THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

HIV/AIDS - The Stigma & Discrimination

After reading the posting at rantingsbymm on the subject of HIV/AIDS, I immediately clicked on the comments link as this is a subject I am directly involved in. Initially I had wanted to give some real-life examples of discrimination faced by my own PLWHA clients and their families… but after giving it some thoughts, I figured my comment could end up longer than MarinaM’s original posting… ;-)

If it’s going to be lengthy, I might as well give the examples in my own blog...

So, here comes some examples of the discrimination faced by PLWHAs assigned to me or my fellow buddies in my NGO:

1. Ifa – mixed reaction by family members. One or two are understanding enough, but most of her own sisters prefer to get separate sets of household utensils so they would not have to share things with her. Ifa used to work at a food stall, but her father, who was ashamed of her, sort of disowned Ifa as his daughter and told the stall owner that Ifa was HIV+. Ifa lost her job… and to date she’s still unemployed. Ifa's mom is a bit more supportive, but her father told her mom, right in front of Ifa, "Biar dia mampus!"

2. Fuzi – a single mom. No thanks to a particular nurse who has a big mouth, the whole neighbourhood know of her HIV status. There are quite a few plant nurseries within the area where she lives; and Fuzi has tried to get jobs from the various nurseries, but the other workers there protested and so Fuzi couldn’t get any job. She is still unemployed and lives on welfare aid of RM115 per month to feed 5 children. (For God’s sake, can’t they increase the amount?!)

3. Mr K – due to his HIV status, his son Shah faces discrimination by some friends. Some parents who knew of Mr K’s condition, warned their own children not to befriend Shah, as he is the son of a “bad person”.

4. Lily – a single mom. When her husband died, one of his family members, who went to report his death at the police station, cited “HIV/AIDS” as cause of death. And so that was written on his death certificate. When Lily applied for financial aid for her children from their school, she had to give a copy of the death certificate to the school authorities. It didn’t take long for one of the teachers to call Lily to ask about her children’s status. When Lily replied that her children were tested negative, the teacher insisted that Lily must provide evidence (letter from the hospital) indicating that the children were indeed not infected.

5. Letchumy – another single mom. One day she needed to see the dentist and got a referral letter from the HIV clinic. When she went to the dental clinic and showed the letter, the nurses there asked her to wait outside first. Meanwhile… they equipped themselves with all sorts of protection and made it so obvious to her. The dentist herself was very nice and friendly, but damage was already done. Letchumy came out crying – not from the pain of dental treatment but from the inhumane treatment she received from the other staff there.

6. When Gurmeet, an HIV+ lady died, immediately a group of undertakers, who were supposed to have been trained to deal with the burial of HIV persons, was called to help out. They didn’t even dare touch her. Without changing her clothes or anything, they simply lifted her using the bedsheet she was on when she died, and placed her inside the coffin – just like that! A few of my fellow buddies who were there, commented that she deserved to be given some respect at least, to which one of the undertakers replied, “You know or not she died of what?” Irritated, my fellow buddies decided to do things themselves. The least they could do was to change her clothes.. Again one of the undertakers approached my fellow buddies, “Sister, she has AIDS lah sister!” This time my friend looked at them and said, “Yeah, SO?!” They walked away, probably thinking, “What lah this stupid woman… AIDS also donno…”

Oh, there are other examples I can give. But let me give you just one more example – this time about Anne, who lived in a remote kampong area. The kampong folks who knew about her HIV status wanted her to move out of the kampong as she was supposedly a “disgrace” to the community. They didn’t tell her directly to move out but they did all sorts of things to make her feel uncomfortable staying there. Anne held on at first; but one day she woke up to find all her ducks and chickens dead (ahah... guess whose doing?) – THAT WAS IT! She gave up and moved out…

Yes, all the above happened right here in beautiful Malaysia – where the people are supposedly known as “nice and friendly”...

Unbelievable? BELIEVE IT!

7 comments:

raden galoh said...

Pi,
I believe you!! There are still discrimination at the macro and micro level in this country...I don't know if it is because of the shallow understanding of the education and awareness about cancer or a mere refusal to accept the facts dealing with AIDS/HIV+ patients...Many still give the disgusting looks to them.

But a father making a remark of 'biar dia mampus' is worst than 'kurang ajar'! Where is the unconditional love of a father?

Ya Allah! Kau berilah hidayahMu dan petunjukMu kepada golongan yg menindas ini...Amin.

raden galoh said...

pi...
laaa..tertulis about cancer lak...about HIV+ and AidS should be nye...
Sori...

Daphne Ling said...

Kak Pi,
I wish I came here to shoot you down and proudly proclaim to the world that you are a pessimist who insists on seeing the worst in everything.
Unfortunately, I would then have to shoot myself too.
Sad, isn't it? People with AIDS and HIV need more support than all of us, and yet, they receive ten times less. And what is worse is that it's usually not through a fault of theirs.
I tabib you for the work you're doing, and may God reward you in His own subtle way, and I pray it is health for you and your loved ones.
Daphne

Monster Mom said...

I can't imagine the time that they have to go through every single day. My heart goes out to them...

The mentality of average m'sian is still below par.. as AIDS and cancer are concerned.

Hanya Allah yang dpt beri hidayah dan kekuatan pada mereka yg teraniaya ...

Naa said...

hi k.pi,

the dentist story really got my attention. What actually hurt that lady? was it because she had to wait outside while they prepare? or was it because of the preparation itself? was she hurt because they used special & different instruments for her? Or was it the attitute of the staff? but you said the dentist was friendly and nice.. then what exactly was the problem? How not to make it obvious? were the assistants preparing the instruments too loud? If u could be more specific than maybe i could use this story as a tip as to how to handle hiv+ve patients and other patients with similar problems.

But i think patients have to know that We also have the reponsibility of not transmitting any disease from patients to us, us to patients and patient to patients.. hence the rigid infection control practice.

Pi Bani said...

Naa,
The problem was they treated her as though she shouldn't come anywhere near them until they got ready. Yes, they need to take precautions but all the preparations that needed to be done, shouldn't it be done on EVERY single patient? How would they know if one day, an HIV+ person may come into the clinic
without them knowing his/her status - and they'd treat her like any other patients. And yet, when they knew this person had HIV, they treated her differently. For accident cases for example, how can you tell if the person has HIV or not? Therefore you need to take precaution for every single case, not only on the ones you KNOW got HIV. That way nobody need to feel like an alien...

I'm sure the dentist knew that, that's why she treated this lady just the same way she'd treat others. But the other staff... now that's a different story. And oh, I didn't tell you that they were whispering to each other when this lady walked in to see the dentist.

Naa said...

oh, i see.. yes, we have to take universal precaution to every one, u r right. well, about the attitude, we still have a lot of hard work to do to correct them. the nearest hospital organises hiv updates to its staffs and public ( usually people from other government sectors are invited)every now and then . i hope they'll learn and make full use of the knowledge they gained from there. btw, thank you.