Friday, 13 February 2015

Love In The Time of HIV/AIDS

By Ram23 

Have you ever wondered what it’s like is to wake up in the morning feel like you are 10 or 20 years older, with pristine numbness in your heart, and you feel unlike a human being? Well, in some niche you will find where your life is heading to but it’s always too late for a realization or sometimes it occurs too early with numerous hindrances. Hard facts, yeah?

It’s certainly hard for me, living in a society with cultural norms, being a subjective subjugation and prejudice is the only thing you face first thing in the morning and also before you sleep, it’s a sheer wreck of emotion on a daily basis, except that you don’t have to pay for it, it comes with free scorn!

Love for a man from a man is considered wrong in this society where the internalization of homophobia happens even within the gay community itself. Even though transsexuality is something common in Malaysia and people are slowly breaking free from the usual stigma, homosexuality seems to create new chaos, at least in Malaysia. People are more comfortable with pedophiles than the term homosexuality.

Jay and I were together for 3 years and it all started 6 years ago. I was 16 and smart enough to access internet and got my first computer. Growing up as an Indian in an orthodoxed family, you have to put aside your interests and behave like a “Man”, they say. I was 10 when I told my parents that I wanted to learn ballet but instead they sent me to Tae Kwando class. Dance is for girls, the first stereotype I faced.

I got to know Jay through PR (Planet Romeo, a gay dating site) 3 years ago. We first started chatting casually and going on outings. He was a good guy and possessed all the characteristics that I ever wanted in a man. He was an engineer in one of the private firms. We were happy for the first 12 months. We shared a lot of things, except his secret. I was in love with him, and I confessed my interest towards him. He asked me to wait, and that’s how our awkward dinner ended.

We were indulged in love for the last 2 and half years. He introduced me to his parents as his best friend and I did the same. Isn’t it funny and sad when you know someone is your better half but because of your orientation you couldn’t tell your parents that he is the one you want marry. Wait, marriage? Informing parents? It’s an alien term for Christ sake.

He was living with his parents and I was still studying at the time. He would come and stay with me at my hostel. We had many intimate moments together. Saturdays and Sundays were always the best days of my life. It wasn’t just about sex but the acceptance and the feeling of having someone important in your life taking care of you. The way he caresses my hair and he kisses my forehead, I wish the time would just freeze. How do you feel when your partner leaves you every Sunday and you have to wait for the week to be over just to get together with him, and just because of society’s perception and stigma you can only hold hands within the lock of four walls but in public you are just his “friend” and nothing more? I’m really jealous of straight couples; at least they have freedom, freedom to love. 

Yeah, we couldn’t possibly get married legally; we can only be closeted gay couples. But, it was as usual, until 2 months ago. I was sick. I went to see my therapist and he got my screening done. Normal prescription was given and I felt weak and in worse conditions even after 2 weeks of medication. The doctor asked me to wait for my test report and then he told me I have been diagnosed with HIV. I’m going to die soon.

I called Jay and…I kept quiet. I couldn’t talk. I wiped my eyes without realizing that my face was drenched with tears. I ended the call without saying anything but I heard him say “Hey, Ram, say something, why you are quiet?” My life was too quiet for words. 2 days after knowing my status, I received a call from Jay’s parents. I was in my room with closed curtains so there’s no way for light to penetrate in, as if the sun light will kill me instantaneously. “Hello, Ram? Jay got in an accident on his way back from work. Could you come?” was the single line from a trembled voice. 

Before the crash, Jay received a text message from me. “Jay, I’m HIV POZ”. The last word I heard from him was sorry as he begged for my forgiveness. It’s a miracle to get Mr.Perfect in a gay relationship despite all the stigma, and it’s hard to get a loyal one. Jay left me with the stain of his memory that kills every part of my cells with every tick of a minute. 

Hope and faith is the two poles that I cling to while counting my days and waiting to see him again, at least in different dimension. If only people had given us the chance to live the life we wanted, Jay wouldn’t have died and I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of my life alone with sickness. We are not sex symbols, we are not selling ourselves for pleasure and we are not topics of entertainment. We are human; just like you, if only you had given us the opportunity, but instead I live a stranded life, in the middle of the metropolitan, with his love and memory! 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Da Ma Cai Chinese New Year Charity Program

Words & Photographs by Manis Chen

Baru-baru ini saya berpeluang menyertai majlis penyerahan sumbangan kewangan dari pihak Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd. Majlis bertemakan “Da Ma Cai Chinese New Year Festival Charity Program” telah diadakan di Jalan Utara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.  

