It has been 3 years since I got involved in HIV voluntary work. I remember the first ever HIV+ person I met face to face was Wani. I was still under probation then and I had to follow a senior volunteer for house visits. Wani is a young mother with 2 kids - although her kids were confirmed negative when they were tested for HIV, the older son has hearing disability. So they always shout at home... even the younger brother. Oh I remember when I visited those kids at their home, as I left and said goodbye to them, the younger boy waved at me and shouted, "BYE OPAH!" (hah? Opah engkau panggil aku? Alahai... opah pun opah le cu oii...) Wani and her family have since moved back to Wani's hometown in another state.
I didn't get to meet many PLWHAs before I got confirmed. My NGO buddies desperately needed a Malay female volunteer and so they confirmed me before they could really assess my abilities. I was simply confirmed based on their impression that I looked comfortable with the job.
4 PLWHAs were assigned to me immediately upon confirmation. They were Ifa, Cikgu Maznah, Nina and Zainab.
I've already written about Ifa, the young lady who got infected due to her problematic teenage years, and is now having problems with some of her family members. I've also written about Zainab, the over-burdened wife and since her husband Zaki is positive, I do follow up on his case as well. But I haven't written anything on Cikgu Maznah and Nina.
There's nothing much to tell about them actually. Nina works daily from morning till night as a shop assistant. She always gave excuses for not wanting us to visit her at home, and it's hard to get hold of her on the phone. The way I see it, she seemed rather reluctant to have a buddy. I guess she only said yes the first time she was asked if she needed a buddy simply because she didn't know how to say NO outright. She has family support, so she doesn't really need a buddy. If anything, she has my number. I still send her raya cards every year with my phone number written, so if she needs me, she'll call.
At least I managed to speak to Nina. One person whom I have never got the chance to speak to was Cikgu Maznah. Like Nina, she seemed reluctant to have a buddy. Either reluctant, or simply scared of her husband. I was told my by fellow volunteers that Cikgu Maznah has one fierce husband. Once he even shouted at the staff nurse of the Ipoh ID clinic simply because he had to wait for so long. Not much the staff nurse could do... HIV clinic at Ipoh GH was only once a week then - so the long wait for the patients is to be expected.
And remember Zana? The problematic young woman? She never bothered me much initially, but right after Rose died, Zana started calling me to talk about all sorts of problems. I guess God wanted me to concentrate on Rose during the last 2 months of her life before I moved on to other PLWHAs.
Then there's Maria, the woman who got HIV from her first husband, and only found out about it after she got pregnant from her second marriage. Maria most of the time does not bother me, but when she does call, it usually involve marriage problems. Her present husband, who was tested negative can sometimes be supportive, but does "explode" from time to time (probably due to the fact that he refuses to talk about Maria's HIV status), causing them to quarrel and making Maria feel unwanted.
I've also written about Nuri, the strong-willed woman. Nuri was the first of my clients who had a HIV+ child. So far her youngest daughter, Farah, is doing okay. Nuri is a very determined woman.
Another woman whom I have not written about is Sha. Like Maria, Sha got HIV from her first husband. But unlike Maria's husband, Sha's husband is very supportive although he has been tested negative. I may write about Sha in my future postings.
Then, there's Noni, another young single woman like Ifa. But Noni's parents are supportive. I've met both of them... they are nice people.
I have mentioned Yah's and Fuzi's welfare woes but I haven't really written much on their trials and tribulations other than their financial problems. I had in fact been following up on Yah's husband, Azman, before he passed away end of last year. I may get to write on that one day.
Then there's Lily, whose death recently was due to complications arising from dengue fever, not long after I wrote her story. Although Lily is no longer around, I still need to follow up on this family as her youngest son, Boboy, is also HIV+.
My newer PLWHA clients include Ani, another woman who got HIV from her first husband. Only in her case, her present husband, Saiful, has also been infected but is very supportive and understanding. I've written about them here.
I've mentioned about Jah and Shila in my posting on the International AIDS Memorial Day. They seem happy but the truth is they had faced tragic incidences in their lives. Two more potential stories to be told here.
Although basically male buddies are assigned to male PLWHAs and female buddies to female PLWHAs, I still get a few male clients. Mainly because the main contact persons are their wives/sisters and they'd feel more comfortable talking to a woman.
The male PLWHAs under my care include Sham, Mr K and Rashid.
Sham is Rose's brother. No, he didn't get the virus from his own sister. He himself was an injecting drug user. Sham is not married, so my contact person is his younger sister, who was very close to Rose.
I've written about the trials and tribulations faced by Mr K's family. But I'm sure there will be updates from time to time on this family, so I may still write about them in future.
As for Rashid whom I had written about here, he is still a new client, and there will more follow ups on this case through his wife who needs all the support she can get.
Some of you may remember Mr X, who had attempted suicide because he thought he had HIV. Well, so far he has been tested negative, so I cannot consider him as a PLWHA client.
I've mentioned 25 HIV positive persons above... men, women and children. One may think I've seen them all. But have I really?
Just when I thought I had seen them all, 2 days ago, my fellow volunteer, who is the coordinator of HIV clinic duties, called me up to inform me that I've just been assigned a new client. Another widowed woman.
Nothing I have not handled before you may think. But trust me, this case is somewhat different. While my other PLWHA clients call me kakak (or makcik to the children), here's one I myself have to call Makcik.
You see, the new PLWHA I've been assigned to, Makcik Minah, is a 74 year old grandma! Curious? Well, so am I...
So there you go... any plain Johns or Janes out there may be HIV carriers. We can't really tell whether or not the people around us are infected, can we? That's why it is very important to create more awareness on HIV/AIDS. We must never take for granted that HIV will not affect our lives or the lives of our family members.