I started reading blogs of pozzies as soon as I was diagnosed. From the blog of IamHPositive, I learned about Self Empowerment Training or SET. It is a group counseling program designed for pozzies. I got excited to join SET. But, in another blog, I learned that the facilitator is Dra. Rita. Uh... oh! Is she the Dra. Rita that I know? I asked my friend who knows Dra. Rita pretty well. Alas! It’s really her! Excitement became disappointment, coz I’m not ready to out my status to someone I know. And I'm too ashamed to reveal my status, my failure!
A year passed. Finally, I decided it was time for SET. I don’t care if Dra. Rita would remember me. But I really want to attend SET.
Honestly, I didn’t really expect much from SET, since I have long accepted my being a pozzie. I’m not depressed. And I've moved on. But I really wanted to join.
So I joined. I arrived at the hotel early. I was the 4th guy who arrived. One by one, SET participants came. The organizers were late. So, we were so quiet. No one was talking. Just looking, and trying to gauge each other. Or maybe, trying to check each other out. Till, my seatmate started to talk. Where’s your hub? Who’s your doctor? Did you get sick? What’s your cocktail? Common stuff that pozzies talk about. Oh, and by the way, to everyone’s surprise, we had a girl SETmate. :) A real girl, not pa-girl. :)
Then the organizers arrived. And the facilitator came. Guess who she was. It was expectedly, The Dra. Rita!!!
Time for introduction. When it was my turn, I finally told Dra. Rita that I know her. No big deal.
Then, we started to share our stories. It was an MMK night indeed. One story after another. Stories of sadness. Struggle. Fear. Tears. Depression. Disappointment. Betrayal. Sickness. Battle. But… behind the negative vibes, the night was filled with stories of Survival. Rebound. Love. Acceptance. Success. and Victory against the highly feared and stigmatized virus. Those stories bonded us together. For we have just shared the most hidden part of our lives to strangers... to our new found friends. To people like us. To people with similar battle, fear, and virus. Yeah, you can say that, HIV glued us together.
Sharing and laughter continued through the night, even after Dra. Rita dismissed us. Since we had a muse, we taught her how to Grindr. And gave her a 101 course on our vocabulary: top, bottom, versa. She's one of us now! :)
The day after, it was time to say goodbye. SET is over!
It’s true that SET did not remove my depression. For I'm not depressed to begin with. I’ve long accepted my status and moved on. But that doesn’t make SET a waste of my time. More than anything, it gave me new friends who would undoubtedly understand me as a pozzie. Someone with the same virus as mine. Same ARVs. Same fear. Same challenges.
As we close the program, Dra. Rita emphasized that even after diagnosis, we are the still same persons, with the same talent and skills. We only have the virus hiding underneath our blood, but it’s still the same us! All of us are living evidences. Myself included. Being one of SET participants with the most OI's upon diagnosis, I feel so blessed. For I survived them all. Look where I am now. Looking healthy and happy. Dra. Rita even said that she can no longer distinguish the way I look now with the the way I was before I got sick. I’m so back... "I found my way back into life!" :)
Again, fear not of HIV test. HIV is not a death sentence. It can be managed with early treatment. Get tested, while still pogi :) Don't repeat my mistake of not getting tested until I got so sick.