‘I write this story because I want the world to know that, for HIV carriers, there is hope to live one’s life again – as long as you take pro-active steps to get tested regularly’.

I met Ken* about 6 years ago. We were once good friends but have since parted ways.

Recently, we caught up on Instagram. He followed me and liked some of my photos. And we began to share stories. Our conversations took us on a trip down memory lane.

One day, he told me he is an HIV carrier.

I already knew of three young people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV and AIDS) who died because of treatable infections like Pneumonia or Tuberculosis.

Davao City, where I live, is the fifth city in the country with the highest number of cases of (HIV and AIDS), according to the August 2014 data from the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health (NEC-DOH).

I would like to share what knowledge I have about HIV and AIDS to others out there to bring some enlightenment to an often taboo topic.

What is HIV and AIDS?

According to AIDS.gov, HIV weakens ones immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection.

AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome on the other hand is the final stage of HIV infection. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections. These infections are called “opportunistic” because they take advantage of ones weakened immune system, and they can cause devastating illnesses.

The goal of the HIV-infected person is not to let the viruses spread quickly by undergoing ART or Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. This improves the health and prolongs the life of a person with HIV.

No safe and effective cure for HIV currently exists, but scientists and experts are working hard to find one.

End the stigma

I believe that HIV and AIDS may not just a medical problem but perhaps a behavioral problem, too. Unless one will make a decision to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS by simply being responsible for one’s self, we can put an end to the increasing number of new HIV cases.

I write this story because I want the world to know that, for HIV carriers, there is hope to live one’s life again – as long as you take pro-active steps to get tested regularly.

I know it takes courage and a firm decision to submit oneself for an HIV and AIDS test.

I can say that the moment I decided to get tested for HIV and AIDS was one of the best decisions I made in my entire life. Today, I look forward to a better me with better days to come. To live each day and be happy.

But, I wonder about Ken and whether he has a support group. People living with HIV and AIDS are just like you or me. They need all the love and support they can get to keep on living a happy life.

I write this story with the hope that we don’t react with fear to others who have HIV and AIDS. Instead, we need to respond with understanding and a fighting spirit. We shouldn’t just ask questions, but also look for answers.

For Ken, I pray that he will be comforted by God’s infinite love. As a friend, I will do whatever I can to be there for him. To tap his back and say “hey, all is well.”

I will continue to pray that he may live the best time of his life now. That he will not loose hope and faith in God. That he will find joy and peace in everything.

The rest is up to us.

On a positive note, Ken is planning to join an advocacy program to educate young people about HIV and AIDS. If you ask me how he’s doing, I will quote his answer to me when I asked him the same question: “I’m not dying.”

That’s the spirit!

* not his real name

Published by Perry Paul Lamanilao

Perry Paul Lamanilao is a professional digital media strategist, as well as an advocate for media literacy and education, and local peace engagement and climate change awareness. Follow @perrylamanilao online for more.