I was in my office this morning (no, I am not an unemployed liar, thank you!) when a new PLWHA client of mine called up. Since she's from out of town, I thought it would be best if I took the opportunity to meet up with her. So, I told her to wait in front of the paediatric clinic, and I'd look for her there.
We never met each other before, we just spoke on the phone yesterday. So, how was I supposed to recognise her? This was the hospital we were supposed to meet at, with so many people around! Easy, I went to the paediatric clinic, took out my handphone and called hers. When I saw one lady about to answer her phone, I went to her and ask, "Ani?" She nodded. I just found myself a new friend.
Ani is 30 years old. Her first husband died a few years ago. What of, I don't know. She didn't know either, because in the death cert, the cause of death was "cakap orang putih, saya tak paham", so she said. (It was written in English and she didn't understand) Ani knew her late husband was an injecting drug user, although the rest of her family members never knew that. However, Ani never suspected anything. She herself felt very healthy. Even if the cause of death was written in a language she understood, she probably didn't know that it was an opportunistic disease and whatever its relation was to HIV.
2 years ago, Ani remarried. Her husband is a very responsible man. Although 3 years younger than her, he is the eldest in a not so well to do family. With 4 siblings still schooling and parents already elderly, Ani's husband has to work hard to feed the whole family. And indeed, he's such a responsible man.
Ani didn't have any children from her previous marriage. She only got pregnant after her second marriage. What a joy it must have been for her. But the joy was shortlived when she was told she was HIV positive. Her CD4 count was only 20+ (in laymen term, the CD4 cells are the "soldiers" in your body which help to fight viruses and diseases). For a moment (a long moment!), Ani felt like she was in total darkness.
Immediately her husband was called to do blood test as well. Indeed, he too was found to be positive, but his CD4 count was still okay. Ani is confident her late husband was the cause of infection, not her present husband. She felt guilty she had passed it on to an innocent victim.
But guess what? Unlike my earlier story on Maria, Ani's husband is very supportive. Yes, he cried when he first found out, but soon he got back to his feet and gave Ani his full support. He didn't feel sorry for himself, he felt more sorry for Ani who seemed unable to cope with the fact that she's been infected.
Ani's blood pressure was rather low when she was pregnant. As such, she was hospitalised 3 weeks before her due delivery so that the doctors could monitor her. Her husband backed her all the way, taking emergency leave from work to accompany her. As a result, he got sacked. Ani felt even more guilty, but her husband was cool about it. He told her not to worry and that he'd find another job elsewhere.
When Ani delivered, and relatives started visiting, her husband always knew how to back her up when they started asking why she wasn't breastfeeding the baby. Ani herself didn't know how to lie (she's not a blogger lah ;-)) or how to twist and turn...
For the moment, nobody else knows about the pair's HIV status. They live in a kampung where there are lots of "kay-poh-chees" saying things about others, even things they weren't sure of. Once one guy died and the people suspected he died of AIDS, Ani's own mother-in-law came home and said, "Aku tak boleh terima kalau ada dalam keluarga kita sakit macam tu." (I won't be able to accept it if any of our family members have that disease.) That's it. Ani and her husband will definitely not tell the mother about their status.
Coincidentally, I have another PLWHA client in the small town where Ani lives. When I asked Ani if I could visit her at home whenever I intend to visit this other lady, Ani told me she has heard other kampung people talking about this single mom whose youngest child has HIV. With all the description Ani gave, I knew she was talking about the very same person I meant. Duh! Not only are they staying in the same small town, they are even staying in the same kampung!! What a small world!
So I told Ani, see... you're not alone. And compared to this other lady, Ani is luckier as she still has a husband to support her. The other lady is a single woman who has 4 children to take care of, including one who is infected.
Honestly, I do admire Ani's husband. He wasn't the cause of infection. He himself was a victim. But he never regretted it. Unlike most of my other clients' husbands, this one's a very responsible man. Ani may be unlucky to have been infected with HIV, but she's so lucky to have married such a responsible man. I reminded her that today. And I know she's thankful.