Tin-Tin* was 26 and working in Hong Kong when she met her boyfriend, Andrew*. They had been dating exclusively for more than 4 years when a family problem brought her back home to the Philippines. Here, she found out that not only was she unexpectedly pregnant—she was HIV-positive.
An HIV test was offered as part of her pre-natal exams and she decided to take it, even if getting HIV was farthest from her mind. When she got the results, Tin-Tin was devastated. "I didn’t even know much about HIV. I just knew it was for gays and prostitutes—not something that could happen to me."
Tin-Tin was convinced that Andrew had cheated on her and broke up with him. "I was having sex only with him. How else could I have gotten infected?" Tin-Tin decided to stay in the Philippines to get away from Andrew and be with her family. Her baby, thankfully enough, was not infected with HIV.
Tin-Tin, now 40, is raising her child on her own and is active in HIV advocacy work, particularly in creating better awareness of HIV among women. "We think that as women, we won’t get infected. But that’s not true, just look at me."
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, estimates that 50 million women are at risk for HIV infection through intimate partner transmission.
Women are mostly infected by HIV not because of their own sexual behavior but because their boyfriends or husbands engage in unsafe behavior like buying sex or injecting drugs.
According to the report, more than 90% of the 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia acquired the virus from their husbands or from their boyfriends while in long-term relationships.
If you suspect that your partner has been sleeping around, notice any unusual vaginal discharge, or just want to check your status, consider getting an HIV test. Free and anonymous testing and counselling is available at testing clinics like Love Yourself and Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP). Prices for HIV testing at private hospitals like St. Luke’s Medical Center and Medical City range from P1,000 to P1,500.
Where can I get tested?
Free and confidential HIV Testing is available at the Love Yourself Testing Center with branches along Shaw Boulevard and Taft Avenue. Check www.loveyourself.ph or call 0915.366.5683 for more information. Love Yourself counselors can answer questions via PMs sent to their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/loveyourselfanglo.
You can also check out the Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP) along Shaw Blvd. Find out more about services offered at SHIP through their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheSHIPFoundation.
What if my HIV test comes out positive?
Get in touch with the DOH Epidemiology Bureau through their Facebook page,www.facebook.com/HIVepicenter. They can help guide you through the next steps and link you to support groups.
* Name has been changed.
This article originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine’s May 2016 issue. Minor edits have been implemented by the Cosmo.ph editors.