NEW HIV MILESTONE YAY.
My CD4 count is 890 now, and Viral Load is Undetectable (well, sorta, since my doctor says it kinda is, so I believe him). It’s been a few days since I made the switch to a new medication regimen, I now take Atazanavir, Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Ritonavir. No side effects so far. All taken right before I go to bed. I hope the side effects (yellowish eyes) in the long run won’t be too bad on me! Fingers crossed.
I was going out to the Mom & Pop shop nearby to buy cigarettes and I chanced upon one of the regular community cats in my neighbourhood. He had quite a large wound on his face so without thinking, I grabbed him and rushed him to the vet. Very well behaved chubby kitty, got wound dressing and antibiotic jabs.
Just released him back to the carpark he calls home, fed and gave a drink. As I was walking away, Stray Kitty (that was the name I put on the registration because I couldn’t think of any other name LOL) ran after me, so I looked back and he rolled on the floor, as if to say thank you.
That was enough for me as a “thank you”. I love animals. I will do anything for them. Aspiring vegan too. Can’t wait to see him at his territory again tomorrow night to dress his wound again. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading. So this is what I do to keep sane even when living with HIV. It makes me happy. Stay safe and be kind to all living beings.
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! :)
Here’s the link to her story, happy reading! http://pozboysg.tumblr.com/post/64386488918/jessica-my-life-love-story-as-a-hiv-positive
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!
Lots of Love,
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 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.
This cool tidbit of information comes Hashem Al-ghaili
"A team of Drexel University researchers is getting one step ahead of the HIV with a microbicide they’ve created that can trick HIV into ‘popping’ itself into oblivion."
Further Details :
L#1 : http://is.gd/K6vceL
L#2 : http://is.gd/Pq4ckm
The fact that gay men who practice unprotected anal intercourse are largely versatile in their anal sex roles likely fuels HIVs rapid spread among the population.
Pretty damning article, I have to say. But its not far from what I’ve been postulating in private so far. I did voice this out on Twitter before but people are saying that its probably quite stigmatizing to generalize or focus the scrutiny based on your identity as a gay man. What do you think? Is being “flex/vers” a mark of identity for you as a gay man/boy? Or simply just a sexual behaviour?
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)
People, you need to learn how you can and can not get HIV.
You can get it ONLY from bodily fluids, meaning through birth, sex, or needles.
You CAN NOT get it from talking, hugging, kissing, etc. a HIV positive person. If that were the case, I’m sure everyone would have HIV.
Crazy how so many people know about how to contract it, yet they still make jokes and take precautions around HIV positive people. It’s a shame a society so advanced is so oblivious to the truth.