What It's Like to Get Tested for HIV
First things first: There is absolutely no shame in getting tested for HIV—it's one of the smartest, most responsible things you can do for yourself once you become sexually active. It's important whether you have sex regularly or you’ve only done it once, and that includes vaginal, anal, and even oral sex in some rare cases (read more about how HIV is transmitted here). According to the Department of Health, there were 1,098 newly diagnosed HIV cases reported in May this year, 48 percent higher than the same reporting period in 2016 and the highest number of recorded cases since 1984 (!!!). Thirty percent of the new cases were from the 15-to-24-year-old group, and 87 percent showed no symptoms at the time of reporting.
That's the thing about HIV—you could have it and be completely unaware, and it doesn't matter how old you are.
I went there on a Sunday morning, and it was packed with people waiting to be tested—a sight to behold as it is firsthand proof that more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of getting tested. There were couples, there were friends, there were single individuals, and then there was me—with my mom! I definitely didn't plan on getting tested with my mom; it just happened, and now she wants our whole clan and all her friends and officemates to go and get tested. So yeah, you can go alone or with a companion—whatever you're comfortable with.
At the clinic, friendly volunteers hand you forms to fill out then ask you to wait for your turn. Expect to be called two times but never by your name (they take discretion seriously). First, they call out your month and day of birth, then they call out the number on your form. When they extract blood, they make sure that the syringe is new and that the skin is sanitized. Then you can wait for the results in the reception area or come back for it the same day. Since it was a full house that Sunday morning, my mom and I stepped out for lunch then returned after about an hour and a half.
The volunteers don't just hand you the results; you get one-on-one time with a counselor in a private room, who will discuss the basics of HIV, AIDS, and STDs. To be honest, I was low-key freaking out when the counselor didn't open the envelope containing my results right away, but nobody panic (!), it's just protocol that they discuss the basics first. This is the time to ask all the questions you’re too afraid to ask anyone or even say out loud. It's a hundred percent safe and confidential space, so you can be completely honest without fear of being judged or slut-shamed.
If you have a non-reactive result, it means that there are no HIV antibodies found in your system. It’s a cause for celebration, definitely, but it doesn't mean that you can be complacent. Always use condoms to prevent getting infected and to prevent unwanted pregnancies; you can get free condoms and lubricant (another topic for another day) during counseling. It’s important that you get regularly tested for HIV; if you are sexually active, get tested every six months as it takes three to six months for HIV to be detected.
Now if you are reactive, take a deep breath—it doesn't necessarily mean that you have AIDS. HIV can lead to AIDS if left untreated, but with the right medical care and a healthy lifestyle, HIV-positive people can live long, full lives. If you are reactive, your results will be sent to a hospital for confirmatory testing and you will be referred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine-AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG) in Alabang. You can read about the complete process here.
For me, the whole process took about half a day, and the time spent waiting was well worth it for my peace of mind. It also opened a conversation with my mom—as cringe-worthy as it was enlightening—which would've never happened in different circumstances, even though we have a Rory-Lorelai Gilmore kind of relationship. I wouldn't say that getting tested with the woman who brought you into this world is for everyone, but simply going to get tested? 10/10, would recommend.
The LoveYourself clinic is located at Unit 5, 3/F Anglo Bldg., #715-A Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong. They are open Wednesday to Saturday (12 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and Sunday (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B is free, while other tests for STIs may come with a fee. You can contact them at +639178926611.
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By: Jairus Gabriel A. Cardinoza
With the world suffering by crisis and chaos today, where everyone of us seems to be caged, may be in our home, in our thoughts, with our regrets, or even with someone whom we can never have, while sulking in our house with our home works and household choirs, there are those idle moments when I stop and stare into oblivion, I can’t help but to think about those moments where we are the happiest, or we are the most sad, we have our own highlights of our life, either our downfall or shortcomings, sometimes our triumphs, but how about those moments caught in between but played as much as important episode to those we remember the most?
Sometimes you can’t help but to think about those moments in between. We think that our life is built by big moments, but little do we realized how little they play in our lives, we barely even consider the little things, that made a huge impact in our lives, maybe it wasn’t about the medal you’ve got from winning an essay contest, but the stranger who let you borrow his/her pen because you forgot yours at home, maybe it wasn’t the brand new watch that your parents gave you as a present but the person that you saved unconsciously, asking you what time is it because he/she was worried he/she might be late for the class.
