When I was young I remembered watching the news and the hottest topic that time was Sarah Jane Salazar. Who would not know her? Sarah Jane was perhaps the first celebrated and media hyped HIV case in the Philippines because she bravely went out to public. It was like she first started to give HIV a face that the disease was real. It was during that time when I also remembered telling myself that it would it be impossible that I’ll have a relative that would have HIV. I was confident that none of what I was seeing on TV will happen to my family or people that I know.
But after a few months, my uncle invited us to attend a training on sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV and AIDS. Well, I was a bit surprised at first. I was young then. Too young to be concerned about STI and I was wondering what it is for, and what it is all about. I also remembered asking my cousin as to what we will do in that training.
The day of the training came and I was surprised to see so many people in the venue. Although the training took almost three days, I learned what STI, HIV and AIDS are all about. I also learned the difference of gender and sexuality. But what surprised me was that at the end of the training we were given a chance to meet a person living with HIV. What?! Yes, it was a surprise indeed especially after learning that it was my uncle, and it was only then that we learned his health condition.
We had an idea that my uncle is ill, but it was totally different to what he told us the first time he admitted his illness. Yes, we all thought it was cancer. So when my uncle stood up and confirmed to all of us that he is a person living with HIV, I cried. After I got back my bearing, I came to realize the reason why he insisted that we join the training because it paved the way for us to understand and accept his condition with open heart.
But my life living with an HIV infected relative did not end there. Not that I have another uncle that faces the same dilemma. Nope. But what happened was that it piqued my interest to join other trainings on HIV and AIDS that it eventually led me to be actively involved with Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. or PAFPI.
As I got involved in this advocacy I met different kinds of people living with HIV from all walks of life. And today I am now a staff of PAFPI as a Project Coordinator for MAC AIDS Fund Project.