Living with HIV in Singapore means living a life of silence. Most young Singaporeans with HIV keep their condition a secret from all but a few close friends or family members. Why? Because the Singaporean society and social structure cringes away from HIV-infected individuals. Families cut ties, former friends back away, and opportunities for advancement disappear. Find out what life is like for two young people with HIV in Singapore – stories that we collected from the web.
When 18-year-old Brandon (not his real name) became sick for weeks with a fever, he told anyone who asked that it was dengue fever. The truth was much worse. Brandon’s test results from the clinic came back as HIV positive.
Brandon felt depressed and alone during the weeks after the diagnosis. It wasn’t news that he felt he could share with anyone. At the time, he was a student at a local institute. Finally, he broke the news to four classmates, friends whom he felt he could trust. Two years later, Brandon still hasn’t told his parents. He just isn’t sure how they would react, and he’s afraid of being kicked out of their home.
Right now, the money for Brandon’s life-sustaining HIV medications takes a chunk of 60 per cent out of his weekly allowance. He needs to take 4 pills every day in order to help his body keep HIV in check, and he’ll have to continue that regimen for the rest of his life.
Ten-year-old Violet (not her real name) has been HIV positive all her life. She received it from her mother, who most likely received it through a contaminated needle during fertility treatments. Violet’s mother did not realize what had happened until Violet was three. When the family applied for visas to move to Singapore, they discovered that both the mother and Violet were HIV positive. Fortunately, Violet’s father was HIV-free. He loved his family enough to stay with them and help them face the diagnosis. Other men in the same situation, however, have not been so understanding.
Violet’s mother struggles with guilt and sadness because she passed HIV on to her daughter, even though she did so unknowingly. Violet feels sad about it because her mother does, and she understands that she shouldn’t talk about it to others, not even her friends. She knows that she may not be able to have children because of the risk of passing HIV to them. For the rest of her life, she will have to take medication. The social silence and the restrictions on her future life are heavy burdens for a 10-year-old to carry.
When you think about HIV and protecting yourself against it, remember that the risk doesn’t just apply to you. It applies to your loved ones and any future children that you may one day desire to have. In Brandon’s case, having unprotected sex with multiple partners led to the HIV infection. Had he been more careful, he might never have contracted the virus.
Be smart and implement multiple layers of protection for yourself if you are sexually active with a number of partners. If you suspect that you have been exposed to HIV, go immediately to Shim Clinic for STD testing. Once the results are in, the STD clinic can advise you about HIV PEP treatment if you are infected. If your results are negative, take the time to think about the dangerous chances you are taking with your health and your quality of life. Is the fun really worth the risk?