“What If I Got AIDS?”
I am 28 years old, male. I have a son who is 10 years old now through an unplanned pregnancy with a college fling. Our son is under her care; the three of us have never lived in one roof. Since elementary I had this confusion about my sexuality. I like women but I also like men. For the past years after my college graduation, I had multiple sex partners (guys mostly) and I have been using condom, inconsistently, though. It was in my application for a job to Kuwait that I learned I was positive for HIV in one of the medical tests. It was very painful for me that I tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, some Catholic nuns I know gave me support. Now I am under ART treatment and have a good paying job. I have stopped having sexual relationships to avoid infecting others. After two years, my family finally knew about my condition and I am glad about how they have accepted me. I encourage others to get the test as well so as to reduce the disease transmission. May my story serve as a lesson, inspiration and hope to others who are in a similar situation.
What is HIV? What is AIDS? HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the same virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Sad to say but at the moment, once your body has it, you cannot get rid of HIV. Meaning, you will have it for life. HIV affects the immune system by destroying CD4 cells or T cells. Overtime when many of these cells are destroyed, the body may not be able to fight infections such as pneumonia. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS.
How Do We Acquire HIV?
HIV is mainly spread through sex (semen, rectal, and vaginal fluids), sharing injection drugs, blood, breast milk (from an HIV positive). Sensitive areas of the body include the rectum, vagina, opening of the penis and the mouth. Let me clarify that you cannot get HIV from people around who are HIV-positive through breathing the same air, using the same toilet seat, sharing utensils or even hugging and shaking hands with an HIV-positive. It does not spread through tears, sweat, touch and saliva (as long as there is no exchange of blood). No evidences to date have been found that HIV can be transmitted through mosquito bites and food; and very rare for tattoos (as long as new needles, ink and other supplies are used). Currently, there is no safe and effective cure for HIV. However, it can be controlled using antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART can prolong the lives and lessen the chances of infecting others.
How Do We Prevent Contracting HIV?
A basic way to approach this is to be aware of the risks and avoid them. However, when it comes to sex, avoiding is not an easy job. Sexual expression, somehow, is a human need and is good especially within the context of marriage. But in case there is an untimely call to do so, the use of condom is recommended. Condom use is a critical element in HIV prevention. The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
As I have written, it REDUCES, only REDUCES the risk for sexually-transmitted HIV infections. It would be best, however, to observe other ways such as abstinence, delaying early sexual experience, faithfulness to one’s partner, and reducing the number of partners.
What If You Found Out You Are HIV Positive?
This might be hard to take. Although all people around you will tell you that it is not the end of your life, it will still seem so. Knowing that HIV/AIDS is an incurable disease for now, plus the social stigma attached to it, is devastating. You might wish to end your life especially if you might lose your career, friends, family and end up with nothing but the disease.
Going back to the sharing above by Mr. Anonymous, being an HIV positive does not mean the end of your life. Yes, there will be a reroute but certainly not the end. There are many cases whereby, through proper treatment and care, people have lived well up to 10 years or even longer. It may be a call to see things in life differently and discover your purpose. It may help to talk to people you trust, counselors, therapists, religious priests and nuns or visit centers providing care and support to people with HIV. Certainly, there will be a lot of emotional, psychological and spiritual work to do to learn to accept the situation and forgive yourself and others and still enjoy the beauty of life. Prayers do so much help as well! Call to God or the Higher Power to walk with you in this new journey.
Where to Go for Checkup and Follow up?
In Thailand, there are a number of recovery and healing centers for counseling and support such as the New Life Foundation in Chiang Rai or for a tight budget, you can check on YWAM Thailand Ministries. They offer support for people not only living with HIV/AIDS but also concerns like substance and domestic abuse. The Anonymous Clinic run by the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre located around Ratchadamri Road can also provide you access to free antiretroviral medication and counseling.
Thailand has very good health services for HIV/AIDS. Detection, treatment and support are available in most hospitals and specialized health institutions. If one is concerned about anonymity, there is this Anonymous Clinic run by the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre located around Ratchadamri Road. They have services including testing of Anti HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and Syphilis, HPV vaccination, and Cervical and Anal Pap Smears at very affordable costs. Another is the Silom Community Clinic @ TropMed located at the 12th floor of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ratchawithi Rd, Bangkok. This clinic also offers free check up and blood tests services. All the best!
For questions and testimonies related to physical and mental health, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.