Why I told the world I have HIV
WHEN I was first diagnosed with HIV in 2009, I was very fortunate to have friends who put my doubts and insecurities to rest with their support.
As the virus was detected early, my treatment was smooth and I could keep my condition under control. Six months later, my health continued to improve and I was living just like any other healthy person.
It was in 2011 that I got involved in a documentary by film director Royston Tan. Titled 48, it was a follow up to 48 On Aids, a 2001 documentary about people working to reduce the stigma of HIV/Aids.
I watched 48 On Aids and it inspired me to volunteer to work on its sequel, for which my task was to look for people living with HIV to be interviewed without masks or voice alterations.
Nothing prepared me for the wall of rejection that followed.
It dawned on me that nobody wanted to be identified as a HIV-positive individual as there was no incentive for them to step forward.
Instead, they faced discrimination, judgment and alienation.
Coming out as HIV positive would mean throwing away their jobs, and losing the trust of their loved ones.
I remember thinking: "If I cannot convince myself to come out, how can I convince others to?"
When a person is infected, everything that makes up who they are is often reduced to nothing. All that others can see is their HIV-positive status and they cease to represent anything else.
It has been 30 years since HIV exploded into our world and, while we now know what causes it and how we can manage it, it is still treated with so much fear and misunderstanding.
This has driven me to face my own fears and take a stand against HIV discrimination.
I hope that my actions can help people see all the building blocks that make up who I am. One of those blocks happens to be HIV, a chronic illness that is manageable.
I want to be treated just like anyone else, and I will not allow my life to be controlled totally by HIV.
Coming out was not an easy decision - neither was it an act of impulse. The big push came last year during the Action For Aids' 8th Singapore Aids Conference.
As part of the Action For Aids committee, I volunteered to give a local perspective of living with HIV.
Over the past year, I have received plenty of support. I have also completed my part-time degree in communications, performed well in my job, given talks to many companies and coordinated campaigns.
Yet, fear remains.
Would any company be able to look past my HIV status and value my abilities? Would I still be able to date? Would I be able to pay for my medical expenses?
While more people are willing to show their support for people diagnosed with HIV, there is more work to be done to increase awareness.
More people need to be able to come out safely and to speak about their experience with HIV.
While I have shared my story, it is only one, compared to the countless stories that go unheard.
The writer, 28, who works as a senior executive at Action For Aids, is Singapore's only publicly-known person living with HIV. He is supporting the #someonelikeme global Aids-awareness campaign by Durex and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, in conjunction with World Aids Day on Sunday.