My HIV Story, Two and a Half Years of Living with HIV

Posted by Pozziepinoy on 7:49 PM

It was 2 years and 6 months ago when I got diagnosed with HIV, Stage IV (AIDS). I was bedridden for 10 days and I thought I was going to die. I had bibasal pneumonia (wherein both of my lungs were affected) and I also had pneumocystiis pneumonia (PCP). They were my grave opportunistic infections. My CD4 was only 70 and my initial viral load was 107,000++.

Then I recovered fast. After only 6 months of religiously taking my ARV's, my CD4 shot up to 487, then after only one year, my viral load was already undetectable. I never got any serious infection, only the common cold from time to time. My body is the same as before I got sick. I went back to work and cherished my life with my life partner and legal husband: travelling, enjoying my hobbies, valuing family and friends and enjoying life. 


For 2 years and 6 months, I have been defeating HIV as my viral load is still undetectable.



KEYS TO MY SUCCESS

A lot of people during my talks have asked me how I was able to recover fast. I always tell them these:

1. Belief. 


When you have HIV, you tend to lose hope on everything: your life, your family, your career, your fun moments. But I really recovered because of one thing. Belief! 


    a. I started believing that I will get well and my health will rebound despite all the crazy stuff I have heard about HIV. I empowered my self that only by believing and fighting something that I don't see will make me better.

    b. I believed that my HIV doctors are competent in guiding me to the process of HIV treatment. I trusted them and followed their advices. 

    c. I believed in the power of my ARV's, and understood that they will only work if I trust them, if I understood the value of adherence, of not skipping, of not missing any dose. From day 1 up to now, I have never missed a dose and have been late only twice. I put in my head that my HIV medicines are my lifeline. I fear of the thought of missing a dose so I make sure I have them in all my luggages during my trips, I have spare supply in the glove box in the car and I always bring a cocktail in my pocket everywhere I go. Better to be paranoid than be relaxed and panic.

    d. I believed that I am never alone with my struggle. My partner, who loves me up to now, was beside me when I was diagnosed and he is the one who held my hand all throughout my HIV journey. My family who I disclosed as early as day 2 post diagnosis, gave me strength and never discriminated me of what I have. All the staff of the HIV treatment hub and all my doctors gave me positive insights and showed me how to fight. My friends pushed me to fight and celebrated my accomplishments.

2. Sharing Your Life With Others

    a. The Blog: Living with HIV in the Philippines


        I started blogging since day 1 as a form of a personal diary. I wrote down my feelings and my 
experiences, the challenges during the course of my early treatment. After a few months, emails started pouring in and I started answering personal questions. I asked the help of my fellow PLHIV's who I chatted only in twitter and Facebook. I sought for insights and wisdom from my lifesaver, my HIV doctor, Dr. Ditangco who helped in answering questions about HIV, about treatment, about protocols and guidelines, about PhilHealth and HIV laws. I didn't know after 1 year, the blog, my diary has become the number 1 HIV blog in the Philippines. After 1 year I already have more than 2,000 viewers everyday, from all over the world. I receive 20 to 30 emails everyday and by 2 years of the blog, I already reached 1M viewers with almost 5,000 views everyday. 

        The commitment to writing, which started only as a personal journal, has become a full pledged 
advocacy. I couldn't stop anymore as people are already reading the blog. I can't refrain from checking my HIV email as a lot has been asking for help and support. I can't ignore the needs of others because I was once in their shoes and at that time, when I was sick with my opportunistic infections, nobody was there to answer all my queries and questions and nobody was there upfront to talk to.

The blog now, is a part of me, and will continue to be as long as I live.

    b. The Love Fund.

        When I was sick, me and my partner promised ourselves that we need to pay forward if I get 
well. I was hospitalised for only 10 days and my bill after discharge reached almost P500,000. We thought how can others afford HIV treatment. We thought how can indigent PLHIVs get treatment they needed if they don't have any financial support.

