OK. No more excuses. It’s time I wrote a long entry. It’s a Sunday and I have no other plans, and Red is still asleep. I have a load of laundry that’s still in the washing machine, but I don’t really have to watch over it that much.
My last long entry was about Red, and I ended the entry saying that I tested positive on May 21, 2012. It was a Monday, and I hadn’t had a whole lot of sleep that weekend. Even though I still hadn’t confirmed if I had HIV, I was already mentally preparing myself for all the things I’d need to do if I did have it, so I spent as much time as I could reading about HIV online. I went to the free health clinic at 8am. It was one of those government clinics that does HIV testing for free, and when I got there they still hadn’t fully opened. There were lots of women around because it was technically a reproductive health clinic and I was pretty much the only guy there. It was around 30 minutes before I finally got asked to sit with the counselor to begin the testing process.
The counselor’s name was Ken and he was really nice. We talked for a bit and it turns out we had worked for the same BPO before. Then he started asking the usual HIV test questions. Why was I taking the HIV test? Because my partner tested positive last Friday and I want to see I have HIV or not, though I’m pretty sure I do have it. Have you been tested before? Yes, before I moved to Country X for work. Were you sexually active in Country X? Yes, I had a boyfriend there, and I didn’t use condoms with him. Do you use drugs or have you shared needles with other people? No. Have you had vaginal intercourse with female partners? Eww, definitely not. Hehe.
Ken asked me if I had any questions I wanted to ask before they took my blood sample. I told him I knew that ARVs were provided free by the Philippine government but I wanted to know how that worked. He said that free meds are provided through PhilHealth, which is why although you’re allowed to take the test anonymously, if you need to start ARVs you really do have to declare your real name on the forms otherwise you could run into delays. Ken said not to worry though, there are a lot of ways to ensure that everything was confidential, and they could even ensure that I could pick up my meds privately. Personally I didn’t mind putting my real name on the test forms, but I started to wonder how Red would react to finding out about having to declare his status to PhilHealth, especially knowing how much he wanted to keep his status a secret.
Then they took my blood. The test tube did not have my name on it, and I was given a slip with my test number — # 429. They said to come back after an hour, so I went home for a bit and changed clothes because I needed to go to the office early. Red texted and asked if I had taken the test already. I said yes had and I was just waiting for the results. He said that whatever the results were I should just accept it, and if I did test positive then we should just focus on what we needed to do to deal with the disease. My college friends texted as well cuz I had told them over the weekend that Red was positive and I was pretty sure I was too. My friend — let’s call her Pearl — was really sweet and said she had seriously thought about buying a plane ticket to my city just so that I wouldn’t be alone while I was getting tested. My best friend here in my city — let’s call her Joy — texted too and said I shouldn’t worry regardless of whatever the results were.
Ken texted that the lab had the test results already so I went back to the clinic. Ken wasn’t there, so a woman asked if it was OK if she gave the results instead. I said yes, and then we went into her room. The nameplate on the door was Dr. Jordana, and I figured she was in charge of the clinic. She asked some of the same questions that Ken had asked earlier, and she asked a few more questions about Red. I told her that Red had been in the hospital twice this year, and the 2nd time around the doctors had recommended that he get tested for HIV and the results were positive. She asked if I had worked abroad and I said yes I worked in Country X. Ah ok, she said, so it’s possible that you if you are indeed HIV+ that you got infected there and then gave it to your partner even though he’s the one who has been getting sick lately. I said yes, it’s possible. That stung a bit because over the weekend I was really, really hoping that I wasn’t the one who gave Red the virus, and now it was becoming clear that it was highly possible I was most likely the one who got Red sick. Fuck.
Then we opened the results. Dr Jordana had explained that if I had tested non-reactive to the HIV antibodies, or in other words HIV-, then it would say so. If I had tested reactive, then there would not actually be any results indicated because they would have to forward the test to Manila for the confirmatory test. I looked at the results and for a brief moment I was happy because I saw the words “non-reactive”, but then I read it again and saw that I was non-reactive for syphilis. I showed Dr Jordana the results and said I’m sorry but can you explain this to me. She said since there was no result indicated for the HIV test then it means that I tested reactive to the HIV antibodies and they needed to send the results to Manila for the confirmatory test.
Even before I took the test I knew it was highly possible I had HIV, though I did hope a bit that I didn’t have it. Dr Jordana, like most of the people in the clinic, was very nice and reassuring. She was saying that it was definitely possible to live a very normal life, though maybe not as long as people without HIV, as long as I followed medical advice. She asked if I had already started seeing an infectious diseases doctor and I said no but I’ll probably see the same one as Red. She took my number down and said that as soon as they had the results from the confirmatory test she would call me. I had to wait a few weeks though because they would have to wait until other people tested positive too so that they could send the samples in one batch. It was a government clinic after all, and it would be expensive to send the samples individually.
Dr Jordana asked if I needed to join a support group, and I said that I would have to think about that first because Red is extremely careful about anyone finding out about our situation. She said she understood. Since the community of people living with HIV in our city is quite small, word gets around fast when someone new is infected, and if I want privacy I really should think before joining a group. Good thing I have friends like Pearl and Joy so maybe a support group isn’t that necessary. At least I have Red, too.
I left the clinic and met Joy at the mall for lunch. I told her I was positive. I was pretty calm and didn’t start crying until I said that I wasn’t sure how I would tell my Mom. Joy said my Mom would be fine, and I should wait until I got the results of the confirmatory test before doing anything. We went to the office and my day continued like normal. I wouldn’t feel the full impact of the test results until the following day.
I’m hungry. I’m just going to grab a bite to eat and then maybe write another entry. Red is still asleep beside me on the bed. I’m so happy he’s back.