the news to me.
Are the HSA officials going to charge me for having HIV-infected blood? (It IS an offence to donate blood if one knows or suspects his or her own status.)
Am I able to graduate from my school and will I able to work in healthcare?
From HSA I was accompanied by an assistant in a HSA van to the Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC). During the journey, my heart and all hope inside was broken. I was at a total loss and I totally didn’t know what on earth I was going to do next!
I was fortunate to have met 2 very kind souls when I was at CDC. They were my Medical Social Worker and doctor, and to this day, still remain my pillars of hope. CDC does not treat the disease (HIV) but it treats the person. Psychology comes first; then their emotions; social bearing and finally, the health condition itself. I believe when a doctor treats the patients’ psychological state-of-mind and emotions, he or she is able to face their condition and work together to achieve the best results. I also believe, however, doctors and social workers will not be able to succeed without the cooperation, determination and tenacity of the patient him or herself.
At the beginning of my HIV diagnosis, I lost all hope. To me HIV = DIE, and I believed with a broken heart that I was going to die soon. I didn’t believe that things would get any better and that it is the beginning of hell. I blamed myself for being naïve and that this was punishment from GOD for all the things that I have done wrong. I broke up with my then boyfriend. But again I was wrong.
We are not GOD and we don’t know what he thinks. So why do I have to think what He thinks and judge that He is punishing me. Maybe with THIS diagnosis, GOD is giving me a chance to see the world in a different light, make a difference and bring myself closer to Him. If we do not want the society to punish, judge and ostracise us, then we have to start with ourselves. I started to forgive myself and take and accept, with open arms, my second chance at life.
After forgiving myself, I took small baby steps and got more optimistic about life. Initially I thought that I should save my money for the days ahead when I am going to be sick. However after forgiving myself, I took up a driver’s licence and took up a part-time degree course. Till now I still believe that I can achieve even more with faith and tenacity.
In spite of my optimism, however, I still do not have the confidence and courage yet to tell my loved ones, especially my family. I do not want them to worry and neither do I want to disappoint them. There are few friends that I have I shared about my status. Basically my friends are my fellow Nursing colleagues and a Medical Social Worker who works in my hospital. They are my close friends and I know will not discriminate me, see or treat me differently, ostracise me and most importantly, not jeopardize my career.
It is alright to share your status with someone else. Sharing your thought and concerns are always better then bottling it all up. Sharing allows one to be away from isolation and depression. Sharing also allows us to lead our daily lives, normally. It lightens the burden on our shoulders. HIV does not change who we already are. It is just part of us. One rule of thumb is to “test water” before telling them about your HIV status. For example, ask what do they know about HIV, what is their opinion about people with HIV. Hear what they have to say. If you think it is safe, then break it to them, gently.
Some might ask whether I have anyone special in my heart and life when having HIV. I did not have anyone special for 3 years after my diagnosis. I’ve dated a few guys but all of them were just dates, nothing serious. However, in 2009, through some circumstance, I got reconnected back with my very first ever boyfriend (not the footballer one that passed me the virus). We talked over the phone everyday over the phone as he was overseas. He expressed his feelings to me. Then one fine day, he proposed to me on the phone but I did not give him any answer. I told him that there was a secret that I needed to tell him face to face. He was very persistent but I had to be sure that he understood my condition, accepts me as who I am and not as a HIV+ person. I wanted to see his reaction with my very own eyes. So I picked up my courage, took a leap of faith and travelled all the way to West Africa.
I spent 2 weeks there with him and his family in his home country. He is everything that I need in a man. Family oriented, loving, humble, down to earth, and hardworking and he does not drink or smoke….. what else can I ask….except accepting me with HIV. I braced myself, took a deep breath and revealed it to him at night in our room on the second day of my arrival. I was prepared for the worst.
Initially he was shocked! He asked sadly. ”Are you doing this to take a revenge on men and me?” I was hurt when I heard that. I told him then that if I want to hurt men, and him, especially, I would not need to travel across the continents and the ocean and I would not have revealed my HIV status to him. He apologised and hugged me. What he said next shocked me.
