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)

Friday, 26 October 2007

How they got infected: Does it matter?

I was watching a documentary on TV yesterday about a woman who got discriminated by her neighbors because she had HIV. She married a guy without knowing he was previously an injecting drug user. She only found out later when her husband got ill and tests showed he was HIV positive. She went for testing too and was totally shocked when she too was found to be infected.

Although neighbors didn’t know for sure she was positive, they knew her husband died of HIV related illnesses. So they stayed away from the whole family. It didn’t matter whether the wife or the children were infected. As long as someone in the family had HIV, just stay away from them.

Anyway, watching that documentary prompted me to go through the list of HIV infected women whose cases were handed over to me for me to follow up on, OR those whose cases were handed over to other volunteers but whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet.

Out of 22 of them, 17 were infected by their husbands or ex-husbands, one was raped, 2 due to their promiscuous activities, one due to drugs and there was one 74 year old grandma whom I never had the opportunity to find out as neither I nor the staff at the HIV clinic were able to contact her ever since her last appointment. I guess due to her age she thought it was no longer necessary for her to go for follow ups. Maybe she had given up hope. Besides, the one time my colleagues spoke to her during the HIV clinic (I was not on duty then) they found out that her only son (who is already 54 years old) had not been informed of her HIV. Maybe she was too embarrassed to tell him, I don’t know. As I have not been able to talk to her, I don’t know for sure how she got infected. I don’t even know how she is doing right now. So, let’s just leave it at that and not assume anything.

18 of the 22 women were simply innocent victims. Yet, they still faced discrimination as though they had done something wrong. They are looked down upon as though they had sinned big time! I’ve even had a welfare officer branding HIV as “penyakit sendiri cari”. When we told him about the innocent wives infected by their husbands, he became lost for words. Surely he didn’t expect us (the volunteers) to agree with him on that point.

Due to the discrimination faced by PLWHAs, many of them prefer not to tell anyone about their HIV status. For some, not even to their own family. The PLWHAs are afraid people will shun them. They feel ashamed of themselves despite never being involved in any immoral activities.

Maria, for example, always feels as though she is being looked down upon by her present husband (she got HIV from her ex-husband and only knew about it when she got pregnant with her present husband). Whenever she talks to me about her problems, she keeps on saying, “Siapalah saya ni kak…”

Fuzi, whose whole neighborhood knows about her HIV status (due to a mulut murai nurse working at the Klinik Kesihatan near her place), only goes out of her house whenever necessary. She tried getting a job at a nearby flower nursery but the other workers there (who are also her neighbors) threatened their employer they’d all quit if he employed her.

Zainab, who doesn’t dare tell anyone about her HIV, whenever she needs to take her medication while she’s at work, tells her workmates she’s taking slimming pills whenever they ask her what medication she is taking. I told her to be careful with that line… some of her friends who want to slim down may ask her where to get the pills!

But despite having mentioned about the innocent victims, does it really matter how these women got infected? What about those who got infected due to their own past activities? Like Ifa who took drugs when she was a teenager? Does she deserve the “Biar dia mampus” statement which came from her own father?

I don’t know about you, but to me, it doesn’t matter how they got infected. Even if they got HIV out of their own doing, they all deserve a second chance. We must not shun them. We need to guide them back to the right path.

After all, are we indeed holier than them? Can we be sure we’re going to heaven before they do?

Ahhhh… we can never be sure about that, can we?


Kerp (Ph.D) said...

Kehadapan Kak Pi ku,

Ok, here’s a question. In the case of maria’s, she claimed her hub looks down on her. Why in the world did the husband marry her in the first place? And here are the possible answers. He didn’t know about maria being a PLWHA, or, he took her in out of love, which is very unlikely.

Mintak maaf kak Pi, but here’s another question. The fact that maria’s a HIV+, err…can they still make love? As in, having safe, protected sex?

PrincessJournals said...

eh kerp, current hubby maria tak tau abt her condition nor did she before they got married. this is fr apa yg i bacalah. ;)

anyways, Pi, i think ppl looked down on women who are infected more than men. men are always easily forgiven but never women. sad but true.

Pi Bani said...

Kehadapan, ke belakang, ke kiri dan ke kanan Kerp ku, :)

Our princessjournals has answered your first question. Maria herself didn't know she had HIV when they got married, so definitely husband memang tak taulah. I've just added the link to Maria's story which I had posted earlier. You can read more about her there.

As for your second question, yes, we always tell our PLWHAs they must wear condoms when having sex. But in Maria's case, despite the fact that we've advised him about it, whenever I ask Maria, she said her husband ikut suka hati dia aje sometimes dia pakai sometimes tak pakai. Frankly I'm not too sure if he is still negative. He refused to go for tests again. Degil bebenor!!

Pi Bani said...

The men tetap kena discriminate. But since the number of infected women are lesser than men, whenever people know of one, hina sangatlah perempuan tu to them. As for the men, it's not so much that they are forgiven, it's just that people kurang ambil kisah about them.

Zawi said...

The fear of infection is very real to those who have to mix or work with infected people. Anyway can the neighbourhood can be educated on how an infection can occur so that they will not fear HIV positive people as potential source of infection?

Pi Bani said...

Changing people's mindset is not easy. We have been trying to create awareness amongst the public but sometimes even those who already know how the virus spreads still have their reservations.

And sometimes it's not so much fear, it's shame that's causing people to shun the HIV infected people.

zorro said...

Hi fellow rabbit. I have visited but never posted a comment here. I dont know why. I can empatize with your subject-postings and laud your persistent dedication to the HIV cause. It is people like you who make the DIFFERENCE. Battle on. Allow me to be your latest recruit in this never-ending war.

Allow me to be naughty. Let me borrow this comment box to announce that Haris Ibrahim (People's Parliament)Ahiruddin Atan (Rocky
Brew)Tony Yew (Can You See It)SK Thew (MageP's)and I will be in Ipoh on Friday 2Nov (enroute to Penang for 3 Nov Malam Bangsa Malaysia). It would be great if we can meet up.

Pi Bani said...

Oh, so you're a rabbit too? Cute, aren't we? *chuckle*

Anyway, wouldn't mind meeting up. Where will you all be? I don't have your email add. Please email me at

winniethepooh said...

it is sad but always true. No matter what, people who are infected with HIV are still being shuned and discriminated upon no matter if they are the ones infecting others or they are the ones being infected. Thats the cruelty of human. will that ever change? I dont think least for a few generations to come.

Pi Bani said...

I shall still hope that people's mindset (generally) will change...

J.T. said...

Most people shun HIV/AIDS-infected people because it is related to the common notion of shame and death brought upon oneself. I say this is a misconception in some cases (re disease brought upon oneself) because some victims are not aware they are being infected by irresponsible individuals.

I agree that creating awareness can only help so much because there is a lot of fear built up around that disease.

Pi Bani said...

Yep, personally I feel it is more shame driven. Even the fear of getting near any HIV+ people is not just because of the fear of infection, but also the fear of being associated with such a person. Banyak susah lah ini macam...