Category Archives: HIV and AIDS

Charity work

FROM rampaging lahar flows in Pampanga to the great flood in Ormoc, Sister Aurora Macabebe was there to care for the dying and the dead.

“Isa ako sa mga namumulot ng patay, bringing their bodies to the funeral parlor,” the (then) 64-year-old nun said as she recounts her six-year stint as part of the disaster management team of the Daughter of Charity.

(Note: During the time of interview Sister Aurora is the spiritual counselor for patients afflicted with the deadly AIDS virus at the Halfway House in San Lazaro Compound in Sta. Cruz, Manila.)

Sister Aurora works for the AIDS prevention program of Caritas Manila. Aside from teaching hobby-craft to patients to temporarily relieve their minds of the inevitable (that is death), Sister Aurora conducted one-one-one counseling sessions with each patient.

But oftentimes, they walk an extra-mile for many “special cases.”

One such case is that of a patient whose only wish was to meet his mother whom he had not seen for a long time.

“I called up a fellow sister in Sorsogon to let the mother visit his ailing son. They hugged and kissed upon seeing each other. Now he’s very happy and seem to get stronger each day,”

The soft-spoken Ilongga sister, said doing social work entails equipping one’s self with KASE – knowledge, attitude, skill and experience.

She added that one must have self-discipline, good values, maturity, and knowledge of cultural values to be able to interact with different kinds of people.

“Before we really don’t mind about ourselves, but at this point in time, self is very important because you cannot give what you don’t have. So if we lack these things, we don’t know how to listen to them,” the nun stressed.

Citing her 15 challenging years as a social worker, Sister Aurora said she and others in the same profession perform a very unique role in the community as far as bringing individuals to the mainstream is concerned.

“When you see a sick person, whom do you call, a doctor; when somebody is at fault, you call the police or lawyer to defend; so when somebody is dying you call a priest to save his soul; but when somebody cannot interact with others or if somebody is maladjusted to his environment or his community, who is the one answering, intervening? It is the social worker,” she explained.

“My work here is very challenging, you only need a lot of patience, generosity and compassion. You cannot expect something from them but give them compassion and this can bring them back to God. In their last days, they could die a happy death,” she shared.

Sister Aurora said she has learned to love each of the patients at the half-way house.

Sister Aurora said a patient who ws not even a Catholic requested that the receive the Holy Communion before he died.

“He cannot find peace of mind, he later became a born-again Christian. He joined group sessions and activities like group singing. But when his time came, I asked him if he wants to see a priest, he agreed so we prayed for him, he took a communion that night at about 11 p.m. the man died. Hindi mabibili ng pera ang nararamdaman naming kaligayahan ng mga oras na ‘yon,” she narrates.

This article was one of the few articles I did for Courier, the flagship publication of PJI, before it folded up in 2000.

google-site-verification: google853e834cfbbb841f.html

Whatever Happened To Luigi

If you happen to visit this blog and read about Luigi’s story (see the following links here – Alternative Lifestyle, So Young, Chatroom, AIDS Advocacy) you’d probably wonder how he is now or his present state of health.

Luigi and I have been in touch for a time. We were connected through Facebook. Yesterday, I saw his status dated March 5 and feel deeply saddened by what he said in it. He is not feeling well (again) caused by his compromised immune system. He lacks enough sleep and barely eats because he vomits a lot.

His status tells a lot about what he feels and what young people need to know about being responsible individuals. Please read on:

When my time comes, please never idolize me. Include me in your prayers. Go back to the living God. Be good and repent for the sins we commit.

More than a month of not sleeping well, 2-4 hrs of sleep for the past 10 days. I have been vomiting and can’t eat for the past 2 days.

I just want to say farewell to all of you. My previous post was deleted by a friend with my request to protect my family but I believe it is my purpose to share it so I am posting it again to encourage everyone to look at their lives and to go back to God.

For the youth, especially the Filipino youth, live in simple ways and stay away from sins and evil things like drugs and sex. Do not do what I did. Enrich your soul. Always talk to Him in spirit.

This day, March 5th marks the 6th year of me receiving a news from a partner that I have to get tested for HIV, which came back positive. Please do not be stigmatized (which some of you may do). I am asking for understanding that I do commit mistakes.

I am sharing this so that our young people will somehow learn from me. Stay away from temptations and evil things. Always pray. Read the Bible and seek for its understanding. Don’t be like me who is a risk taker. We do commit mistakes but never let it happen again and again.

The Almighty Father has a plan for everyone. I am trying to accept and live mine. He is great and I believe he has mercy.

For God so love the world that he give his only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but live an eternal life. (John 3:16).

It was nice knowing you all. I am planning to go home to my province soon and might not be on FB anymore though my friend knows my account.

I want to take this opportunity to say sorry for those I have done wrong. Hugs!

I wish to make a follow-up story about his present condition, but will have to ask his permission again.

UPDATE:

More than three years after the interview above, I checked on Luigi’s FB account and I learned that he is in the US now. He looks healthy and living on his own.

A mama’s dying wish

mom and child

Four out of 10 Filipinos positive for the HIV virus that causes AIDS are women, infected mostly through sex with males. Photo credit: Arztsamui – FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As Angeline slowly closed her eyes and breathed her last, she whispered the names of her two children. They were the only reasons why she desired to live long, but her frail body was no match to the AIDS virus that has gradually eaten her life away.

