Most people in Singapore would not know of people who are HIV-positive. This is because there is a stigma that is attached to the virus; many HIV-positive patients feel much safer not revealing their status to others. In fact, there are about 500 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Singapore every year – when patients test positive while undergoing HIV testing in Singapore. In this article, we will explain how being diagnosed as HIV-positive has changed the lives of such individuals, in order to better understand what it is really like living with the virus.
Being diagnosed HIV-positive
Over 40% of those who are tested positive for HIV are aged under 30. This is a significant and constantly growing number. Many of these new patients fall under the category of men who have sex with men.
In 2016, The New Paper conducted an interview with a 19-year-old boy who was diagnosed as HIV-positive while undergoing his Polytechnic studies. The interview was conducted anonymously, but the accounts and stories of Brandon (not his real name) were somewhat reflective of what it could feel like being newly diagnosed with HIV after visiting an STD clinic in Singapore.
In the interview, Brandon recounted his experience of being informed of his condition. The period that followed was filled with dread. “It was like waking up with a hangover every day,” he was quoted saying. He had to wait another two weeks before receiving the results of his confirmation test – which confirmed his status.
Facing discrimination as an HIV-positive individual
Since finding out about his status, Brandon has not yet told his parents, as he does not know how to break the news to them. He has heard stories of parents chasing their children out of the home after they come out as HIV-positive and he is afraid of such an outcome. As a result, he is currently paying for his subsidised medication out of his own pocket money, costing him over $60 a month.
He has kept the secret so well that only four of his closest friends know of his status.
Not surprisingly, such situations are not uncommon among youths who are diagnosed as HIV-positive. These youths are somewhat trapped, as they do not have the independence to resolve financial problems on their own. It can also be very emotionally draining to be keeping the virus as a secret from their parents.
Brandon noted that before he was diagnosed as HIV-positive, he also subscribed to some common myths that were propagated by the people around him. He was quoted saying, “I thought I wouldn’t be able to share cutlery or food. Once I got HIV, I had to learn that those were just myths. I was schooled by the virus.”
Since then, he has slowly come to terms with being HIV-positive. He continues to partake in normal daily activities, including sports and exercise. While the future looked bleak at first, Brandon is now looking forward to living his life after graduating from Polytechnic.
Understanding the lives of HIV-positive individuals is key in building empathy for this marginalised community. It’s also good to know – so you can react appropriately when anyone comes out to you as HIV-positive. The key point to remember is that it is no longer a death sentence to be told you are HIV-positive, and the everyone should not treat it as such.