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)

Monday, 8 February 2010

The dilemma – when & how to tell?

Sunday 10.30 pm, with the TV remote control in my hands, I was changing from one channel to another, to see if there was anything interesting to watch on TV. I was about to finally switch off the TV when suddenly I clicked on a channel showing a Malay drama. The drama was already halfway through and under normal circumstances, I don’t think I would have watched. But the moment the word “HIV” was mentioned, I waited to watch a little bit more, out of curiosity. Apparently the drama was about the dilemma faced by people living with HIV, and although earlier dramas on HIV that I’ve watched before had pissed me off because of the wrong impression they always give to the audience, this time I decided to stay glued to the TV – at least to see if there were any changes.

I must give credit to the production because at least they didn’t make the same old same old typical HIV characters – all looking like they were dying soon… with scary-looking skin diseases… all must die by the end of the story… etc etc. This time the drama concentrated more on the emotional aspects and all the infected people at least look normal, just like you and me – which should be the case, really. The drama showed that anybody could get infected – the obedient daughter of a Pak Imam (who got from her husband), her young innocent daughter, a doctor (I didn’t watch from the start so I’m not sure how he was supposed to get infected but something to do with an accident I think)… in other words, it is very unlike the usual dramas which show that those who get infected are those involved in immoral activities.

I was quite impressed that at least some homework were done before they produced the drama… except for the ending where they showed a doctor bringing a newborn baby to the HIV+ mother, telling her, “Anak puan bebas dari HIV.” A newborn baby? Aduh, buat homework tak habis juga rupanya. It’s too early to tell if a newborn is infected or notlah. I guess whoever did the script was not aware of such a thing called window period.

But never mind, at least the drama was much better than the typical dramas on HIV+ people that I used to watch. But I didn’t bring up this topic to criticize the drama. Nosirree!

What I want to bring up is one of the plots in the drama, where the hero, a doctor who had also been infected, was in a dilemma as to how and when to tell his wife. He ended up avoiding his wife, making his wife think that he no longer loved her, and she also started thinking that he had fallen in love with another woman. When she finally found out, she was upset – not so much because he was infected, but because he was not willing to share his problems with his wife.

This actually reminded me of the PLHIVs I personally know, and the dilemma they faced when they initially found out about their HIV infection. When to tell? How to tell? Will my husband/wife leave me when he/she finds out?

There was Mr Darling, whom at that time was still married to Lin. This couple however, were already having problems earlier because of Mr D’s promiscuous activities. When Lin found out that her hubby was infected, and tests later revealed that she too was infected, she decided that she had enough of him.

Then there was Razif, who kept postponing telling his wife, waiting for the “right time” to tell. I don’t know how and when he finally told her but it seems his wife too had been infected and they both came to last year’s family day, so that means they are still together.

And there was Asiah who was infected by her late husband. She was already planning to marry her present husband when she found out she was infected. Scared that he may leave her, she did not tell him about her HIV infection despite us advising her to do so. At that time there was no mandatory testing yet. She only told him about it a few weeks after their marriage, that too after being pestered by SN. And she did lie… telling her husband that she only knew about it after they got married. Thank goodness tests after tests showed that her husband had remained negative and at least after the husband knew, they started using condoms. But somehow things didn’t really go quite right, the condom leaked and Asiah still got pregnant and just gave birth less than 2 months ago. The last test still showed that the husband was negative, let’s just hope it will remain that way despite the condom bocor incident. (and let’s hope they will be more careful after this)

Another PLHIV, Guna, postponed telling his wife about his HIV infection because when he was first diagnosed, his wife was in the hospital for hypertension. He didn’t want her BP to go further up. Or at least that was his excuse to keep on postponing telling his wife. And the hush hush went on for months. Every time his buddy asked, he said he still couldn’t find the right time. Well, apparently the latest update was that he finally did tell his wife, and they are now in the process of separation.

Maria found out about her HIV infection during her 4th pregnancy – which was also her first pregnancy with her 2nd husband. Both husband and wife were there when the doctor informed her of her HIV infection. Initially for reasons only known to him, the 2nd husband thought Maria could have got it from him, although Maria herself had suspected that she was actually infected by her first husband, who was a hard core drug addict. Maria’s present husband then had his blood tested but when it was time to get the results, he didn’t bother to go to the hospital. Maria went alone. And when she found out that his blood tests turned out negative, Maria got scared. It was then that Maria called me, crying and crying to the extent that I found it difficult to understand what she was trying to say.

