Editor’s note: Some of you may know there is an HIV epidemic occurring in The Philippines centred on urban young men who have sex with men with 395 new infections within this group from January to February 2013 alone, 96% up from 2005’s 210 reported infections. A spokesperson for the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) of the Department of Health says that the sudden and steep increase in the number of new cases within the MSM community, particularly in the last three years (309 cases in 2006, and 342 in 2013), is “tremendously in excess of what (is) usually expected.
Among MSM's, ninety percent of the newly infected are single, with the most of the affected people now only 20 to 34 years old. The highest number of infections among MSMs is from Metro Manila. An HIV surveillance study showed that out of 406 MSM tested for HIV from entertainment areas in Metro Manila, HIV prevalence using the rapid test was 11.8%.. (Source.)
PositiveLite.com has recently featured a number of Pilipino young HIV-positive men writing from personal experience from the eye of the epidemic. Their command of English varies, but they write with exceptional passion. Today’s contribution has not been edited, so while the English used is clearly not a first language, the truth rings through.
Equality is neither to be demanded nor fought; it has to be granted as a matter of right. But where do we stand as persons living with HIV? Where do we exactly place ourselves in the society? Did we even bother to ask these questions right after diagnosis or even pass the stage of depression and acceptance?
Equality is a matter of right only if we assert such but it becomes merely a privilege in view of apathy.
Stigma is not an issue emanating only from the community of negative individuals. Impervious to our knowledge and senses we too have to deal with it as individuals. Some have disregarded and isolated themselves in society because of fear but even without taking the risk for acceptance’s sake. The larger issue that needs to be resolved is not stigma but restoration of faith in ourselves and in humanity. But are we willing and capable to trust society, much more ourselves? To what extent are we capable of vouchsafing for our own positive community?
Privacy is definitely a concern for most of us. But for some who have long been in this community they have quashed their fears from within. Privacy no longer became an issue to them. And to these brave soldiers from the positive community, you deserve our salutes. But is it really privacy that matters to us or it has become an abused excuse of escaping from our communal responsibility to sustain the long-standing battle for equality? We conceal our identities for purposes of privacy but by doing such may we not forget our responsibility to function as a person living with HIV. Concealment is seclusion but not inaction.
Annually we commemorate World Aids Day. People from all sorts of society convene together for those who have left us behind. People who advocates for change and acceptance, people who deserves our gratitude, people who despite our silence have been fighting for us. But why do we need representatives to fight for us? Why do we need to be represented? Why can’t we represent ourselves?
Contrary to the idea of exposing ourselves in amalgamating in the battle cry for equality, we can maintain privacy regardless of our stand, this can be done only if we want, and surely it will be done if we try.
HIV is faceless until we people living with HIV start to genuinely assert as a community our rights. We were not diagnosed to be isolated; we were diagnosed to be protected. We are not the darkest shadows of this society but we are the better hope in advancing equality only if we make an effort. We are the better hope as we are bequeathed the opportunity to live a new life. THE MERE FACT THAT WE ARE ALIVE, THAT’S THE MANIFESTATION FOR HOPE. If we can’t be the face of our community, let it be and no one is asking you to be. Apathy has no place in our community but EMPATHY is what we need and it must start from us!
HIV may always and forever remain faceless but IT CAN NEVER BE VOICELESS! WE ARE PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV! WE ARE THE VOICES OF TRUTH! LET OUR VOICES BE HEARD FOR WE SPEAK THE TRUTH!
About the author: “I am a son, a brother, and a friend; I am a student; and I’m in a new battle, a Positive Life. I won't quit coz I am LOVED! I am from Quezon City, The Philippines, 26 years old, diagnosed 9 February 2015. I am an HIV-positive young man who advocates optimism regardless of status - because I am Posit Bo"
Follow Posit Bo on his webpage here, on Facebook here and on twitter @posit689.