Teen with HIV dreams of being accepted

BANGKOK - For years, teen has been defined not by who he is or can do but by the virus

Like everyone else, 15-year-old Boy (not his real name) wants to be accepted and loved by his peers. Boy has been living with the Aids virus for years and his dream is that one day he will be able to reveal his secret and people will stop turning away.

"I want to live the way others do. I want people to treat me the way they treat others. I want people to recognise my capabilities, instead of looking at my disease with bias," Boy told The Nation. The teenager hopes to become a scientist when he grows up,

Though he lost his parents while he was very young, he always believed that he was like everyone else until he got chicken pox at around the age of eight. That's when he had to undergo a blood test and learned he was HIV-positive.

He left his home in the South to come to Bangkok, where he was helped by a foundation and given advice on how to live with the virus. However, he has had to keep changing schools because his classmates find it difficult to accept him. He is in Grade 9 now.

Boy did not suffer discrimination only at school - he faced it at home, too. "My relatives kept my utensils separate," he said, adding that they were also very ashamed of him.

"The way people living with HIV are treated is unfair, especially since most people know that this disease cannot be contracted easily. People just know the word 'Aids', they don't really understand it. In fact, some people even see this disease as a joke.

"I really want to become a scientist, and my aim is to be accepted and recognised. I plan to study mathematics and science in upper secondary school and will try to enter one of the prestigious universities to study science. I like discovering new things and hope that I will be able to invent new things for my country.

"I want to be recognised for my abilities. Please don't reject me just because I have a disease," he said.

Apart from studying, Boy works as a waiter to earn a living. Though he feels no discrimination from his boss, life ahead doesn't appear to be smooth and easy.

There are two things that worry him the most - job opportunities and married life.

"I am worried that when I apply for a job, I will be asked to get my blood tested. Plus, I'm worried about whether any woman will accept me as a partner."

Still, Boy's biggest dream is that one day he will be able to tell people openly that he is living with HIV.

"I'm just waiting for that day," he said.