Lebih 30 buah badan bukan kerajaan, rumah perlindungan dan persatuan di sekitar Selangor, Pahang dan Wilayah Persekutuan telah dijemput menghadiri majlis ini. PT Foundation adalah satu-satunya NGO yang tidak melibatkan diri dalam aktiviti penyediaan rumah perlindungan atau penjagaan kanak-kanak kurang upaya. Keprihatinan pihak penderma terhadap aktiviti yang dilakukan oleh NGO-NGO ini adalah amat mengharukan kerana kebanyakan mereka bukanlah nama-nama besar dalam bidang yang mereka lakukan dan amat mengharapakan bantuan dari sektor korporat. Dari pemerhatian saya juga, NGO-NGO ini lebih bersifat tempatan, memberi khidmat kepada masyarakat setempat. 

Pertunjukan Tarian Singa

Para tetamu majlis telah dihiburkan dengan pertunjukan tarian singa, persembahan berkumpulan dari kanak-kanak spastik dan juga tiupan seruling oleh beberapa individu semasa acara berlangsung dan ketika makan tengahari dihidangkan. Hidangan yang disediakan adalah bertemakan makanan masakan cina.

Persembahan oleh kanak-kanak spastik

Setiap tetamu juga diberikan beg cenderamata yang berisi dua biji limau mandarin, air kotak dan sebotol air mineral. Selain itu, para tetamu juga mendapat ang pow dan ang pow berbentuk mata wang syiling cina kuno yang dibuat dari coklat.

Mengambil beg cenderamata dari Dewa Kekayaan

Saya berasa amat bertuah kerana dapat menyertai majlis ini dan amat berterima kasih kepada Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd atas jemputan dan sumbangan mereka kepada PT Foundation. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Note of Appreciation for CHCC

We received an appreciation note from one of our clients who came to the Community Health Care Center at PT Foundation for testing last semester. Thank you for your kind words, which I am posting part of it here:

The Community Health Care Center of PT Foundation.

I met with the most caring and sensitive personnel who promptly saw me and performed the tests in a very safe and private environment. I was very moved by the very reassuring and caring counsellor who took time to speak to me and explained in great detail about my condition and what options there were for me. A letter of reference was issued unconditionally for me to receive treatment at the SBH. I am very grateful to XXX who offered to drive me there for my first consultation and stayed with me right through. I felt understood, cared for and loved regardless of my condition. I have been on medication for three months now and I am now mentally stronger and I am focused on getting even better by living a healthy lifestyle. Thank you PTF!

From LifeLover KL,
4 Feb 2015

So Long But Not Goodbye

Words & Photographs by Sivalila Balakrishnan

On the 30th of January 2015, PT Foundation bid so long (but not goodbye) to one of the members of the PT family, Sivalila, affectionately known as Leela. This is a short perspective on her time here at PT Foundation. 

Sivalila Balakrishnan

I joined PT Foundation in January 2012. It was my luck that I was chosen and was appointed to work at PT Foundation. This was my first time working in an NGO, as I was working in a corporate line before joining PT Foundation.

On my first day at work, I was given a short briefing by Raymond (who was the Acting Executive Director at the time) for PT Foundation. Raymond introduced himself, and I said, "Nice to meet you sir." and the first thing he told me was, "Please don't call me Sir or boss, just call me Raymond." I was so inspired and shocked, because throughout my working life in corporate, I was so used to addressing my bosses as Sir or boss or MR.XXX. 

The PT Family

I always look down on myself because of my appearance, and at the same time, how people look down at me, thinking that I can't excel due to my personality. I never used to smile at people because I keep thinking that they are looking at me with scrutiny, there was always a feeling that people just don't like the way I am. But after joining PT, I finally feel like I am being myself, being SIVALILA BALAKRISHNAN.

Celebrating my birthday at PT Foundation

 I joined the volunteer team with Jeremy and that was first time I ever challenged myself to face people and talk to people. I got positive feedback. Ever since then, I began to smile and easily mingle with people that easily. My friends and family were shocked to see my changes and they were so happy to see me happy and smiling always.

The IHP team

I would like to thank PT Foundation for accepting me and giving me the chance to work closer with the community. Its not the end of my journey here, I will still volunteer and will always extend great support to PT Foundation.