Angeline (real name withheld) succumbed to cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. It is one of the many opportunistic infections affecting an individual whose immune system has been wasted by the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

CMV is a kind of herpes virus which usually produces very mild symptoms in an infected person but may cause severe nerve damage in people with weakened immune systems and in newborn babies.

Angeline met her painful death at the HIV ward of a government hospital in Manila three months ago (please note that I wrote this article in May 8, 2005).

In our interview with her last December, the 36-year-old native of Samar expressed her wish to be reunited with her two teenage children who were in the province with her paternal aunt.

“Huli kong nakita ang mga anak ko noong isang taon (2003), bago ako na-confine sa San Lazaro. Nagkahiwalay kami 5 pa lang ang panganay ko at three years old naman ang bunso. Nagkikita lang kami kung may okasyon, minsan ay hindi pa.

“Ang sabi lang nila sa akin ay magpagaling daw ako. Miss na miss ko na sila. Kung saka-sakali at manumbalik ang lakas ko at makapagtrabaho muli, gusto ko na magkasama-sama kami uli ng mga anak ko…”

Angeline failed to take her medicine because it was costly. “Kapag sobrang mahal ang gamot, minsan hindi rin ako nakakainom, o kaya humihingi ako ng tulong sa social worker. Hindi ko naman puwedeng asahan ang mga kapatid ko dahil may pamilya na rin sila at hirap din sa buhay,” said Angeline, frequently coughing in between sentences.

Angeline did not receive anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines when she was alive. ARVs slow down the AIDS virus from destroying the patient’s immune system.

Awaiting Death

Her friend Bobby Ruiz, of the Positive Action Foundation of the Philippines (PAFPI), told People’s Tonight in an interview yesterday that Angeline could have lived a little longer if only there were enough medicines to treat her CMV.

“Mako-control pa dapat ang CMV niya, pero walang gamot na available sa hospital dahil mahal. Kung magkaroon man ng stock, hindi rin kumpleto. Wala naman resources si Angeline para masuportahan ang medicines niya,” he said.

A drug store estimates that the generic medicine Ganciclovir vial used in treating CMV costs more than P2,000, administered for two weeks and even up to 21 days.

Ruiz claimed that indigent HIV patients confined in San Lazaro Hospital virtually await their death.

“Binibigyan sila ng reseta, ‘heto bilhin ninyo, ipasok ninyo sa Philippines Charity Sweepstakes Office, kung wala, wala tayong magagawa.’ Minsan may taning na, kailangan nang mainom ang gamot.

“Wait lang ang mga doctor, wait lang ang pamilya pati na ang pasyente hanggang sa mamatay sila.

“Masakit sa amin dahil nakikita naming ang kamatayan nila. Hindi alam ng pasyente na naghihintay sila saw ala. Kaya gumagawa kami ng paraan hanggang sa abot ng aming makakaya,” he said.

Her story

Angeline was widowed twice. She married at 16 due to poverty. Her second husband, a former worker in Hong Kong, died of AIDS complications four years ago.

Until his death in 2001, Angeline had no idea that her husband Rafael (not his real name) had HIV infection. It was the only time she learned about the dreaded HIV/AIDS. She got the infection from Rafael.

“Nagsama kami noong 1997. Alam niyang may sakit siya, pero hindi niya sinabi sa akin. Dati siyang OFW, naglilinis ng building. Nakuha naman niya ang virus sa una niyang asawa na nakilala niya sa Hong Kong.

“Namatay ang asawa niya sa AIDS complications sa San Lazaro. Pero ang sinabi niyang dahilan ng pagkamatay nito ay hepatitis,” said Angeline, who had worked as babysitter since she was 15.

Angeline, who also sold chili in Divisoria to support herself and the needs of her two younger siblings in the early 1980s, said that she didn’t have any idea that Rafael was ill.

“Wala akong nakitang symptoms sa kanya,” she said. “Kaya nang sabihin ng parents niya na may AIDS siya, ayaw kong pang maniwala, cardiac arrest kasi nakalagay sa death certificate niya.”

Nightmare

Angeline’s worst nightmare came in 2003 when her health began to fail. She was taken to San Lazaro Hospital for fever and profuse diarrhea. Further tests conducted on her revealed that she was positive for HIV.

“Magalit man ako kay Rafael wala na rin akong magagawa, nangyari na,” Angeline pointed out, tears falling down her cheeks.

The last time we talked to Angeline, she made an appeal for compassion: “Sana may tumulong man lang sa amin para makabili ng gamot. Nais pa rin naming mabuhay ng matagal at makapagtrabaho muli…”

Up to the last moment in her life, Angeline was hoping that she would be given the necessary medicine to relieve her pain.

“Si Angeline na walang mauwian, naghihintay na lang ng kamatayan niya. Inabot rin siya ng mahigit isang taon…Wala siyang pambayad ng hospital, eh. Ang mga katulad ni Angeline walang choice, kaya hindi siya makapagreklamo,” Ruiz said.

Angeline’s two children who were clueless of their mother’s cause of death didn’t make it to her burial.
There are more mothers — and father — with AIDS waiting for medical assistance, hoping and fighting to survive.  – Miriam V. Torrecampo (People’s Tonight, May 8, 2005)