Bryan is a 33 year old Singaporean male who has been living with HIV for the past three years, having tested positive when he was 30 years of age. Prior to this, Bryan has had taken 3 HIV tests and the results were negative each time. He tested positive by using a Oraquick mouth swab rapid-test kit before having sex with his partner, who had actually planned to have unprotected sex with him.
Bryan adds candidly, "Initially, I was really shocked, dumbfounded for about a few minutes. And the next burning question in my mind was that I wondered if he would still proceed to have sex with me after knowing about my positive result (talk about priorities!). Thankfully, we continued but with protection, obviously." Later on, Bryan then decided to visit a private clinic to make a proper confirmation with a Western Blot blood test.
A working adult who is financially independent and secure, Bryan does not see the need to disclose his HIV status to his family members. "I have no intention to inform my family and I do not see the point in telling, anyway," he surmises.
Bryan believes that if there really is a pressing need for the family to know, one needs very sound reason for letting them know. If the reason is to derive much needed support, there are other avenues like friends you can trust and counselling, but if these avenues aren’t present, telling your family is the last resort.
He adds, "On the other hand, you should know your family best. If by telling them about your HIV means you’d incur their wrath and be going to raise hell, and create more problems in the family, then don’t bother. There are already lots of issues to deal with without unnecessary added drama."
Although Bryan’s situation is not unlike many young HIV+ Singaporeans who have chosen to keep mum about their status, especially to family, he feels blessed to have an understanding boyfriend who wasn’t angry or left him alone to fend for himself, and very thankful his boyfriend didn’t just leave him. Bryan has also told two of his cloaest friends about his situation, one of whom is HIV+ himself, and Bryan seeks his friend’s advice with the nitty gritty of HIV. He adds, "I told my friends because I just needed to tell someone. I do not like the idea of keeping this secret and burden to myself."
Bryan’s HIV antiretroviral medications are Combivir and Efavirenz, and he has been on them since August 2010. CDC prices for these medications are as such:
Combivir - SGD$166.80
Efavirenz - SGD$200
Bryan decided that he needed the best HIV care possible so he decided not to rely on on generic antiretroviral medication from Thailand. He pays for his bloodwork and doctor visits with his own money or his Public Sector card (PS Card), being a civil servant. But there are limitations however, the PS Card has an annual limit of SGD$350 and obviously, the cumulative cost would be many times over. Thankfully, Bryan is able to utilise his Medisave to pay for his medications. He buys his medications every half year, and SGD$1500 gets deducted each time.
Bryan is a private individual who is very discreet about his HIV, and he does not see the need to talk about it with other people other than his boyfriend and two best friends, so he relies on information on HIV/AIDS he can read and learn from at www.thebody.com.
He has a few words of advice to fellow gay Singaporean men to always play safe. Yes, he understands that unprotected sex does feel good (let’s be honest here) but he advises you to have regular check-ups especially if you are considered high-risk. Bryan is glad he was diagnosed early and now has an undetectable Viral Load and CD4 count of 400+. He adds, "I was really surprised that throughout the years, I’d managed to dodge all the STDs and the first I ever got was the (HIV) jackpot."
Bryan tries to tell himself that HIV is just like cancer; some people get them and are still living life to the fullest, and that it is not the end of the world. The only hassle Bryan finds is that he finds the daily medication regime a little daunting and candidly adds, "I just hate the thought that I will be on medication for the next 10000 years. And of course I now have to have sex with a condom! Which kinda sucks."
Jokes aside, Bryan says that whatever the future might hold for one who has recently tested positive to never keep the HIV to yourself, as it is ever so important to talk to someone who understands and alleviate that inner torment, be it with a social worker, or a friend. Bryan finally ends with some important words, "Life will still go on, but now, just be careful and take care of your body since now we have lowered immunity. Right now, I can only pray that a cure will be found during my lifetime. Even though I like the idea of dying young (and beautiful) however, I do not want to go in a terrible and suffering state, that won’t look too good. In the meantime, please take care and play safe, you guys!"