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)
Malaysia Flag Pictures, Images and Photos

Thursday, 27 November 2008

World AIDS Day

In conjunction with World AIDS Day (which is on 1st December), the following event will be held on 30th November 2008.

Click on poster to enlarge.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Mak Aji at the race course...

Sunday 23rd November 2008, I spent almost 2 hours here…

I watched this…

Ish... sibuk je la pakcik ni dengan microphone dia...

And these…

Yep, I was at the Perak Turf Club. Yes, yes, there at the Ipoh Race Course.

So, what was this Mak Aji doing at the race course on a race day?

RACING? I don’t even know how to ride a horse, what more to race one. Nope, out of the question.

I’M THE OWNER OF A RACE HORSE? Naaaah… I don’t have that much money to spend lah. I’d rather get myself a new car – at least I know how to drive.

I WAS LEARNING HOW TO RIDE A HORSE? What, on a race day? Who would want to teach this makcik how to ride a horse when there are more interesting happenings over there?

BETTING? Ish…. buang tabiat ke apa?!

Okay, okay… actually yesterday’s races started with the Charity Cup Race – the main sponsor’s name you can see in the first pic above. As the race name suggests, proceeds went to charity. About 60 charitable organizations in Perak were shortlisted to receive this year’s donations and Buddies of Ipoh was one of them. And that was why this Mak Aji was at the Perak Turf Club – to receive the cheque on behalf of Buddies.

It was my first time there so I was quite like a rusa masuk kampong (or was it Mak Aji masuk race course?). I had to ask the guards there where I was supposed to go. The invitation letter just mentioned that it was to be held at the cheque presentation area – which so happened to be at the race course. The place where we were seated (right below the grand stand) was blocked by the spectators’ stands on our left and right and as such, we weren’t able to witness the whole race although the finishing line was right in front of where we were seated. A clear view of how the race finished, but I was too slow to get any photos… not that they needed any photo finish...

After the race was the presentation of prizes to the owner of the winning horse, its trainer and its rider. Nope, no prize was presented to the horse after all the hard work… poor thing…

Then came the presentation of cheques by the Chairman of the Club to the various recipients. I was number 57 out of the 60 representatives of various organizations - shelter homes, orphanages, old folks homes etc. Thank goodness they gave actual bankable cheques instead of those big mock cheques (I think because there were too many of us), so after the cheque presentation and after making sure we got the right cheques, we could all leave before the other races started. I can just imagine the jam if we had to leave at the same time as the kaki-kaki kuda who were there to watch the races.

And so that was how a Mak Aji spent some time at the race course…

Saturday, 22 November 2008

To leave or not to leave...

When I went to visit Fuzi the other day, she complained to me about Yah again. Remember earlier I mentioned about Yah telling Fuzi’s friend that Fuzi has HIV? Well, that was not all there was to it. It seems after that Yah also mentioned to the friend that Fuzi was flirting around with a few male friends, bla, bla, bla…

Now, now… first disclosing confidential information, then she went to the extent of adding all sorts of herbs, spices and MSG to her story?! God, what does she get anyway? If she wants to get a kick out of it, I don’t mind kicking her myself!!

Come to think of it, I think Yah was telling this guy about herself (but saying that Fuzi’s the one she was talking about lah) – Yah’s the one who has been flirting around! Fuzi on the other hand is a direct opposite – she hardly even gets out of the house unless she has to.

Guess what? The very next day after I went to visit Fuzi, I received a call from Yah – and as always it’s from a totally different number. I asked her direct if she purposely used a different number every time she called me so that I wouldn’t be able to call her back. She insisted she changed to a new number because she lost her old phone.

As usual, whenever Yah calls me, she doesn’t talk about her “extra-curricular” activities. I suppose it’s because she “takut nanti Kak Afizah marah” just like during our last Family Day when she donned on the tudung on the bus for that very reason. All the stories about the guys she meets she’d tell to a male colleague of mine who’s also a non-Muslim. She probably thinks that male colleague of mine wouldn’t be telling me of her (mis)adventures.

Anyway, Yah called me because she tried to call that male colleague of mine but her calls didn’t get through. So she sought my favor to pass a message to him – that she’s coming to get her medication in Ipoh next week and needs to see him for some matters. Waah… must tease my colleague lah… got a hot date with Yah! Muahaha!

It has been quite some time since I got any updates on Yah’s children so when she called I took the opportunity to ask her about them. Her 2 older daughters, who are at an orphanage, seem to be doing very well in school. In fact both of them were top in their respective classes. But, although they themselves were the ones who wanted to go to the orphanage in the first place, now they are the ones who want to balik kampong.

And so Yah is worried. I am not too sure what she’s worried about though. Maybe she’s worried she’ll have less money to spend on herself. Maybe she feels she wouldn’t have as much freedom as she has now if the girls are back at home. Her eldest daughter had after all voiced out her concern earlier on when Yah were exchanging calls and SMS with Mr Darling.

Frankly, I am worried too if the girls stay with their mother. Right now they are doing quite well in school. Maybe they are just not happy because their life is so regimented at the orphanage – but that does not seem to affect their studies. My worry if they stay with Yah is that Yah’s behavior may have a bad influence on them.

Things aren’t confirmed yet though. Whether or not they will leave the orphanage, I will have to wait and see whatever the outcome is when school reopens. I have not met the 2 girls ever since they went to stay at the orphanage. But every time they see their mother they'd always tell their mother to convey their salam to me.

Oh well, the mother makes my blood boils… the daughters cool me down…

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Aiyo, what next?