“What you have does not change who you are. It does not change my feelings towards you. You are still the same girl that fell in love with and you will still be the only one that I love. I am not going to allow IT to take you away from me the second time. You will outlive the years that the Dr says that you have. And if you are destined to go early, at least I know that I have spent my life and time with you. I know that we have gone through the sun and the rain together…… will you marry me?”
I asked him whether he was aware of what he is saying and the complications and hardships that he might face in the long run. I went through with him that his friends and family will not only might discriminate me but also him. He might not be able to have children of his own. It will be challenging for me to migrate with him to another country when I have lots of consideration to think of. He answered, “Be bold and resolute and leave the rest in GOD’s hands.“ With his words that I trust, we got married the following week on 4th of August 2009. Since then, I have not regretted my decision in sharing my status, my worry and my heart to him. Truly he was there for me in sickness and in health. He is also my primary pillar of hope.
Even though we are currently now in different countries, with him being an expatriate working in India, I have visited him in a few times, talk on the phone and Skype daily. I am able to visit his other family members in US, Europe and London. I am blessed.
Some might say that I am lucky to have someone who accepts me for who I am and not what I am and thus I can tell world, you are wrong! I do worry about my medications and health. I have 1 thing that is always in my mind and that is my new main goal. The goal is to OUTLIVE my loved ones (but not my husband). I also do not have any medical insurance, thus I have to be as healthy as I can. In order to achieve this ultimate GOAL, I have to adhere and be compliant to my medical appointments and medication.
The first 2 years of knowing my HIV diagnosis, I shied away from attending appointments until my social worker had to call and ask how I am doing. After much counselling, I finally braved myself to go for regular appointments. I asked myself, “how long and how far do I want to run away? If I want to achieve my goal, I have to do it no matter how unpleasant the experience is! “
After 5 years of my diagnosis, my Doctor finally broke the news to me that I have to start on my medication. By then my CD4 count was 350. My Doctor mentioned that according to the protocol, ID (Infectious Diseases) physicians may introduce Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) when a HIV patient’s CD4 count is 500. Patient may or may not choose to start their medication then. However once their CD4 counts has reached 350, it is strongly encouraged for them to start. This is to prevent any complications due to the virus in the body.
So how difficult is popping medication every day? These were the things that I contemplated before starting my medications:
1) Even though taking the medication has more pros than cons, am I able to face the side effects of the medication everyday like pot belly, muscle wastage, declining memory loss, etc?
2) If taking medication is strongly encouraged and important, why are there patients who are non-compliant to medications?
3) The fear of not being able to change my decision once I have started taking the medication.
4) Can I afford paying for the medication and what if I can’t? Where can I ask for assistance?
Despite all these questions and fear in me, I reminded myself, my ultimate GOAL. I then decided that I had to be bold and resolute. I decided to start the medications.
Indeed, I did suffer from side effects of the medication. I must say that I am more fortunate than others. I suffered from a ‘hangover’ feeling, ‘vivid dreams’ and nightmares, and most irritating of them all, ‘dry mouth ‘. Until today, I still do experience mild manifestations of the side effects 2 hours after consuming my medication before finally wearing off.. It is not easy to face it every day but turning back is not an option. I can only move forward and make it as part of my daily routine.
I was rather lucky that I started on the medication after the government pass a ruling that HIV medications can be deducted through Medisave. I am lucky that I am still working and that I am still contributing to my Medisave. Each month $348 is being deducted from my Medisave for my medication. Surely and eventually my Medisave will depleted and that is a concern to me as I have mentioned before I do not have insurance. After much sharing with social worker and support group members, they advise that I have to grow “my nest” slowly now as I might never know that I may need it in the future. I might outsource the supply of my medication from external medication suppliers. Financing my medication is always at the back of my mind. The question that always bugs me is it cheaper if I am to buy from runners and can I afford to pay in cash? What if I do not have $200- $300 to pay for my medicine? Clinics do not encourage buying from the runner and yet ironically, it is costly from the pharmacy itself!