Admit it, or not, we have all took those moments for granted, those moments when everything is in between. In times like this, where a crisis is on the midst, our mind often wanders elsewhere, there will always be that moments that the silence of our room will be filled by the cacophonies of our thoughts that strangle us in the subtle ways. The only solace we could find in this misery is sometimes our memories, not the big ones but those moments we once thought idle, who would have guess that the last time you drink your favorite coffee was a month ago, or the comfort of your favorite street you passed after school, hoping you could meet the person you want to talked to accidentally, the way you rush to the favorite fast food chain after a tiring day, hoping for a cone of ice cream, our life will always be built by these moments.
There will always be something in between, that stiches two extremes into a one fine art, between love and pain, there is learning, the midnight always reminds us that yesterday is over but there is always a tomorrow waiting for us to rise, between our dreams and our failures, there is hope, the wisest person sometimes understand that life is a prism, it can blind us with all the colors and wonders of its side, but there is one source of light that made all those colors possible. Take a chance to be that light, that sees not only the parts that we hide, nor the highlights of our lives but those moments of everything in between.
TITLE: Good night
It was the morning of May 5; I went to the ICU to take the morning shift. I peeked from the sliding door and saw a female doctor and 3 nurses probably making their rounds. Half asleep, I entered the room not realizing what was happening. I sat in front of my grandma’s bed, waiting for the doctors to leave. My aunt was crying from the corner of the room, I thought that perhaps my grandma was deteriorating. Then the monitor on the upper left part of the bed kept beeping, then the lady in white coat announced “time of death 8:50”.
Everything froze, I didn’t understand a thing. I saw my aunt hug our grandma so tight, shaking out of grief and desperation. I sat there frozen and speechless, it was so surreal I thought it was a dream. My sister who was sitting beside me took a few heavy steps towards grandma’s bed. She hugged our grandma and whispered words lost in between her sobs.
When it was my time, I held her right hand, the hand I used to wipe and hold. It wasn’t cold, it was still warm, soft and wrinkly. The bruises from countless injections she endured. I pressed her hand trying to wake her up, more tears rolled when she wouldn’t respond. “Inang! Agriing kan a, bigaten!” (Granma wake up, it’s morning already) I wrapped my hands around her, she’s the same Inang I used to hug but this time she isn’t hugging me back. I tried to wake her up a couple more times more desperate than the last. I wanted to see those little eyes open again and look at me. I wanted her to ask me “apaya nakkong?” (why my dear?) once more. How about calling me miss Universe when she forgets my name. I loved her and will love her even if she calls me the wrong name.
I still remember the night she held my hands so tight she said “ haan nak panpanawan a, ta nu matay nak ket haan ko nga maymaysa.” (Please don’t leave me so that if I die, I will not be alone “I hope I fulfilled my promise to her I hope she didn’t die lonely but happy. The room was enveloped with grief engraved in the cries we made but in the middle of the room, there she lies. She laid still, she looked so serene and peaceful. It looked like she was having a good nap. It was the first time in years that I saw her sleep so tight.
After all the restless nights she can finally sleep. I wiped my tears as I marvel the way she looked. It was a painful but beautiful sight. I wanted her to wake up but how could I ask that if she looked so peaceful now? After all the pain she endured she is finally resting. I couldn’t ask her to come back when I know she’s in a better place. She is free now, free from pain and suffering. I stop waking her up and held her hand tightly, in between my cries I bid goodbye. To my dearest Inang Nani, go on find the light. I know Tatang and Tito are waiting for your arrival. Rest well Inang, Good night.
Loneliness that Turned into Beautiful Solitude
Are you one of those many people who experienced loneliness? The moment where you do not have someone else to rely on. Have you experienced it? Going home with a lot of thoughts running in your mind but no one was there to listen. Have you ever felt bad for yourself? In realizing that you were the only one left. When every one else was leaving. When most people around you have chosen others over you. Have you experienced the pain? The pain of being alone? A lot of people are afraid to be alone for various reasons. Some people says that they are just used to something that there is always someone out there for them. Someone who is always there. Someone who is always ready to accompany them in all. Someone who is always willing to stay. Stays in your best and most especially at your worst. While others simply do not have the courage to face the world of loneliness. I, experienced the pain of loneliness but gained a lot of benefit from it.
