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)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The HIV+ mother and child

Some time after Hari Raya last year, I got a call from an unfamiliar number, asking for Puan Afizah. The caller identified himself as a staff of MBI, and he asked if I knew a lady whose name he mentioned. The name didn't sound familiar at all to me, and when I asked how he got my number, he explained that he had found a purse with this lady's MyKad, together with her son's MyKid plus some hospital cards and also my number written somewhere. The moment he mentioned that, I figured this person had to be a PLHIV who was given my number by the staff at the Ipoh ID clinic because they felt she needed help, but she had yet to contact me. So I just took down the lady's full name and the next time I went for my clinic duty, I informed the nurse, asking her to get this lady to contact the guy from MBI to get her important documents back. I didn't hear any more about her since then.

That was until late last year while I was holidaying in Penang, the nurse from Ipoh ID clinic called me, asking if I could help out a single mom who also has a 1 year old HIV+ son. The moment the nurse mentioned the name, I immediately remembered the lady who lost the purse. When I enquired, true enough, this was the same person.

The lady, Nora, is divorced and has an older son, who is under the custody of her ex-husband. After her divorce, she used to stay at a low cost flat. Her family had actually applied to rent the flat (from MBI) under her brother's name. But her brother doesn't stay there. He stays in KL. One of the requirements when you apply to rent the low-cost flats from MBI, is that the applicant him/herself must stay there. When they found out that the applicant actually stays in KL, Nora was asked to vacate the flat. Initially she stayed at her sister's house elsewhere in Ipoh, but there were already too many occupants at that house, Nora didn't want to trouble her sister further. Nora's older brother then offered to take care of her and her son at his house in KL, but after a while, Nora felt uncomfortable. She didn't want to trouble any of her siblings. She wants to work to support herself and her child.

I called up Nora early last week, asked if we could meet up whenever she's back in Ipoh so we could discuss her problems and how we Buddies could help out. Apparently she had been back in Ipoh since last week, but she was busy with her younger sister's wedding. Yesterday she sent me a message asking if we could meet, so I agreed to meet her today, after I settle some matters with the nurse at the ID clinic regarding a homeless PLHIV who needs to be sent to a shelter home next week.

I was hoping Nora would bring along her son, and she did! Despite being HIV+, the boy looked healthy. The boy's HIV status was only known when he was about 6 months old. Nora's HIV status was not detected during her pregnancy and so no precautions were taken for the baby... no anti-retroviral given, it was normal delivery, and Nora breastfed her baby during the initial month after the boy was born. When the boy's growth seemed somewhat very slow, the docs finally decided to refer him to specialists. Full blood tests were done, and the boy was found to be HIV+. That was when Nora was again tested for HIV, and this time the results came out positive, with CD4 of less than 300. Both Nora and her son had to start on anti-retroviral treatments immediately.

The boy is growing well now, in fact he's quite a chubby looking boy. Nora showed me pictures of the boy when he was initially warded. He was so skinny. There has been a HUGE improvement since then.

I like Nora's attitude. She doesn't want to be too dependent on others. That's why she's looking around for a job and a house to rent. Based on what I saw just now, she also has many friends who care about her, who helped out in getting her a job and a home/room to rent. With the job, she says she can afford to pay for the monthly rental. But for the moment, she needs help to pay the deposit. I promised to help her out using the funds in my charity account, donated by my friends.

Nora is already thinking of her son's future. An SSPN account has already been opened for her son.

Nobody among her family and friends know that both Nora and her son are HIV+. For the moment, she has no plans to tell them.

I am confident she is capable of becoming independent soon, but I will still follow up on this case. I want to see that her son will grow up like any other normal kids.

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