So last Monday, in a move to drum up support for sexual health advocacies and increase awareness for HIV/AIDS and its perils, I invited my dear friend and social worker, Tony B., to give a 30-minute talk to the staff on the subject matter. He dished out hard truths and statistical data concerning the current state of sexual health in the country and they were truly sobering. And I mean sobering, even I had to do several double-takes.
For example, did you know that the number of HIV cases in the country has reached astronomical levels, chances are, you know someone who has the virus without having to go all the way through six degrees of separation? That we are now inching closer to Thailand’s HIV record and that is in no way helping us given the many other socio-political challenges we are currently facing? That – and for this you may need to sit down, I think – women are, now more than ever, more promiscuous than men and the only difference is that they do NOT talk about it like men do?
The only silver lining we see here is that somehow, according to Tony, Philippines has better HIV support system (as) compared with neighboring countries battling the same problem. HIV-positive people can actually gain access to free medicine and other support systems just as long as (1.) They are AWARE, and (b.) They KNOW where to go. So you see, AWARENESS is crucial. Knowing is already winning half the battle. And mind you, having HIV is no longer synonymous to a death sentence in this day and age. But of course, that does NOT in any way, justify you carrying on with your risky and indiscriminate sexual behavior.
What’s the first step? Take the test – TODAY! Kudos to those who have taken a proactive and vigilant stance on this and actually submit themselves to HIV testing on a regular basis. For highly sexually active people, it is recommended that you get tested once a year, or more, if you have been rather naughty. I have had myself tested twice this year and there is NO shame in that. Like some people, I happen to like being in the know and this is where I want to be two steps ahead in the health game, no ifs and buts. Monogamy seems to have taken on a whole new twisted dimension, or so I’ve been told. Most of you may still be of a different opinion when it comes to the M word, but they say these days, when you are in a committed relationship and you have sex with another person BUT used protection, that still qualifies as monogamy. Pretty sad, huh? Imagine the unpretty, unpalatable scenarios now playing in my head, thanks to my overactive imagination and absolute lack of trust and faith in people. So, yeah, it’s not you, it’s definitely me – and my trust issues.:)
Going back to the talk, we are thankful to Tony for taking time out of his very busy social work schedule to drive home some very basic yet excessively serious points on sexual health and being responsible adults that unfortunately, we all tend to disregard or treat with a great deal of disinterest, sometimes.
At the end of his talk, 11 of us from work submitted ourselves for HIV rapid test (95.something percent accurate) and the test results came back non-reactive for all of us! Yey! Except for Noel and I, it was the first time for the rest of them to take the test and I’m just happy that they volunteered. Besides, HIV testing is not covered by our HMO and I heard it costs around 400 to 600 pesos to have it done in clinics – we only donated 100 each. Tipid, di ba?
On a serious note (as if the last 300 words or so were some form of jest, haha), I’m really encouraging you guys out there to take the test. I mean, sure, you may be 110% confident about your monogamous ways BUT you can never be too trusting of your partner’s. You don’t know where that merchandise has been dipped into before coming home to your eager arms. Am I being too harsh and judgmental here? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever, trust your own instincts and protect yourself – at all times – because believe me, if there is one test you would want to pass with flying colors, HIV test would be it.
Lastly, glove up and lube up! There is no shame in that either.
Note: EDITED to add this.
If you want to join the crusade for ZERO HIV infections; ZERO Discrimination; ZERO AIDS-related deaths, sign up for this race and visit the website here for a dose of fact and figures concerning HIV/AIDS.