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A Sharing On World AIDS Day

Date: 07/12/2014/Speaker: AJ

Good morning church. Welcome to FCC’s Annual WAD Service. If you don’t already know, I am AJ. I am a 24 year old Indian guy who works in an office and plays Pokemon. Yes I’m gay, but I didn’t need to tell you that lah hor, afterall I am AJ.

Man time goes by really quickly, doesn’t it? It’s already December and in a couple of weeks it’ll be Christmas, then the New Year. So many parties to attend or plan for, a years worth of reflections to ponder, new year resolutions to write.

Come to think of it, it’s already been 3 years since my diagnosis back in 2011. It was quite dramatic actually, hope you don’t mind, but let me walk you through it.

I was 21 back then and it was  a very special weekend. It was Easter; not just any Easter, but the Easter I was going to get baptized.

“i don’t normally like to work on holidays (esp on Good Friday), but i had been sick for so long, my pay cheque was getting smaller by the hour. i just had to, if i wanted any money at all. sides, my manager wanted to get me tested that day.”
While we were going about our usual jokes and nonsense, my manager exclaimed “eh no joke! two lines!” and we all rushed to look at my test results. One line meant HIV-, two meant HIV+. Suddenly we all became silent and everyone stared at me.

it was one of the longest nights of my life. i didn’t sleep much as you could imagine. i kept thinking about the what ifs and how to react if i were indeed HIV+. It felt so much like a dream, and as i closed my eyes, i prayed to God to wake me up from the dream. “It is, just a dream, right?”
Woke up much earlier than i do normally, which was a good thing. I had time to reflect on things and prepare myself for the very real fact that my life may just totally change in the few hours that were to pass. i told myself to be strong, and to a large extent, i suppose i was.
i walked back out to face my manager and cell leader, it seemed reality smacked me in the face again. This time, i really wasn’t dreaming. Their looks gave it away; they knew as much as i did, how the results were gonna be. But pretentiously they asked “how did it go?” i didn’t have to say much. i took a deep breath and said “yup. im positive!” and then i smiled at them.

A smile can be deceiving sometimes. In this case i was merely covering up how i felt. I felt empty. I didn’t know if i was sad or happy or dismayed or satisfied…. i felt nothing. Everyone asked me if i was okay. I was, only because i was totally numb.
I danced my heart out that day, but i felt really faint. Probably cuz i was still sick. But i gave it my all, and actually got noticed. Someone complimented me on my dancing and actually asked me to join a crew. I guess to noob-ish dancers like me, it was quite an honor indeed. But i was disturbed. On one hand, i have HIV. On another, i have opportunities opening up for me. What was God trying to do? If it were some sorta joke, it was NOT funny.

I put on my really expensive headphones (which my manager gave me) and blasted Born This Way as i walked down to the riverside. and then i heard those words. “there’s nothing wrong with loving who u are, she said, cuz he made you perfect babe. So hold your head up high and you’ll go far, listen to me when i say! I’m beautiful in my way, cuz God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track baby, i was born this way!”

I just lost it and broke down. I felt so ugly, so unworthy of love. felt like i had been given a death sentence and that my life was over and i was alone. i knew none of these things were true, but it didn’t stop me from feeling like they were. And here, the queen herself, my mother monster, spoke to me in this song that reached far into my soul and told me i was NOT ugly, and that my life was NOT over, that i should hold my head high. That this was all somehow how it was meant to be, and more importantly, that God Makes No Mistakes.
I suppose now you can understand a little why I love her and her music so much, why I see her as a manifestation of God’s love; because at such a low point in my life, it was those words that breathed life back into me.

It was rather emotional and as you can imagine, my baptism wasn’t necessarily an easy one but it was very special. It felt as if just as Jesus died and rose again, I died and rose again. And of course, that was just the beginning of an amazing journey of struggle and discovery.

Living with HIV now is so different from how it used to be.  We don’t wait to die and we are not sickly people. Not all of us diagnosed with HIV are gay men or sex workers, as is commonly portrayed. Medication is so advanced now that we even have things like PEP! We’ve come so far in understanding it, it’s really quite staggering to see the progress.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my cell group for walking with me all this while. Elayne John and Ezekiel, Chong Lip, Cynthia. And esp Nathan who’s been there since the first day, and Sulin, who saw my tears when no one else did. If these people hadn’t been there for me, walking with me, I would not have been the same person you see up here today. Heck I may not even still be alive!

It’s no lie to say that sometimes it can be a lonely journey. When I catch the cold like everyone does, but I wonder how bad it’s going to affect me,  when I go for a job interview and people ask me why I’m exempted from NS, and give no consideration or sensitivity but probe and probe and probe. When I try to date and be honest about my serostatus. You really do feel alone.

My friends, brothers and sisters, today seated amongst you are people from all walks of life, with all sorts of conditions and struggles. The person on your left or right may be living with HIV and yet we are all seated here (me standing lol), as equals, as the beloved, as the celebrated. That, to me, is really beautiful; that under the banner of Christ there is neither slave nor free, no Jew nor Gentile, no man or woman, no positive or negative, for we are all one.

I am reminded of how Jesus healed the lepers. We all know that story. When he healed them, I think he did more than just heal. He touched men no one wanted to touch, loved men no one wanted to love, and brought life to men who had it taken away from them. I see the same Jesus when the people I love walked with me. Will you walk with me? With us?

I’d like to invite a good friend mine, of ours, to share his own journey with you. A man I myself and proud to have walked with.