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Monday, 23 April 2007

The overburdened wife

Zainab is a woman in her thirties. She was pregnant with her second child when she found out she was HIV positive. When she told her husband Zaki about it, his first reaction was… “I don’t have HIV. Which Bangla did you have an affair with?!” (Zainab so happens to work in a factory which has quite a number of foreign workers including from Bangladesh.)

Ouch! That hurts… really, really hurts. At a time when she was feeling so down to find out that she was infected… at a time when she was worried about what would happen to her baby, the husband thought she had an affair with someone else?! Where was the support she thought she could get?

Later Zaki went for tests and found out that he too was infected. As a matter of fact, his CD4 was so much lower than Zainab’s he had to be prescribed medication immediately.

Zaki was a drug user before. But most of the time he took pills. But he remembered there was once (or so he claimed) when he could not stand the urge, he took drugs through injection, using somebody else’s needle.

Obviously Zainab got infected through Zaki himself. When Zaki asked if Zainab had an affair with a Bangla, he was actually in denial. He was afraid that he was the cause of Zainab, and possibly their baby, getting infected.

Zaki was then working at a restaurant, as a cook. When he was diagnosed positive, he stopped working at the restaurant. No matter what we told him, his excuse was that he was afraid he may cut himself while cooking and end up infecting others at the restaurant. In addition he claimed he easily got tired.

So for some time, Zainab, despite being infected (and pregnant!) became the sole breadwinner. The house rental, utilities, food and other basic necessities all depended on her salary. Her job required her to work 12 hour shifts. She didn’t have enough rest, she didn’t have enough sleep, yet, she worked hard as she was thinking about the future of her children. When Zainab delivered, Zaki was still not working; he was using HIV as an excuse. They had to depend solely on Zainab’s income which was obviously lesser at that time as Zainab was on maternity leave and therefore did not get any overtime claims.

About a year later, Zaki began doing odd jobs. But he still was not helping with the household expenses. He said he didn’t earn much and his pay was just enough to cover his traveling expenses. I have to admit, his pay was not much. But my disappointment (and Zainab’s too) was that most of his pay was actually used to buy cigarettes! Oh yes, he was a smoker. He still is. We advised him to try and stop smoking, but no, he said it was something he simply couldn’t do. Oh well, I guess Zaki’s willpower is not as strong as Zainab’s.

Meanwhile Zainab’s CD4 took a plunge. Now, almost 2 years after her 2nd delivery, Zainab herself has started medication. She still doesn’t get enough rest. Her baby has been spared from infection and is doing just fine. Tests have confirmed that the baby is negative.

During my last visit to their home, Zaki had just started work as a security guard. Let’s see if this time he will stick to his job. And let’s see if this time he can help with the household expenses. Zainab needs and deserves a break!


Unknown said...

Pi, you have won the Blogger Thinking Award! Please collect it from my blog...Congratulations

Pi Bani said...

Thanks Raden, I've posted my response on this matter.

Anonymous said...

dear Pi
Its so heart wrenching some of your stories, usually women and babies being the victims here. it is especially so when a baby is born to a HIV + mum. i have a 10 month old son and i feel for them. Thanks for making us aware of their problems.


Anonymous said...

Dear Pi,

Ohhhh my heart is in pain after reading this. Semoga Zainab will get a break this time

Pi Bani said...

Hi Chin!
Yes, most of my postings are on women and children, aren't they? Well, that's because being a woman myself, most of the PLWHAs assigned to me are women, and my postings are based on my personal experience.

Berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul. Imagine how Zainab herself feels...

Anonymous said...

can someone give Mr Z a slap on his face. Mrs Z deserve a "payung emas" for her patience and preseverance.

Anonymous said...

can someone give Mr Z a slap on his face. Mrs Z deserve a "payung emas" for her patience and preseverance.

-ano fm SA

Pi Bani said...

ano from SA,
You wished you could slap him yourself, didn't you?