I was in Putrajaya over the weekend for some alumni matters. Despite Sunday's events not over yet, I had to leave the function by about 3.30 pm as there was an urgent matter I needed to attend to here in Ipoh.
You see, I had promised to help out Sharifah, the 19 year old HIV+ single girl who's pregnant. She has appointments in Ipoh GH today, Wednesday and Friday. She can't be travelling up and down every alternate day from her hometown just to go for her appointments. We are still trying to arrange for her to stay at a shelter home for problematic teenagers here in Perak, but we are still getting the "nanti kami akan hubungi" answer.
So, where on earth is Sharifah supposed to stay during the 5 days? My home? No way, we are not supposed to allow clients to know where we stay for reasons I've stated before.
A colleague of mine managed to arrange for Sharifah to stay at a flat during the 5 days. The owner for the time being has to stay at his parents home in another town to take care of his mother, so for the moment the flat is vacant. After listening to Sharifah's plight, he agreed to let Sharifah stay at his small flat for free for the 5 days. He even allowed Sharifah to use whatever facilities like the stove, radio, bed, etc.
Sharifah did SMS me earlier, telling me her bus is expected to reach Ipoh around 7 pm. Which was why I needed to be sure I'd be back in Ipoh by then. If I had waited for the function in Putrajaya to end before making a move, I'd probably reach Ipoh rather late. As such, I made it a point to leave by 3.30pm and managed to reach home about 6 pm, during heavy rain.
At about 7.30 pm, Sharifah called to tell me she was already at the bus station. I told her to wait at the "tempat mengambil & menurunkan penumpang", then off I went to fetch her. On the way, I called up my colleague to tell him I was already on my way to pick up Sharifah. He was by then already waiting at the flat, together with the owner of the unit. Suddenly I remembered, Sharifah & I have never met each other before. How on earth was I supposed to recognise her? It would have to be her who had to look out for my car, but she didn't even know what car I was driving. So, I called her, gave her my car make and registration number, and told her to look out for me.
When I reached the bus station, I saw a young chubby looking girl who looked as though she was looking out for me. I waved at her asking her to come to my car. Luckily she was the right person... :)
Sharifah was rather calm - unlike the description I got from the contact report handed over to me by my colleague who met her during clinic duty. Probably by now she has managed to compose herself, knowing that her parents are not disowning her... and knowing that there are people out here trying to help her. I have to admit, I pay extra attention to pregnant HIV positive ladies. My main concern is to avoid HIV infection to the baby. Worse, with cases of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, where there is always the possibility of the young mother defaulting hospital check-ups and appointments, increasing the chances of the baby getting infected.
Anyway, I brought Sharifah straight to the flat where my colleague and the owner of the flat were already waiting. After explaining a few things to her, I took her for dinner at the Medan Selera at the flat area, which is just within walking distance, so there shouldn't be any problem for Sharifah to get food during the 5 days.
We had a good chat during dinner. The moment Sharifah told me she was the eldest of 5 siblings, I could immediately figure that her mother is probably younger than I am. True enough, her mother is only 39. Her mother had to attend a work related course in another state, otherwise she would have followed Sharifah to Ipoh. Her father couldn't accompany her either as there'd be nobody to take care of her younger siblings at home. But they gave her their blessings, gave her enough pocket money to last her for the 5 days and told her to take care of herself.
Her younger siblings do not know anything about her predicament. They thought she's on leave (from her studies). They do not know she's HIV positive, and believe it or not, they do not even know about her pregnancy. Yes, her tummy is a bit buncit but she can easily pass off as someone chubby (I have met people who got asked "dah berapa bulan?" when they weren't even pregnant!). Neighbors do not know of her condition either as most of the time she just stayed home. That's why if possible Sharifah and her parents do not want her to deliver in their home state where there are too many relatives around.
I asked Sharifah what her plans are after she delivers. "Bagi kat kebajikan lah kot..." came the answer. I asked if she didn't want to take care of the baby herself. She said she'd love to but she didn't know how that would be possible. When they first found out about her pregnancy, her mother did manage to arrange with a friend to get a childless couple willing to adopt the coming-soon baby. Then later when Sharifah was diagnosed HIV positive, they opted out as they were afraid they may need to take care of an HIV infected baby, and they simply weren't willing to face whatever future lies ahead for the child. So that plan got cancelled.
While care is being taken to avoid the baby from being infected, whoever the caregiver still needs to bring the baby for follow-ups with the doctor for a year or so, just to be safe. So frankly, I'm not sure myself if it is advisable to get someone to adopt the baby, unless they are willing to bring the baby for the necessary follow-ups.
Whatever it is, I told Sharifah I'd like to meet up and discuss the matter with her mother if possible. It would be best to discuss the matter with a more mature person. After all, the future of a young girl and a baby are at stake here.