I was getting ready to go to work on Monday when a text message came in on my hand phone. So I checked and the message was "Akum". That's it. Nothing else. And it came from an unfamiliar number so I couldn't figure out who the sender was. Now, who on earth would text me a message just to say "Akum"?
At first I thought maybe the sender accidentally sent the message before he/she managed to finish keying in whatever he/she wanted to say. But no other SMS came in, so I just let it be. Maybe it was just a case of wrong number. I have received calls on my hand phone before asking for Adelyn lah... Zul lah... Chong lah...
Later in the afternoon I got a call from the same number. But the phone just rang once and then it stopped. It was as though the caller purposely gave me a missed call. He/she wanted me to call back or what?! Usually only my niece would do that (giving me a missed call and expecting me to call back).
I sent a text message to the number - "Siapa ni?"
Then the reply came: "Maaf ya. Saya dpt no fon ni dr hspital. Saya dijangkiti kuman HIV."
I still had no idea if this person was a male or a female but that didn't matter; I decided to call this person. Chances were this person wasn't really sure if he/she should call me.
A guy answered my call. He had just been diagnosed HIV+ less than a month ago and was feeling rather lost and confused at the moment.
I asked if he was free to come to my NGO center the next day around 3 pm. Since he said he's usually free after 2 pm, he agreed.
The next day I made sure I reached the center before 3 pm. The guy reached our center at 3 pm sharp.
Razif found out about his HIV infection when he went to a private clinic for his very bad cough which didn't seem to stop. The private clinic did a full blood test on him. Before the test results came out, Razif was admitted to the Ipoh GH for some lung infection. Somehow, he was not tested for HIV when he was warded. After he got discharged, the doctor at the private clinic called him to inform him that he had been infected with HIV. The doctor then gave him a referral letter and told him to go to the ID clinic at Ipoh GH.
So last week he went to the ID clinic and met up with SN to fix for an appointment. SN also got him to do another blood test at the hospital to find out his CD4 and CD8 count. His appointment with the doctor will be in about 2 weeks time.
Razif has not told any of his family members about his HIV. He is confused. He is scared. His parents and siblings may not need to know, but his wife definitely needs to know as she will have to get tested as well. Yes, Razif is married and has 3 young kids aged between 5 to 8 years old.
I asked Razif how he got infected. No, I wasn't trying to be judgmental or whatever but how he got the virus may make a difference as to how his wife will react when she finds out. From what I've seen so far, the wives are more forgiving if their husbands were IVDUs as compared to those who got the virus by having sex with other women. And for those who have had sex with other women, how the wife would react would also depend on WHEN his sexual activities took place. If before their marriage, then maybe there's a bit more room for forgiveness (the wife will still be upset and/or angry la). But if he had those affairs after marriage, a big war may follow after the wife finds out...
Well, Razif was never an IVDU. The infection was through sexual contacts. When asked if his wife ever knew of his affairs with other women, he just said maybe. He's not too sure himself.
OK, so how does one break the news? How do we tell a person that he/she has been infected with HIV? How do we tell someone that her husband/his wife has HIV?
Heck, I don't know! Breaking the news of someone's HIV infection is something I have never done before and I bet neither have most, if not all, of my other fellow Buddies. You see, most of the cases referred to us are of those who have already been told of their HIV status. All we do is talk/listen to them as it is during the first few weeks that they would feel very, very down.
Back to Razif - how do we help him? Yes, we can go to his house to talk to his wife if he wants us to, but with 3 young kids around and not knowing how his wife would react, I don't think that's a good idea. If she becomes too shocked to say anything, it wouldn't be too bad. But what if suddenly "world war 3" starts immediately? Who knows, anything is possible.
Since Razif will be seeing the doctor in about 2 weeks time, I suggested to him to tell his wife that he has an appointment at Ipoh GH on that date and that the doctor had requested that he brings his wife along. Let the doctors break the news. They are used to doing so. And they can explain better to the wife of the implications whatsoever. Hopefully the wife will be able to control herself better at the hospital rather than at home. How the wife will react later when they get home... that's a different story altogether. I told Razif to still be prepared for whatever that was to come and that if he needed to talk after that, he could always call us. Or if his wife needs someone to talk to, then she can call us too.
Razif was receptive to the idea. After all, he was warded at the Ipoh GH quite recently and so the wife may think that some test results are out and the doctor may want to talk to them both regarding Razif's illness.
So, yes, that is how it will be. Or at least that was what Razif agreed to do. The wife needs to be tested for HIV. If she's negative, alhamdulillah. But if she is positive, then the kids will need to be tested too.