Hello, I am Derek, 19 this year and in my final year of my course of study at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. I was diagnosed HIV positive in November last year and it was my first ever HIV test. On that day, Actions For AIDS (AFA) was having an anonymous HIV test booth at a local gay bathhouse and I happened to be there at the same time. I’ve always wanted to take a HIV test but due to financial constraints, I shelved the idea aside. Without much hesitation, I proceeded on with the test.
The test kit needed about an hour to generate results, so I left the bathhouse to attend another appointment in the meantime. They provided me with a number to call and check my result. I made the call about an hour later. I was really scared. The fear of hearing that I’m positive. While the phonecall was still waiting to be answered, I was hoping silently inside that it would be a negative result.
I remember clearly how the conversation went, and the AFA volunteer asked if I could meet them in person. Those words really got me panicking. The suspense was killing me. It got me thinking, “Why is he asking me to meet him? Is my result really positive?” so I asked, “What’s my result?” and he then replied, “It’s positive.”
I really couldn’t believe what I heard when they broke the news to me, my only reply was, “Orh.” It was a mixture of shock and surprise. That was the only word I could muster.
I never planned to disclose my status to my family. Unfortunately though, when I was out one night, my parents decided to peer into my bag. They found 3 bottles of my HIV medication and even went to the extent of doing some online research! My father approached me calmly when I went home and asked me about the medication. The first two questions my Dad asked were, "Can it be transmitted through saliva?" and "Can mosquito bites transmit the virus too?" I wouldn’t say that they are fully supportive of my status and I do understand where they are coming from, since they do not have much knowledge about HIV/AIDS. They even wanted to inform my siblings about my HIV. But with me insisted on not letting my siblings know, for fear maybe they would feel very sad. Thankfully, my parents acceded to my request.
Things have changed slightly after my fateful disclosure to my family members. I used to always be informed of dinnertime with family but on one occasion, my family even started having dinner without asking if I wanted to join in, in spite of reaching home a little early. It’s never been the case. Because of the issue, I had a small talk with Dad last week. He claimed that he’s perfectly fine with my status, so I’d assume the person he was talking about is my stepmother (my Dad remarried) who wasn’t really okay with my HIV status and rather worried that I might accidentally transmit the virus to her children.
Not too long ago, my parents even forbade me to place my chopsticks in my mouth if I’m sharing dishes with people. My Dad claimed that he had asked people around him and they told him that you can contract HIV through saliva and sharing food. I believe this is the stigma that HIV positive Singaporeans are facing still. And however hard I tried and how many times I have told him that it is a HIV Myth, it just can’t make him understand. I tell you this sad turn of events because I feel very strongly about this issue, and I really hope things will change for the better.
My advice to those who have recently tested positive for HIV is DO NOT ever tell your family members; if you do, be prepared for the worst, things will never be the same again.
I have the habit of pouring out my grievances and woes to my dearest friends whenever I am unhappy, with the hope of finding solace, support and understanding from them. Indeed, they never disappoint me. My friends are very supportive and always give me encouragement to persevere in life. I feel really blessed to have them as my confidantes.
I started my HIV anti-retroviral medication about 3 months ago. I was really scared initially whether I would be able to cope with the financial burden as well as the side-effects of the medications. The first week after I started was a little tough. There was this ‘hangover’ feeling that I’d get the next morning which would last all the way until the evening. I must say that I was very lucky to experience minimal side effects.
My first line HIV medications are Efavirenz, Tenofovir and Lamivudine. CDC pharmacy prices for these medications are as such:
Efavirenz (SGD $200)
Lamivudine (SGD $200)
Tenofovir (SGD $550)
I am thankful to be a recepient of the Medifund and it helps pay for the entire cost of my medications, especially since I am a student. HIV+ young men are usually exempt from National Service responsibilities but I actually made the concious decision to serve my country. The good news is that the government would also help with the subsidies as a serviceman. I am glad to say that I have acclimatised to my medications now, though I now realise the importance of ample rest, especially as a PLHIV.
If you haven’t been tested, please do so, its bad form to only seek treatment when you start falling very sick and you are realising that something is terribly wrong. Sometimes its difficult to get back into the pink of health. And to people who have tested positive, live life to the fullest - HIV is only a small part of your life.
I always tell myself, "No point crying over spilled milk. Life goes on. Dont let HIV control you. You still have your life ahead of you to lead." Be like me! Obtain a happy-go-lucky spirit. And also, don’t think too much. Whatever problems you are having, if you can, solve it. If you can’t, leave it. Or if you can, do seek help from friends who understand. Don’t be stubborn and keep all your problems to yourself.
If you’re positive, I recommend you to find out more about the support group events that the Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC) organises every few months or so. The safe confines of the support group provides emotional and psychological support for HIV+ participants and you’re able to learn from each other and also be in the warm company of people who will most understand what you are going through. Also, you’d be able to gain a better knowledge of HIV through the events and you get to make new friends too!
If you’re positive, all the more you should be positive! :)