This blog contains opinions, experiences, thoughts and observations of the author from his day to day living.
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Monday, March 15, 2010

A Date With Fate

I never denied that I am sexually adventurous, nor denied having too careless most of the time. But all came to a halt when a call made me think deep about my "wild side" and HIV. That I am actually playing a Russian roullete with my life.

I received a phone call from a friend while having my vacation. After the usual hi and hello, we decided to have a date and of the unusual kind. To date this was the most "unusual" date I ever had. Instead of the usual dinner or a movie, our date were to be ... you'll never guess, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

I've always wanted to do it, but like most people, fear prohibits me from going, not to mention shame. That at my age, I should be responsible and careful enough when it comes to my sexual encounters. But this time, I am cool, I am ok, although in my heart of hearts, I am afraid. But I need to go, and I need to do it.

You know of angels? People who were there at the right place at the right moment? Well, this guy was at the right time when he made that call.

Encouraging me and telling me the significance of the visit to the place, it made me realized that I must. So a date was set and I waited for the day.

The day came and we met at Tayuman, had a small lunch at Jollibee of chicken barbeque meal and an iced mango for dessert, after a short catching up about our lives, we head to the San Lazaro Hospital. Braving the noonday sun, some perspiration and a sticky feeling, we eventually arrived in this old building, with some dilapilated walls, smell of old rooms mixed with alcohol, actually, the smell of sickness which was a little nauseating really. My friend tried to continue the conversation, maybe to settle my nerves as I am a little nervous, it was my first time. He had been there twice a year for the past 2 or 3 years so he knows the procedure.

Going to the second floor of the first building with big banners and posters about World AIDS Day, bulletin boards with all sorts of announcements and reminders on health risks and safety, we were greeted by this petite nurse who asked for our reason for coming. My friend told her that I would like to get tested looked at me and smiled, as if I am something to fancy. She told me to sign a logbook, not before my friend told me that I had the privilege to not put my real name so I wrote Carlo Magno instead. I noticed there were two guys infront of me sitting on a long chair, one was smiling and the other is eyeing me as if I am already something to add to the statistic, of course both were gay. She had me filled up also this form for my information and answer some personal questions like, "have you been tested before?" "when was the last time you had sex?" "have you had any STD" and choices of "a. Heterosexual with multiple partners; b. Homosexual with multiple partners" "Gay, Bi, Straight" I felt like taking a medical board exam!

After a few minutes, she herded me inside a room where there sits a nurse which is also the counselor, by a table in a corner with some HIV and AIDS pamphlets, visual aids and materials on it, who were beaming at me. A middle aged guy sat on another table a few feet away, who looked up and also smiled at me and returned to filing some papers. I thought maybe smiling really was their SOP to make people coming there for tests feel at ease. She introduced herself, very friendly, all smiles, lowered her voice a bit and asked me if it is ok if she could ask me some questions and I gamely said of course. She told me that there will be a pre-counseling first before the test, and if I would like to have the test first instead, so while waiting she'd do the pre-counseling, duh? But anyway, she gave me a slip to take to the ground floor to room 106, so my friend and I went and chanced upon three chubby, laughing and eating nurses, as if they're in a restaurant and not in a hospital. I hesitantly come into the room cause I felt awkward and thought maybe they're on a break but the nurse in a civilian clothing, yes she is a nurse, I think cause she had a nameplate, asked me to come in and handed her the slip. I was told sit on a chair with an arm rest set up for taking blood samples, cleaned her hands just by rubbing them on her pants and together, which shocked me a bit, and prepared to draw blood. She tied a piece of rubber just above my elbow on my pecs and tried to find a vein on my left arm. Half of the syringe were full when she stopped drawing blood a few minutes later. We returned to the second floor to the counselor and resumed our conversation. She asked all sorts of questions, but before that she told me that she'll now include the post-counselling, I never got irritated with a word as much as I started to get to with the word "counselling" that moment!

Anyway, my family background was asked, so are my sexual history and all the while she was friendly enough to listen and to comment every now and then. She also explained all sorts of information about HIV and AIDS , which most I already know, but she explained further by telling me about the grace period from the last sexual encounter prior to test, and the aftermath if found positive. The Philippine Health Department provided free medical treatment including medicine, as long as the patient is willing enough to cooperate and to religiously follow a healthy lifestyle and regular check ups and visit to the designated health center, for a lifetime.

She also told me of her sentiment that she'd hoped for more funding from rich countries for more stable medical facilities and supplies, not that it's running out, but for future patients, as the costs of personal treatment is way too much for an average Filipino. What if the funds run out, she said, what would happen? I just agreed with her and made me think of what could I do, but that's another story.

All the while while asnwering her and listening to my story, my mind is wondering about the result. It took 30 minutes before someone came and handed her another slip which was the result. But that 30 minutes felt like an eternity, and I could feel my heart beating fast when I saw the slip. She read and then told me I should rethink about my misadventures. She showed me the slip and it read "NON-REACTIVE" which she translated, NEGATIVE. I held my chest and breathe out air as if coming from the deepest part of my lungs! Thank God.

She said that I should always remember to be safe, that not because a person looks healthy does not mean he might not have it, everyone is at risk, so I should always protect myself. I said my million thank yous' and bid her goodbye, after reminding me to return the next day to get my certificate.

I went home smiling too, and I had my own reason at that, one, an answered prayer, and two, I was given a new lease in life, the nurse was right, I should be more responsible than ever before for I am at risk, and will always be at risk.

Now I have a baseline to start with, I would be very, very vigilant and careful the next time my adventures and misadventures come knocking at my door.

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