        A year after I got diagnosed, after I got my undetectable viral load result, I founded The Love 
Fund in RITM-ARG, with the help of Dr. Ditangco. Together, we started the fund, getting donations from friends and supporters. We started helping those indigent PLHIVs who are in need of medical and financial assistance. Her staff in RITM-ARG, started screening clients as beneficiaries of TLF. From that time on, every month, we have helped patients, with medicines, laboratory tests, transportation, food when they are confined.

    c. The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Program

   
        The clamour for a structured support group paved the way for the founding of The Project Red Ribbon Care Management Program or simply called The Red Ribbon (TRR). With the help Malcolm Brown, we both put it up, set up a Facebook group and served as a venue for our fellow PLHIV's to join in and vent out their concerns and at the same time help in empowering others. In a few months, the group grew online but the need for social gathering started to rise.

        A few months after it was founded, we started the Care Assistance Program wherein we had 
volunteers who brought clients to the HIV testing sites and the the HIV/AIDS Treatment Hubs. Projects after projects were formulated and became reality. We also established the TRR HIV/AIDS Hotline for people to call in their concerns about HIV Testing and support.

        Now, TRR aside from it's ongoing Care Assistance Program, also have a monthly Outreach 
Program where we give inspirational talks in front of a crowd of PLHIVs with our personal testimonials, immerse friends and supporters, and visit the sick in the ward. TRR also have a weekly P Club Gathering where PLHIVs sit and talk and just have a social meet up. A monthly Support Group talk provides orientation to the newly diagnosed, sets expectations for their HIV treatments and invited guests provide lectures. The TRR Health & Fitness Program shows the value of fitness through yoga, jogging and running, badminton, volleyball and swimming.

        We value the importance of other groups and we started aligning our missions with other support 
groups all over the country. We have partnered with the Baguio Support Group, The Love Yourself, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), BoyCircuit and the Yoga For Life. More and more organisations are reaching out to us, as more of our care services are becoming known to the Philippine communities and organisations. The slogan, "We are all in this together", the tagline of the advocacy is now being repeated everywhere. 

        TRR is not a group that holds all PLHIV's in one place. We don't like owning our members, but 
rather we are just a "nest", a temporary shelter where we hone our "chicks". where we make them recover with their health and guide them in becoming better persons. The mission of TRR is to provide care and support to PLHIV's and our vision is to inspire and empower PLHIV's to become healthy, independent and productive members of society.

    d. Education through the Media


        In my 2 years and 6 months of having HIV, I have been sharing my life over the internet and 
mass media. I have been on the local television shows and shared my struggles, shared my blog, talked about my advocacy and showed to everyone the meaning of life with HIV. My TRR group has already been talking to schools and in front of multitudes of people. The group has shared their stories in front of over 200 people during the first TRR-USC World AIDS Day in 2013. We have already made a vow that we, the PLHIV's should not make ourselves different and seclude ourselves from the rest and that the stigma can be eradicated by proper education and by sharing our stories with the rest of the world, for them to understand us.

LIFE TRANSFORMATION


Having HIV is not a burden to me anymore. I have it because I was irresponsible, yet now it has transformed my life, and turned HIV as a blessing. Without HIV, I wouldn't be able to have my advocacy. Without HIV, I won't be able to find my niche in this world. Without HIV I won't be able

to meet wonderful people who give their hearts and their time to others.

For the past 2 and a half years, with what I have been doing, different people rolled their eyes and tried to put me down, but I continued. The passion in me still burns and in every success with my health, I know that I can still inspire people, to live their lives to the fullest despite having HIV.




*** My story is dedicated to my partner and legal husband; to my life saver, Dr. Ditangco; to my doctors in The Medical City and PGH-SAGIP; to my TRR Care Managers and volunteers for continously caring and guiding others and making every project possible; and to all PLHIV's who never stopped believing and fighting.... 



        







"WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
NO PLHIV is alone with his or her struggle with HIV!"

-Pozziepinoy-



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