"A Kind of Love Called Concealment"
By Shiu Ka-chun
(Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Hong Kong Baptist University)
If you notice the word "get" in "forget", "over" in "lover" and "end" in "friend", then it is not surprising to see a "lie" in "believe".
My name is Yeung Cheung, which means flying or gliding, like a plane in the air, or a rig in the stormy sea. I hope you will remember this alias, and I hope I can really be that - going with the flow and letting go in the end. In front of the ups and downs of life, all I gain is out of luck while all I lose is fate. Then, when I die, I have nothing to do with this world. However, life never follows our will.
I am 68 years old. I have a family: a wife and a daughter. My wife has been very good to me. My daughter trusts me a lot and got married recently. In 1997, I got a medical problem. I knew that a Yau Ma Tei Clinic could do free tests for sexually transmitted diseases from the newspaper. I had never got tested and I got told: "Sorry, the result is positive." I felt the world was going to end. "Why am I the chosen one?" I was very aggrieved. We often say, "We hear the sound of heartbreaking". Only until then did I know that was not true. Heartbreaking is silent. At that moment, even my blood ceased to flow. I could only feel the silence of life. I knew I was undergoing a change. That was not pain, but a kind of distortion, an indescribable sorrow. Apart from that, my health was deteriorating: I lost my weight down to 48kg and my immune system was so weak that I constantly suffered from diarrhea and vomiting. What was worse was that I heard that AIDS patients could live 7 years more maximum. 7 years...
Emigrating to Hong Kong in the 70s, I first worked at construction sites. Being an illiterate knowing no one here, I did not have much choice. The job paid well though it was tough and the money came with sweat and tears. I tried hard to save money and even made this as a source of happiness. One dollar, two dollars, three dollars... I saved up bit by bit. In the early 90s, I finally got enough to start a small business. A printing company. Throughout the 20 years, it has gone better and worse and I have had profit and loss. Perhaps I knew that was the nature of running a business - it was once prosperous and went desolate once, so I never got too tense about it. I never got greedy when it was well, nor miserable when it went down.
If saving every penny was the story of working at construction sites, working forever was that of running a printing business. Regardless of the spirit of Lion Rock, I only knew it was better to have business than having none. Instead of waiting for the worst to come, you should always get prepared when you are better-off. I worked day after night, night after day... Everyone knew I was a workaholic, certainly did my wife too.
It has been over a few decades since I last had sex with my wife. In the beginning, I was so busy from work that I was completely drained after work and lost my appetite for sex. As I grew older, she understood there was a decline in sexual performance. Later she had a surgery for her uterus, losing her drive too. Naturally we started to sleep in different rooms. We no longer needed to think of an excuse to justify that. Great.
I have had other sex partners, that is, I have had sex with people other than my wife. Maybe you would find it hard to believe, but we infected ones often have trouble tracking the source and time of acute infection. Searching for that does you nothing good anyway. Fleeting it was, I honestly did have the thought of "why am I chosen". Then I realised I do not have much time and "making my life less sad" is already a tough job!
I am one of the first generation of Hong Kong AIDS patients who received Cocktail Therapy for AIDS. The pills were huge and did not smell good. I had to take 7-8 pills each time on time and store them in the refrigerator. It was highly inconvenient. Even after more than a decade, I still remember their weird taste, which I could never get rid of despite several ways I attempted. Countless times I vomited bile due to this taste. We preferred to die rather than taking them. They also had a side effect - numbness in legs, from soles, insteps, shanks to knees. The doctor said I would forever suffer from the numbness if it went all the way to thighs. I was very worried and luckily that did not happen. I was sent to "Lookout", a hospice centre which did not fail its name. The quiet environment, great staff and facilities made it a great place for death. Yes, most residents said their goodbyes there. I remember one of the board members was a British nun. She was once asked why they bought some comfortable expensive beds: "The patients are gonna leave the world soon, that makes them more comfortable!"
Curing my body, the hospice centre in Tai Po was my first benefactor. Even though it is now closed and the nun is back to the U.K, I still keep contact with her. Hong Kong AIDS Foundation was my second benefactor. I applied for the financial aid when I had some financial issues, they immediately granted me over a thousand dollars. I burst into tears when the money was in my hands. AIDS Concern was the third one. I first understood what care and respect meant after living so many years. The CEO Loretta at that time was still a young lady. Perhaps she was too irritated by the discrimination in Hong Kong, she invited me to be her partner: She encouraged me to organise Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisation, invited me to be a board member and asked me to join the planning meetings for the community. More importantly, she invited me to Poland, Los Angeles, Beijing for international meetings. I barely knew a word, let alone the English language. Thanks to Loretta, she did three hours of interpretation on the spot for me. Yes, three hours, at the meeting for AIDS works in Warsaw in Poland. My hearing problem made it an even harder job. Needless to say, despite my advice when her voice got hoarse - to rest, she still insisted on translating every single word though missing some parts was not a big deal for me. At that moment, I realised, not only do people living with HIV need treatments but respect.................. to be continued.
The full version is available in "Something Positive ─ 5 Love Stories of People Living with HIV" .