I am Pinoy Positive, a young man from the Philippines living with HIV. Aside from running the halls of the hospital for more than 3 years as an ICU nurse, I also run half-marathons in road and trail races. I was diagnosed March 2012 just as my career in the healthcare industry was about to take off. I was set to work abroad, but HIV did not permit me to do so.
In January of this year, I was informed by my manager in the hospital that she would process my promotion as assistant nurse unit manager. That came as a surprise because I was honest with the fact that I have a pending job application abroad. I had already passed the panel interview, and I was in the process of complying with all the requirements of my new employer. Although there was no certainty as to the date of my deployment abroad, I informed my then manager of the possibility of me leaving the hospital soon.
When February came, my visa had arrived, and the agency which was handling my new overseas job pressured me to finish all the requirements.
In the first week of March, I was informed that they intended to deploy me on March 28. I told them that my current employer required me to give 30 days notice. The agency told me I don’t have a choice. That afternoon, with a heavy heart, I submitted my resignation letter.
"There was one thing left to comply with though - my medical exam."
By the third week of March, I had already completed my documents. My agency decided to move my departure date to April 12, which was just perfect as it would give me enough time to spend with my family and friends. There was one thing left to comply with though - my medical exam.
It was March 27 when I went to the accredited diagnostic clinic of my agency. It took me a whole day to complete everything. I was quite worried about my X-ray result though, since I had a cough on the day of the medical exam. Other than that, I know I was healthy.
The next day, I sent a message to my agency to see if they have already received the result of my medical exam. A few minutes later, I received a reply telling me that I had to go back to the clinic because of a pending exam.
I asked myself what went wrong. I checked my medical slip: no signature for the audiometry test. Well, that must be it, then.
I sent a message to a fellow applicant I met in the clinic. She told me that there was no audiometry test. She said that we were in the same line in all the tests when we were in the clinic, and added that we did not miss any single test.
At the back of my mind, I worried that I might have Hepatitis B because my ex-boyfriend died of a liver abscess this January. I researched Hepatitis B over the internet, and the disease is considered asymptomatic. Furthermore, it can only be detected through a blood exam. Despite that, I refused to think that I had it.
Upon closing the programs in my laptop, I glanced up on the headline of a local entertainment site, advertising a local TV show: HIV Positive Wanggo Gallaga faces Boy Abunda. Although I was convinced that I did not have HIV, a little part of me got worried knowing that, like Hepatitis B, HIV is also asymptomatic.
On March 29, I came back to the diagnostic clinic early because I was on a p.m. shift in the hospital. I was in the line together with those who had pending results. A clinic staffer called each one and assigned us to the units where we needed to have ourselves rechecked. Some were assigned to X-ray. I thought I would be belonging to that group. I was not.
"After answering his questions, he then told me that when he “ran” my blood in one of the exams, there was a reaction."
Instead, I was told to wait for the head medical technologist because of a pending blood exam. I waited for what seemed like eternity when the head med tech told me to come with him to his office.
He told me to sit, and then he introduced himself. He asked me where my destination was and the date of my deployment, amongst other things. After answering his questions, he then told me that when he “ran” my blood in one of the exams, there was a reaction. My blood reacted to a test, an HIV test. My blood was positive for HIV.
I was speechless. He asked me if I was alright. I didn’t move. I didn’t say anything. He then continued that what I had was just a screening test. He said that he would take more blood, which he would divide in two. He would “run” the first part in their own screening kit again, and the other part would be sent to the country’s Department of Health for confirmation. He informed me that when results come out after three to four weeks, he will contact me personally.
He again asked me if I was alright. This time I answered. I told him I was OK. But to be honest, I was overwhelmed with all the emotions that came crashing down right at me at that moment. There was fear of dying. I was also confused as to what to tell my family why I could not go abroad. I feared unemployment as I had just resigned from the hospital.
And then in that moment, I remembered during one review class in nursing about man’s greatest fear: the fear of the nknown.
I was like a dead man walking as I got out of the clinic. My mind was as blank as my emotions. I received the shift endorsement from my manager like a robot. I was unusually quiet. I was buried deep in my thoughts. And my thoughts then were blurred, scattered, and unclear.
I remember sending a message to my Mom about my visit to the clinic earlier, and that I would not be able to work abroad. I told her I’m sorry for everything, for disappointing her once again. She replied, asking what my problem was. Afraid of disclosing to her that I had HIV, I just told her that there was a problem with my blood exam.
"I cried buckets because I know I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream of working abroad, and provide a good life for my family."
I remember her calling, she was furious, and asked me what happened. I told her that I might have Hepatitis B, and that blood was taken from me again, and I’d have to wait for 3 to 4 weeks for the confirmatory result. I cried telling her how sorry I was. I cried because I lied.
A workmate who is close to me saw me and asked what my problem was. She asked if it was about my work abroad. I looked at her and nodded. I wasn’t able to control my tears. I cried buckets because I know I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream of working abroad, and provide a good life for my family.
A few moments later, a guy I recently dated sent me a message, asking why I wasn’t replying anymore. I replied that things were complicated with me right now; that I’m in a very dark place and that I did not know my way out. He got worried; he called. I was not comfortable taking the call because I didn’t want to lie again, and I didn’t want to explain myself to anyone that moment. But out of politeness, and the need maybe for someone to listen, I did take the call.
My voice was shaking when I talked to him. I told him I’m sick, since what I did know about HIV then was that it might lead to TB, pneumonia, and cancer, I had no other choice but to just tell him that I might have cancer. I cried telling him that I took care of different patients in the hospital, patients in critical care conditions. And it’s so hard for me to accept that sooner or later, I might become one of those patients. We ended our conversation with him saying that I should just pray, and never forget to seek Him at all times.
After my shift, my workmate and I had dinner in a nearby fast food restaurant. I did not disclose my real condition, but she listened to all the worries of my heart. Before we parted ways, she held my hand and told me that everything will be fine, and that God will always be there for me.
I walked home crying.
(To be continued . .)
You can read more about Pinoy Positive here:
Personal blog: www.pinoypositive101.blogspot.com