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)

Sunday, 18 March 2007

How Much Longer Do I Have?

I was relaxing at home on Saturday, after attending a wedding in the afternoon. There I was, lying on the couch (am not a potato couch though...), watching whatever was showing on TV. It was a Malay drama about a guy who had sex with multiple partners although he was already married.

To cut the long story short, he caused his innocent wife and his mistress to be infected with HIV. I am not going to comment much on that, but if I had not been involved with HIV-related work, the impression I'd get from the drama, amongst others, would be:

1. Those diagnosed with HIV will not have much time left to live. They will die SOON!
2. When they die, they'd have this terrible skin disease and their faces will look really scary!

It's no wonder that many of my PLWHA clients, when they're first diagnosed, and after they get over the "total darkness" part, amongst the first question they'd usually ask is, "How much longer do I have to live?" Then they'll wonder how terrible they will look when that time comes.

All the wrong perception people have on HIV (as shown in the drama I mentioned) makes the infected people lose hope! And when they lose hope, they easily get sick!

HIV itself doesn't kill a person. It attacks a person's immune system, yes! And over a period of time, the person's immune system will be destroyed. And when a person's immune system is destroyed, he/she can easily get opportunistic diseases. The thing that can kill them faster is not so much HIV, but the stigma and discrimination they have to face, especially when they don't have enough moral and emotional support.

I bet you if I introduced any of my PLWHA friends to you (without telling you they're HIV positive), you won't be able to tell they're infected. They may even look healthier and fitter than us (especially those of us who are not keeping fit!). Their immune system may be weak, but that doesn't necessarily make them sick!

Even the 2 death cases I had to face last year, people who didn't know they had HIV wouldn't be able to tell, for their faces looked normal. No skin diseases or the likes. Yes, some PLWHAs may get those scary looking skin diseases. But that doesn't mean every HIV+ person will get it.

Some PLWHAs may have some side-effects showing from the medication they take, but most of them look just like you and me!

I remember Maria telling me that during her pregnancy when she had to do some blood tests, the nurse taking her blood samples was not wearing any gloves for protection (they are supposed to wear gloves whether or not the person they're dealing with has any infectious disease). So Maria asked, "Kak tak pakai sarung tangan ke?" And the answer was, "Alah lecehlah pakai sarung tangan! Lagipun awak bukan ada HIV!" Her face changed when Maria told her that she actually was HIV+.

I guess we still have a long way to go in educating the general masses about HIV. Just giving talks from time to time like what my fellow volunteers and I have been doing is not sufficient. More need to be done!

4 comments:

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

Pi,

it is a stark reality that many people still cannot tell fact from fiction of HIV.

Worse, people who are supposed to are not doing what they should to prevent -- like the nurse attending to Maria....

Thanks again for posting this story

raden galoh said...

Pi,
thank you for visiting my blog...and your blog does inspire me too...I'm touched that you have taken a bigger milestone in humanitarian...I salute you too!

by the way, I watched that movie too...

U.Lee said...

Hi Pi, hopped over from Ruby Ahmad's site. I sure learned something from your site today.
People like you don't grow on trees, you're a great lady. Helping people is always one of life's greater achievements.
I'm glad I am a busybody this evening and peeped into your blog and learning about someone like you. Best regards from Canada, Uncle Lee.

annckay said...

i admire those who do voluntary work.. it is not easy