empathy

The person behind the disease

Patrick Cabral_ART

Behind each story is a name, a person, a prologue, and an epilogue. This is what calligraphy artist Patrick Cabral tries to capture in his Instagram series #nameswithstory. Here is Mark’s story of what life is like with HIV:

My name is Mark and I was diagnosed with HIV just a year ago. So, what got me to finally get checked up was when I started to feel really sick, I was skinnier than my usual frame (30 pounds less than what I am used to), and generally my whole health was slowly deteriorating without form of progress from any medicine.

mark

Upon being diagnosed, I had this feeling that I am ‘Mark-ed’ for life. And I often joked that I wouldn’t live past 40 or something like that. I know, drama or whatever. But this only epitomizes the saying that “Life is too short.” A phrase we often throw around carelessly. It only became more enlightening when I got stranded in Hong Kong. I realized my world was so small and I could still do things and push further. So I started to backpack, couchsurfing even. I also realized how far I’ve gone because I was in front of a beautiful monument, the Angkor Wat, in a year after I was diagnosed.

This condition opened up an issue that should be addressed. I realized we are not receiving the right information about HIV/AIDS. The way the condition is communicated in my country is often sexualized or perverted. Our society paints the condition to the public as something to be feared, that HIV/AIDS is a ‘GAY’ thing, when, ironically, the first documented case of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines is from a woman, not a gay man. Which only made it more plausible that the condition can affect anybody, regardless of socio-economic status, age, race and lifestyle choice.

I was pissed I couldn’t find a proper local resource for HIV online and/or they usually use this beat up trope of a sexified image of a naked torso and it just irked me to open those sites at work when I needed information.

People live with HIV/AIDS everyday. It isn’t just a fluke or a 1/100 chance that you’ll survive. Take a test, get into care, and stay in care. Everyone can survive, taking a test and getting ‘Mark-ed’ for life isn’t the worst thing in the world. Also, getting tested isn’t a mark of shame, it should be a mark of bravery whether it comes out positive or not. A lot of people get HIV/AIDS without knowing where they got it from. I, for one, don’t know where I got it, from where or from who, but I am focusing on what I can do right now. To be forgotten is worse than death, as I always say, so do make what you do now meaningful.


For more #nameswithstory visit Cabral’s instagram.