I took the HIV Test at the RITM-ARG Satellite Clinic on May 23 and in just a few hours I'm about to know the findings, my grand prize.
And I did, although it did not say positive as I expected. "Tara pasok tayo sa consultation room", Chad asked me and Inday to join him inside a room adjacent to the receiving area. He had the results in his hands and he asked me if I prefer to read it on my own or if I want him to do so. With cold hands and cold feet, I chose the latter. "I'm proud of you Tom, you just did the right thing. What matters now is what we are going to do with what's inside this envelope and not just the result itself." We were both jittery already, anxious but not excited. Naked fear can be spelled all over my face. Constipation on Inday's. Then Chad opened the envelope and read the findings.
"You are... Reactive to HIV antibodies", Chad said in a most professional but caring and compassionate way. Inday cried, I didn't. Perhaps it's because she was still expecting for a negative result while I was already expecting for the negative news. I was in shock though. Chad hugged me. "Wag ka magalala, may magagawa na tayo." He congratulated us for hurdling the first stage. Accolades in this moment sound ironic, but I actually felt like I just graduated from High School. Glad that I accomplished something tough but also equally sad. Not because friends will part ways, but because for the first time, I felt really disappointed. People who really knew me by heart knows I'm not hard to please.
Good thing my sister called to break the ice-cold near self-pity, she told me she already knew from the texting she was doing with Inday. She remained calm, but with firm demeanor she said, "To, I'm behind you on this one and if I need to, I'll be in front of you to protect you." She also informed me that she talked to our parents already. I know they were heartbroken, but I was more touched with how they handled it, with compassion and a great deal sense of being family. Their love and understanding resonated out of the mobile phone, I almost forgot the dilemma I just got in. The disappointment was replaced with determination.
The same screening tested me negative for Hepa B, Gonorrhea and Syphilis. That was the first consolation prize(insert clapping here.) I was scheduled for CD4 testing the following Monday at the RITM main facility in Alabang. Simply put it, counting the number of immune system warriors I still have in my blood. This number goes down with the progression of HIV/AIDS, Chad told me. I have to wait for Monday, hoping for a second consolation. I have to admit, I was optimistic then. I don't have a specific number in mind, but was aiming for a high score.
Meanwhile, I still have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to think things on my own. I am relatively strong person with very positive outlook in life. Although an underachiever in many ways, optimism runs through my veins. But now I have to start counting the virus too. I have HIV in my blood stream. Inday's anxiety was infectious. "HIV is NOT", Chad reminded her before we left the clinic, "Unless you have unprotected sex, use infected needle, get tainted blood transfusion or a child from a PLHIV mother, you will not get it from living with a person with HIV."
Inday found respite on that. Anne's lament however was more infectious. She cried the whole Thursday night, and the whole Friday, Sun up Sun down. Worse in the evening when we were about to sleep. She really feels sorry for me. "Doy, mahal ka namin. Hindi ka namin pababayaan." I was glad to hear that. They are my parents away from the province. I have to remain stronger for them, lest I will lose them both to high blood pressure or dehydration from crying. Therapeutic as it was for me, I have to console them. I need to convince them there is still hope. That I'll be better, that there is a chance to get better. I said sorry for disappointing them and hurting them this way. I know I did.
I guess I was talking to myself too. Hearing I speaking to me that night, me tried to reply back and see if I will listen, "You don't deserve HIV Tom, no one does. But the selfish, pedantic, unworthy you still deserve HIM." I have a couple of days to myself for more of this dialogue before I face my doctor.
And just like the morning after high school graduation, I was also looking forward to the next step.
to be continued...
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