It was June of 2011, a friend invited me to a birthday dinner somewhere in Greenhills, in a nice Thai restaurant owned and operated by a gay couple named James and James. There I met several interesting people, mostly gay men, mostly members of the alta gays, as in alta sociedad (spoken with the obligatory lisp). But in the middle of all the chi-chi stuff going on, I noticed a very different species floating around, beckling beki of bekilandia proportions. His name, I would later find out, was Vinn Pagtakhan.
More than a birthday dinner, it was actually some sort of a meeting to discuss a new, emerging group that wanted to organize a community of volunteers to arrest the silent yet mind-blowing growth of HIV prevalence among young, gay and bisexual men in the country. I was there because I was personally very concerned. Earlier that month I had my very first HIV test, and while the result was negative (surprisingly!) I regardlessly broke down in front of my nurse-counselor. Why? Earlier that year, I’ve had 4 friends mysteriously and suddenly dying one after the other, dropping like flies. One day they were partying with me, the next I was in black attending their funeral. By the end of 2011, I had a total of 8 friends who died in much the same mysterious way. The whole thing was gradually but surely shaking me to the core.