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World AIDS Day Service – A Sharing By A Person Living with HIV

Date: 07/12/2014/Speaker: Guest Speaker

I am very drama and flamboyant person but my life story is even full of drama and I always joked that it can made into a TV drama. Let me invite you to walk with me on my story and journey.

It seemed like just yesterday when the doctor asked into THE room in the anonymous test site in Kelantan lane about 6-7 years ago, It was a Saturday afternoon, 2 weeks before X’mas, I was there with a friend who was worried about the One Night Stand that he had 3 months back and he wanted me to accompany him so to support I took the test with him together. Never do I ever thought that my role which is supposed to give support to a friend, became the nightmare for myself, till now I never told the same friend what happened to me.

In a single moment when I heard the news, my life was irreversibly altered. The doctor words washed over me in a haze; it was as though he was trying to speak with me in a language that I could not understand. There is no right or wrong way on how the news will be said but the light approach by the volunteer was horrible and not offering any support at all. He merely just asked me to take a confirmation test-ELISA

At the time, I thought I would be dead very soon like a terminally ill patient. Looking back again, what I needed was the volunteer to tell me that there is HOPE but I left the room feeling despair and lost.

The acute sensation of feeling alive and well, despite hearing news of having an incurable, life-threatening disease, was hard for me to swallow. The next questions that came to my mind was how am I going to tell my partner?

When I was tested positive, He was in overseas, Should I tell him? Should I call him now? What will he react? Will he break up with me since NO ONE can accept a dirty person like me. I felt so helpless, maybe I should just end my life NOW. I finally took the courage to call him and told him what happened and I am expecting the worse. He was shocked at first instead of telling me off or slamming down the phone. He actually comforted me and told me everything is all right and he love me no matter what happened, I felt more ashamed and I started weep further. He suggested to me to call someone to support since he is not in.

I decided to call Tony Quah, my good friend who is a ex FCC member who is based in Jakarta now. He was with me the entire night to prevent me from killing myself which was in my thoughts. I am not the typical HIV+ person, I am symptomless sero-conversion; Sero-conversion is where the body’s immune System is first exposed to the virus and initially overwhelmed. I never developed Flu/Cold Sore hence I never suspected my status.

After 3 days, I got my final results that confirmed that I am HIV+, the next immediate step I got to do is to find a HIV Specialist out of Singapore since I am not in the Singapore System then because HIV is not part of the subsidized illness that government will cover , It was yet another stressful moment for me to search for information especially when information is limited back then but I was lucky that I had my partner who was there to help me to through the entire process and I finally found a doctor in JB, I had to go through several rounds of blood test to check my CD4 & HIV viral load level,
Boom! The results was horrible….. I have “Million” not dollar but viruses, my CD 4 was 70plus and my Viral Load is 1M copies. I have yet to digest the fact that I am HIV positive and I am told yet another new that my body is on super high risk of complication & I am in the AIDS stage. I had to start Anti Retroviral (ARV) Drug immediately if not, I might die. I was further devastated as I knew that ARV will have bad side effects and trust me, it is bad, I had to endure the burning sensation inside my body, the numbing , severe headache and cried myself to bed almost everyday.

Secondly, Since I have genetic blood disorder, my palate count is generally lower than normal, hence, I couldn’t take the cheapest combination of ARV option. I had to settle for the $880 per month combination instead how am I going to afford them since I just a junior executive.
As time passed, I “seemed” to accept the reality that i am HIV+. I started volunteering in AFA as a chief coordinator for Club Genesis, a HIV support group for MSM in AFA, I am part of CPR in FCC. I also attended International Conference around the world as an advocate for HIV work, I was the representative of Young People living with HIV for Asia Pacific. I am seems to be living in a glamorous jet setter life, actually, i am just an empty shelf with no soul, no God & no Love. I felt so dirty and so angry inside me, not with HIV, but with God. In my heart, I hated God, I felt that God is evil pretending to be Good to mankind. What kind of God will ever let his son go through such pains and sufferings. Even though I come to church almost every Sunday, it was to me merely a social gathering.

But the feeling of emptiness is slowly tearing me apart; it slowly matured into a depression. I got to know people who started introducing me to Crystal Methyl (ICE). ICE allowed me into the SPACE of my own – A space where I can be in, where there is no sadness, no anger, it allows me to disappear into my imaginative world of my own and just be at that moment despite time goes by. ICE is one of the most addictive recreational drug, slowly, I became highly depended on it that I had to use it basically everyday or whenever I have the chance. I couldn’t remember a lot during my period when I was on ICE, the only 2 key things I remember during the time I was on ICE was that I could survive on ICE without Food and sleep for 7 consecutive days, and ICE took controlled over me, my life, my work and my relationship.

You may wonder did my partner knew, actually I managed to hide from him for years but in end 2012, he found out and it nearly ended our relationship we had. This was the turning point for me that I had to stop. It forced me to open up myself to Miak and then it started a whole new adventure for me again.
Miak wanted to arrange counseling sessions or suggested to me to join a cell group several times. My stubbornness and high ego, I kept pushing Miak away. I was trying to “heal” myself through my own method but frankly, instead of recovering, I fell into another depression but this time it was worse especially when I am on Cold Turkey from ICE. Finally, I decided that I would take his suggestion to join a cell group. The rest was history… Joining a cell group was the best thing that even happened to me, they shown me love, they shown me compassion, they shown me the light in the dark tunnel I am in. They are the angels that God sent down for me, they brought me back to God again.

As I reflected about what had happened to me for the past years, God loves for me is unconditionally despite my journey is mainly about Life and Death from HIV, ICE and HEP C. I wanted to thank God for making me HIV+, it has made me a better person I learnt to surrender myself to him and let God lead the way. I might not know what future adventures I might need to face but I know one thing, God is good to me.

NOW, I am still on the road of recovery but this time I know that I am not alone and not afraid because of my brothers in my cell group who are willing to hold me when I am about to fall and also my spouse who is willing to accept me as who I am. Thank you so much Dear, as the vows we made when we got married in Feb, I will love you for the rest of my life for better or for worse.

I am lucky to have my partner because we are in a serodiscordant relationship, it means one partner is HIV + while the other is HIV Negative.
There are still people living with HIV out there who are longing for that love, are you willing to accept someone as your lifetime partner even if he/she is positive?

After this sharing, will you still talk and love me as whom I am? Will you hug me when you see me in church from now on?
I am HIV + person, Ex Crystal Meth Addict, Will you walk with me?