For 24-year-old certified public accountant Jules Christian Sulit, the word “positive” took on a different meaning 10 months ago, when he decided to undergo HIV testing in Mandaluyong. A thick veil of grief hovered his sky.
“I actually had this gut feeling that something was wrong that time,” he confessed. “Before the results were revealed to me, I was talking to myself. Kung ano man iyan, life must go on. Kung positive, gawin ang dapat gawin. If negative, then I`m lucky and have to be more careful from now on.”
Nightmare come true
What he feared for materialized: the result turned out reactive, meaning HIV is now in his body, part of his system, and now integral in his life. Mornings have been eerily cold for him, bereft of warmth.
“Despite that self talk before getting the results, despite all the knowledge I had before of the virus, it was not easy to accept,” Julius confessed. “I was struggling with myself. I was trying to keep a positive outlook in life but I can’t help getting scared. What would people say? Would my family still accept me? How long would I live?”
Slowly, he had to build a support group, but he needed to talk to the people closest to him, starting with his female friend and eventually with his family. “Her concern for me helped a lot in accepting the situation.”
The hub in which he tested also reached out to him and compelled him to immediately seek treatment. With family and friends, there was an acceptance even if he felt that they were disappointed at the onset.
Julius recalled that he went risqué after a painful breakup. “I was aware of all the risky behaviors that I did,” he said.
While the journey to healing and self-preservation was made easier with family and friends, he still felt alone.
Until he met Faustine Luell Angeles at a social media site. “I was surprised how ‘out’ he was,” he recalled, as Faustine openly wore his “positive” badge on his sleeve. Julius reached out and made a move to send him a message. Being under the same situation, they both hit it off. They are officially “in a relationship” six months ago, and started living together two months later.
“I learned a lot of things from him about our condition,” he recalled. “Faustine is very active in the advocacy for HIV awareness. He`s been living with the condition for six years now. When I have questions in my mind regarding our condition, he is the very first person I ask.”
Stand up and help yourself
In the company where he works as a junior accounts specialist, he has gradually opened to colleagues and even bosses that he trusted and confided with. They opened up and are as worried for his health when he works too hard. Still there are those ‘rumblings.’
“There are times when you hear some things [being said] behind your back and you just have to keep silent. But there are times that you have to stand up for [myself], not [only] because the attack [can be] personal, but because if you won’t [stand up], who else would?” While he feels vulnerable, he feels that the only person who can help him would be nobody but himself.
He also feels lucky to be inspired by his partner Faustine, who he considers a main source of inspiration. “He always tell me that you always have a choice. Having him keeps me going.”
Coming out (HIV) positive
Julius confides that it took a lot of courage to reveal his condition. After all, discrimination and stigma is as prevalent and as ‘viral’ as HIV and AIDS in the communities where Julius and Faustine and many people like them live and work.
“The only way to battle it is to keep getting people informed. As what my partner Faustine would say, ‘if prejudice is an illness, information is the cure.’”
He added that by informing people of how they deal with this, it can contribute to prevent the spread not only of the virus, but also of the fear of it.
“HIV does not only affect homosexuals; it affects all, regardless of gender, sexual preference, race, or religion. Maybe I was lucky that most people in my life were accepting and open minded about my condition, but someone out there might not be. And that person might need you. Just imagine if that someone is a person close to your heart – your friend, your child, your sibling.”
At the same time, he feels that he is in pursuit of coming to terms with it. “I want to be at peace with myself,” he declared. “Coming out, I don`t have to keep things from anyone. And with that, I want others to know the value of self acceptance, in all matters. You need to come as you are. That way, I find that good things find you and that the things that truly matter remain.”
Life goes on
That thick veil of grief that once gripped him has since been lifted, and his heart has shifted to music. “I sing a lot. And I sing whenever I can,” he followed with a laugh.
And the mornings have been much better and warmer ever since. The first thing he feels waking up is appreciation. “I wake up and thank God for everything. There are a lot of things to be thankful for in this life. And a lot more things to look forward to.” With a partner like Faustine by Julius’ side, learning to be ‘positive’ has since taken a more profound, if not a brighter, meaning.
With much gratitude to Vincent Anthony Palma for making this encounter possible.