Maria was actually unsure how to tell her husband that he was not infected. She was afraid he may leave her. And when she finally told him, it was rather anti-climax. Her husband told her not to talk about it anymore and pretend as though nothing had happened. In a way, it may sound good, but Maria needed someone to talk to, and her husband was not a good listener. So Maria still turned out all stressed and depressed.

Now I would like to pose the following questions to my blog readers…

Put yourselves in the shoes of the PLHIVs mentioned above. How do you think you’d go about, trying to break the news to your spouses?

Then put yourselves in the shoes of the spouses of the above PLHIVs. How would you have reacted upon receiving the news?


sherry said...

Che Pi.

I tak jawab lagi ur soalan - soalan tu yerk.. Cuma nak bagitau from ur blog ni banyak info yang i dapat ! Banyak juga pengajaran dan nasihat dan peringatan yang i dapat pelajari. From ur writing, jawapan kepada komen2 lebih senang nak faham dari pamplet or flyers yang diedarkan etc etc.. thanks Che Pi.. Kerja u ni sangat2 mulia!

Pi Bani said...

Memang tujuan I buat blog ni pun untuk bagi kesedaran mengenai HIV - tapi concentrate lebih kepada human aspects lah instead of the scientific aspects. Secara tak langsung, masuk jugalah the facts on HIV yang mungkin selama ni orang tak faham.

Alhamdulillah, kalau sungguh readers rasa dapat faedah dari apa yang I tulis, taklah sia-sia I set up blog ni dulu. Harap-harap dapatlah bertahan lama...

mamasita said...

Pi..mudah2an janganlah yea..sedihnya those facing that dilemma..boleh sakit jantung oi!
WAAAAAAAAAA!(pinjam Naz punya trademark ni!)

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Aunty Pi,
This is a classic case of "damned if you did, damned if you didn't", isn't it? However, it would be good if somehow we can put sense of responsibility, or perhaps fear of God, to the HIV+ so that the (-) won't be passed on, jeorpadising the lives of those they didn't want to hurt. I can't imagine, if both parents die, who's gonna care for the children? WAAAAAAAAAA! (aiyo...infectious-lah this trademark of Aunty Naz). purrrr...meow!

Pi Bani said...

Masing-masing tak berani jawab soalan kan? That's because we probably we can't imagine ourselves in such a situation, and hopefully we will never ever have to face such situation or anything close.

Pi Bani said...

Yep, bagitau salah, tak bagitau lagi salah! And some people face the situation by avoiding the problem instead of overcoming it. Elak sana, elak sini... last last problem jadi lebih besar.

Zendra-Maria said...

Hi Pi, first time leaving a comment - pasal nama Maria tu hehe, terkujat sekejap. Anyways I find it interesting that her 2nd hubby is nonchalant about her infection like it is a perkara biasa. Maybe it's his way of saying he accepts her seadanya, or maybe he's just clueless.

You're doing fantastic work and your blog's a fascinating read.

Pi Bani said...

I find it even more interesting that the 2nd husband thought Maria got HIV from him! Either he had been "naughty" himself, or dia betul-betul clueless.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

In all honesty, i'd be lying to my spouse all the way to the grave. I mean, for a few seconds of pleasure -which to most men is quite unavoidable under certain circumstances- can potentially destroy the castle you've built for years. So for example if i'd been infected for screwing another lady, the trumped up story would be an involvement with drugs. That i think, is more

Ok i know i'm at risk of getting the flaks from all the lovely ladies here but just trying to save of whats left of my sorry ass.

Pi Bani said...

Oh well, at least you'd still tell of the HIV and only lie about how you got it. Still a lie though.

But you only answered my first question. What about the 2nd part? Would you accept seadanya? Or would you first ask how she got it and your reaction would depend on her answer to that question?

Anonymous said...

Hi Pi,

I don’t like to play ‘walk a mile in their shoe game lah’. You can say this, u can say that but when the real thing happens, I think we’ll all be lost & devastated.

If happened to me hypothetically, I shall join a monastery & be a celibate person :((

Just me little Timothy,(Name changed to protect the innocent)

Pi Bani said...

Exactly! We tend to say this and that when we ourselves are not in such situation. A should do this, B should do that and what nots. The more reason I put the hypothetical question there... so maybe we can reflect on ourselves - would WE do what we say they should do? Frankly, I wasn't expecting to get any answers from blog readers. I just wanted them to ponder...