When Ana first called me, I was quite confused initially. She mentioned she went to the ID clinic for an appointment for her 12 year old daughter, but at the same time she told me that she herself had been confirmed negative. Then she told me that her daughter was also negative. OK, so why did she get an appointment at the ID clinic?
Apparently Ana’s late husband died more than 7 years ago of AIDS-related illnesses. Ana and all her children got tested and all of them were confirmed negative. Recently Ana’s 12 year old daughter got sick, and worried that the girl may have been infected, Ana got her tested for HIV and she got mixed results… reactive on one and non reactive on the other. In the absence of risk factor (the mother was confirmed negative on every test done), the girl’s blood sample was sent to Penang for further confirmation and they fixed an appointment for Ana to bring her daughter to see the specialist in Ipoh GH.
That was when the nurse at the Ipoh ID Clinic gave Ana my number, knowing that Ana may require some assistance for her children’s schooling needs. Ana herself was at first quite hesitant about calling me, but after a few days, braved herself and finally made that call.
A visit to her home was needed to enable me to assess her situation. I wanted to bring along a few trainee volunteers with me, so I purposely arranged for the visit to be done on a Saturday. But after I fixed the date, I found out that all 3 trainee volunteers were unable to join me. Ah well, alone again… as always.
So today I went to visit. Ana stays in a rented kampong house and works as a cleaner in various individual homes, getting paid RM30 each time.
Initially when her late husband was diagnosed HIV+, only the 2 of them plus a few of her husband’s family members knew about it. However, when he died at home, with the obvious visit & instructions given by the health department people, the whole kampong knew on the spot. What with the use of clorox to bathe him, use of plastic outside the kafan, the burning of clothes of the deceased and whatever other things he used (including pillows and mattresses), I am not surprised Ana’s family got shunned after the incident. (This was circa 2006 or 2007. During the past 2 years, I have attended courses given to health department staff in handling HIV cases, and they were specifically told NOT to do what was done in the above case.)
According to Ana, for at least 2 years they had to endure discrimination from her kampong folks. No invitation to kenduris, and when Ana worked at her uncle’s food stall for a few months, the customers refused to eat/drink there for as long as Ana was still there, even if it was just to wash the dishes. All these, despite the fact that Ana and her children had all been tested NEGATIVE.
Every time any of the children fell ill, the kampong folks would immediately assume that it had something to do with HIV.
But guess what? They held their heads high and went on with life as usual. They did not run away from the problems, they simply faced them head on. Despite all the financial constraints, they have survived so far.
The mixed results in the daughter’s blood tests were a blessing in disguise. Because of that, Ana brought her daughter to see the doctor in Ipoh GH. And although there will be no further appointments for her at the ID clinic, it was during that one visit that the nurse suggested to her to give me a call. Otherwise she wouldn’t have found out about Buddies and I wouldn’t have found out about her case. And her children wouldn’t have been able to get help from our Children Education Fund.
Now they can get the help and support they need.