Contributed by: Renee (Malate, Manila: April 7, 2014)
Image Source: rayannesthoughts.blogspot.com
I was given the opportunity to share my story to several doctors, midwives and nurses for a Tuberculosis and HIV Collaboration Seminar in Angeles, Pampanga last week. By the time I entered the venue I have no idea what to expect since that was only my second time to disclose about my situation. I was nervous and shaking. One doctor even asked me to keep it natural and relaxed.
It feels like I’m about to dive deep in the middle of an ocean full of sharks about to devour my soul. The speaker gave a signal and I joined the participants who were seated in a circular manner. All I saw was their eyes looking at me and waiting for my first few words. I almost choked on my own words, but felt as if I’ve been doing this for a long time as I continue to utter the phrases I needed.
There is no level at which I can describe the elation of disclosing my status as an HIV positive individual to several people I have never met before. I remember the time when I denied all allegations about me being HIV positive. Looking back at myself and comprehending my journey made me realize how clueless I was back then about HIV or AIDS. All my fears flushed down the toilet as they were replaced by an emerging feeling of confidence and strength to continue living a positive and normal life.
For the past few months of being a volunteer for Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Incorporated (PAFPI), I’ve seen people from different walks of life share their stories to motivate newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals. Not only are they opening themselves to the possibility of new found friendship, but most importantly to give a physical and visual illustration of how a person living with HIV (PLHIV) regain the strength and confidence to continue what they started.
Helping others may seem like you are on a charity event, but there’s more to helping than spending time and energy for a cause. Perhaps one of the things that I learned from volunteering for PAFPI is the real meaning of contentment and joy. I’ve been consumed with activities involving learning group sessions and focus group discussions that I forgot how contented I am with what I have been doing.
Volunteering gave me a new meaning to the word ‘growth’ in which I don’t need to gain financial incentives in order to feel productive, happy and satisfied. Simple things that I already am experiencing through helping people who share the same situation as mine and people who are affected by it.