Living alone is not a simple thing for me to do but for me to survive and acquire proper education, I have to. I have to learn to live alone. In living alone, I had face a lot of difficulties. I encountered a lot of problems that were made to be fixed by many but was able to get it fixed by myself. Yes it was hard, it is hard. It was never easy to begin with. There will be times or days that it can make you drain and cause you countless sleepless nights. Yes, it is painful. But we have to realize that in loneliness, we can also find peace in ourselves. The "YOU". The genuine "YOU".
People are so afraid to experience loneliness. Most of us do not realize that with so much fear of being alone, we started to forget that good things come from being alone. As time pass by, I got used in solving problems by myself, I learned to live alone, I saw the "beauty of loneliness" that's how my loneliness slowly turned into beautiful solitude. As time passes by, I realized that there are a lot of good things that you can get in being alone. So, for those who are reading this, I hope you guys learn to appreciate the beauty of being alone.
Old is New
The issue of the pandemic, COVID-19, have resulted to quarantine. Stuck in the house and only going out when needed. This may be a boring routine but to me, this is an opportunity to get to take care of myself and pay attention to myself.
Since I started college in 2019, I rarely get to do any of my hobbies and sleep has become a diamond in the rough. This is because I was focused on my classes and getting my school requirements done but now that face-to-face classes have been suspended and the school has decided to resume it through the use of the internet, this gave me time check on myself even if it's only for a short while before I get back on finishing the tasks given.
For the passed months I have been spending time with my family, eating, and sleeping more along with doing my school requirements. We got to get to tell stories about what has happened before the quarantine. I have also gotten back to recording songs in Smule, an app I use a lot before, learned a few recipes and I have even started learning songs to play on my piano keyboard.
Since we're in quarantine, I recommend everyone to try and get back to what they like doing and/or even learn new things. My sister heard me trying to learn a song and asked me to teach her, so I did just that. I taught her a song she wanted to learn which is "Love Is All That Matters" by Eric Carmen. But I am not a professional, I mostly search for sheet music and tutorials on YouTube.
When it comes to learning a song, I usually only learn the chords and sing along to the melody, but my sister wanted to learn the whole song so I did my best to learn not just the chords but also the melody on the piano. My sister has only learned to play the melody but is having a hard time playing it together with the chords. I can see her determination in learning the piano because whenever she comes home from work, I hear her practice the song on the piano and every time she practices, she improves.
Me, on the other hand, have been and singing with my friends on Smule. Despite the pandemic going on right now, I have managed to go back to my old hobbies, pay attention to myself and even spend time with my family. I hope everyone is also for happiness during this dreadful times.
Things Every Titas of K-pop Went Through
For someone who has been a K-pop fan since 2009, I’ve witnessed how the Korean wave continuously stayed on our shores and how it blossomed from the 2nd generation of K-pop Idols to the 3rd generation. And before we can even enjoy social media and live-streaming today, we had a hard time fangirling back then and here, I’ve listed the struggles only Titas of K-pop can relate to.
1. Dealing with a slow internet connection
For some reason, the internet back then was significantly slower than it is today. Youtube videos take too long to load and watching your favorite Korean music show online requires you to dwell on the never-ending buffering that the slow internet connection gives. Patience is a virtue, sis!
2. Downloading k-pop songs
Before we can even enjoy the existence of Spotify, the only way to revel in our favorite k-pop songs multiple times is to have them downloaded or sometimes, you have to buy the physical album first and have the songs ripped from the CD. The struggle is real, I know!
3. Your favorite k-pop group just don’t visit your country
Since K-pop is still not popular in the country back then, when your favorite K-pop group announces world tour, there’s a zero probability that you will get to see your bias in the flesh because Philippines is not always a part of their tour. It’s seriously heartbreaking, tbh!
4. Buying a merch is a rough quest
Few years ago, K-pop was not as popular than it is now, so there are only few k-pop shops online who ship merchs in the Philippines but when they do, the shipping fee is way too expensive and sometimes they cost more than the merchandise itself. But now, you can drop by Divisoria or anywhere in Manila and you’ll find a k-pop merch at a cheap price! Imagine!
5. Watching videos without subtitles
The struggle is real when the most anticipated appearance of your idol on a TV show comes out only to find out that there are no subtitles! So you just end up waiting for someone to upload the subtitles and for the extreme level, you find time in learning the Korean language and wish to speak Korean so you can watch in peace. To become a fan might be one of the most challenging roles to play but believe me when I say that it is just one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
/Cover photo from SM Entertainment