Day in a Home of Persons Living with HIV
(First of two parts)
When some people think of a person living with HIV, they are inclined to exclude themselves from those persons in their imagination before looking at the person first.
This is commonly the result of a judgmental mind-set
because some people think HIV or AIDS is incurable and
can be transferred to anyone just easily.
"Persons with HIV can have a normal life just like others. We should understand that these people who were infected with the disease have the right to live their normal life and should not be discriminated by the public," she said.
"Sometimes, the media doesn't realize how these
people and their families are affected especially if they
will be exposed to the public who are armed with the
wrong information based from sensationalized stories."
I found out the office is located in one of the apartment units, within the center of a very populated residential area in Malate just across a national road.
Ramirez said, as part of the confidentiality and to protect these people who have been doing their best in the community, it is better to withhold the exact address of the place.
Outside the place, there are no streamers, no
signboards or anything to identify them as an NGO working
with HIV-infected people.
Finding and looking for persons infected with HIV was way out of my mind while talking to Formantera and Ramirez who gave me a glimpse of how their lives are with HIV+ people.
While chatting with Formantera, several young men and
women, and even children kept arriving in the foundation
with some stories to tell. They share stories of their
experience during the day and do office work.
While sitting in a corner of the 5x10 meter apartment, I could see that the people there look the same as the individuals I meet in malls, jeepneys and in the roads.
These means, if HIV will be endemic in the Philippines, we can never tell who has been infected and who was not. He may be the person next to us when we are inside the jeepneys, a person on our neighborhood, or even our visitor at home.
That time, it came across my mind that maybe these people whom I expected to be HIV positives are not here and hiding because of the presence of a journalist in their house. They think I might take advantage of my visit, pry some stories from the group and make a sensationalized story. But of course, it wasn't my intention.
Hours later, the same people around me were sharing stories of which I am familiar with - testimonies of people having HIV. I also learned that the volunteers were famously known as "royal bloods." If there's one thing that I like about the place, it's the fact that I found it not hard to blend with them in just a few hours.
It was late in the afternoon that I decided to leave the foundation. However, they invited me for dinner with the other members. Without any hesitation or doubts, I accepted the offer.
I was not able to join the main group for dinner that
evening because the plates were not enough for all of us
to use. They still have to wash the plates.
We feasted on chopsuey and fish. Everything on the table was delightful. The foods were cooked very well by one of the staff.
It was a nice dinner, which I shared with people whom I suspected, have HIV.
Some may ask, why is this man eating from things used by HIV-infected people? Is it possible that he may infected by HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus because he ate from the same plates that they used and washed?
My answer would be an analogy of the state of pregnancy. If I eat from a pregnant person's plate, would I get pregnant too?
HIV cannot be transmitted on the mere transfer of saliva. In fact, it would take gallons of saliva before one can be infected. Neither can using the same plates or even eating with them infect one.
HIV is not airborne, or even can stay outside human body for minutes. If they ever they have this HIV, I'm not afraid that I may be infected by shaking hands with them.
In fact, I even more afraid that I might infect them with my flu. (To be concluded)
.APRIL 29-MAY 5, 2001
REAL LIFE ISSUES
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