I strongly encourage that one starts medication early as instructed by your physician. This will boost your immunity and will keep you as healthy as possible with undetectable viral load and high CD4 count.
Sometimes I do feel depressed and think that I am alone and lost. It is ok and natural to feel lows in your mood and emotions….however, not too long! Snap out of it and find the push factor to achieve Your Ultimate Goal. What Is your Ultimate Goal? I was glad that I asked and sort for information from support group members and MSW. I also seek for information from www.TheBody.com. You do not need to have many friends; just 1 true friend who knows and understands you. One who stands by your side and gives a listening ear when you need someone to confide in.
Remember that HIV does not change who you are and does not stop you from being who you want to be. It is part of you and in fact it actually moulds you to be a stronger and determined person. It is not something easy to handle and face every day when there is HIV stigma and HIV discrimination but with friends and inner optimism it strengthens you to face the everyday challenges. Always remember that you are never alone on this journey called Life.
My next plan is to get my Master’s Degree and move to greener pastures with my husband, preferably to Canada where they are open to immigrants with HIV. And with my GOAL still burning fresh in my mind, I am determined to fulfil it to the best I can!
I can just see all of these pharmaceutical companies sitting in a board-room, looking at each other, shrugging and saying “But we make so much money off of these poor sods buying Truvada medication every month so they don’t die.”
Will you lose weight alot and fall sick extremely easily if you arent on hiv meds?
Hello there, thank you for writing in.
The answer is yes.
When I was diagnosed with HIV, my CD4 count was in its 400s, I refused to start my meds. A year later, it dropped to below 300, I was advised to start HIV meds, I was afraid about the cost, so I refused once again. I went on a downward spiral the half year and I lost 15 kg, my lightest was 57kg (I am now 73kg), then this happened.
I was in hospital for two months for Cryptosporidiosis and severe inflammation of my colon, sharp pains in my abdomen, like someone stabbed me, and non stop diarrhoea.
If you are HIV positive, please seek treatment as soon as possible, and if your doctor advises you to begin your antiretroviral therapy immediately, please do so. If you worry about financial issues as a student or a struggling individual, the government can and will help you. I have been to hell and back, and I have lived to tell the tale. I do not wish for anybody to go through what I have gone through for this is all avoidable now that HIV treatment is easily accessible and is the first line of defense in preventing the virus’ spread.
Please stay safe. If you need to email me in private, you can always send a message at email@example.com
Hi there is oral thrush just on your tongue because i have white stuff on my tongue but i can scrape it off. Is that thrush?
Hello, thank you for writing in, I used to have Oral Thrush as well, but that was before I started my HIV medications. I was prescribed drugs called Fluconazole and Nystatin. I personally liked how Nystatin tastes (its a syrup) and I chugged more than I should have. LOL, it’s very sweet! I no longer have any thrush, but just a white film on my tongue after meals or in the morning, because I drink a lot of milk. And I scrape them off every time I brush my teeth.
If you do not have any ongoing immunodeficiency conditions, there should not be any cause for concern, especially if you can scrape them off during every brushing. If you want to know more, you can click on this link: https://www.zocdoc.com/answers/9724/what-does-it-mean-if-my-tongue-is-white or you could ask your doctor if the occurrences become a regular fixture. Hope I’ve answered your question. Stay safe.
Hi folks, I will be reposting the HIV stories from the previous year interviewing HIV positive Singaporeans & Malaysians (I personally consider us the same country) from all walks of life. Realised some of the stories perhaps were overlooked by many online readers and I would love for you to read these very personal stories from living, breathing HIV positive individuals.
This is my personal initiative called the It Gets Better HIV Stories Project.
With this project, I do hope to achieve and let people in our country, and around the world know that us people living with HIV are people like you, too. We could be your brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter, coworker, neighbour, doctor, policeman, waiter, priest, or even your life partner. HIV dies not discriminate age, gender, religion or social status. HIV today is no longer a death sentence but it can ruin your life plans for the future. Always be vigilant. Stay safe.