I was on my way to Fuzi’s house today when I suddenly remembered that Razif was supposed to go for his appointment this morning. Remember Razif, the guy who didn’t know how to break the news to his wife? Well, I suggested to him to just tell his wife that the doctor had asked him to bring her along for his appointment and then let the doctor break the news of his HIV to his wife. He thought it was a good idea.

I wasn’t on clinic duty today. So I decided to call my colleague who was on duty to find out. According to my colleague, while Razif came for his appointment, his wife didn’t come along. He has not even told his wife about his appointment at the hospital! “Takde masa lagi nak bagitau”, so he said.

Please lah… he sees his wife day in day out at home. It’s not that he has yet to find the time to tell his wife – he simply finds it hard to open his mouth to tell his wife he has HIV. I can understand that. But takde masa? Takde masa my foot!

Today Razif got the results of his blood test. His CD4 is only 36. My guess is that he was infected for quite some time already; so chances are his wife may have been infected too. He really needs to get his wife tested. But to do that, he must first tell his wife that he himself has been infected. Now that he blew his chances of getting his wife to come along with him to the hospital today, I wonder what will be his next move. With such a low CD4 count, he will need to start with his ARV medication. Will the wife not suspect anything then? I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Back to Fuzi, I promised her I’d visit today. So this afternoon after buying some fast food for the children, off I went to Fuzi’s house. As Fuzi opened the door, the first child as always greeting me at the door with a big smile was Ijam, the infected child. He came up with an even bigger smile when I handed over the fast food I brought along.

Ijam will start schooling next year. Next week will be his appointment with the pediatrician, and Fuzi will be discussing with the doctor about Ijam’s medication. For the moment he needs to take his medication 4 times a day – which will be troublesome when he starts going to school. Very likely he will need to change to taking the medication twice a day.

Anyway, remember I mentioned in my posting here about Faiz, Ijam’s older brother, being caught smoking in school? Well, I actually got the wrong info. You see, Fuzi’s exact words when she told me earlier were “Dia ditangkap tengah menghisap dengan kawan-kawan”. Fuzi didn’t elaborate further then, so I assumed she meant hisap rokok. Boy was I wrong!

When Fuzi told me today that Faiz bukan hisap rokok, I was thinking… oh God… don’t tell me it’s hisap dadah? Hisap gam?! These are 10 year olds we’re talking about.

But I guess nothing was going to surprise me anymore. I’ve met people like Lily, who had to lead such a complicated life; I’ve met people like Zana, the problematic young woman; I’ve met people like Zali, whose wife actually left him and their 2 young kids (she never came back for the kids); I’ve met people like Hasnah who on record doesn’t exist; I’ve met people like Anita who is 22 but has yet to get her IC done due to some complicated problems. I figured I’ve met them all.

“Dia hisap apa?”
I asked Fuzi, and I was prepared not to be shocked with whatever that Fuzi was going to tell me. Or so I thought.

“Hisap kemaluan”, came the answer.

What the…???!!

God help me please. I wonder what other kind of stories I will encounter in the course of my voluntary work…

Monday, 17 November 2008

Here they go again...

Remember in my earlier posting here during fasting month, I mentioned about Mrs K trying to borrow money from me? I suspect she wanted to use the money for Raya.

Guess what? Last Saturday, while I was enjoying my lazy weekend, a text message came in from Mrs K -

"Kak, mintak tolong nak pakai 200 nak bayar duit air hari isnin nak kena potong. Saya bayar balik dapat duit kutu."

The last time she wanted to borrow money, while she didn't give specific reasons, her last sentence was the same - "saya bayar balik dapat duit kutu". If she has been using the same sentence to every person she has borrowed money from, by the time she really gets her duit *kutu, she'd finish them all just by paying off her loans.

(*Kutu is a practice where a group of people contributes a certain amount of money every month and each month they will get their turn in getting the whole lump sum collected. Say, there are 20 of them and each of them give RM50 each month, the total collected each month will be RM1,000. So each month someone will get his/her turn in getting a lump sum of RM1,000. Mrs K's turn is supposed to be in April next year.)

Although I didn't lend her any money the last time, she's still trying again, only this time the excuse is to pay for her water bill. But RM200 for her water bill? How much water do they use each month? And how long haven't they been paying their bills?

I am assuming she really wants the money to pay for her water bill. It has happened before. When the amount was small, they postponed paying, wanting to use the money to buy other things. Then the amount grew and by then they wouldn't have enough money to pay the full amount needed to avoid water supply from being cut off.

I suppose the last time she tried to borrow money from me, even though I said no, maybe I sounded too polite (or as some people say, cakap berlapik). I said, "Maaf, saya tak dapat tolong." To me, it was a clear enough indication that I wouldn't lend them any money. I guess she didn't read between the lines then and so she thought I'd still help later on if she can come up with a desperate enough excuse. So, she's trying again this time.

Well, this time I told her that I will not entertain any requests from her to borrow any money, that she should have spent wisely when she had the money, that she must spend according to her means and prioritize her necessities. And I told her Astro is something we can live without.

Some of you may remember how, last year, although I had reminded them before that they must use their money wisely and save some money for rainy days, when they did manage to get their hands on Mr K's EPF drawings, one of the first things they did was to install Astro at home. Then, during last year's Raya, they had a mini open house - almaklum, masa tu jadi orang kaya baru.

The last time I went to visit them at home, the TV programme they were watching was from an Astro channel still. Meaning they must have paid for their Astro subscription but failed to pay their water bill. Not that I have anything against Astro, but please lah, we can still live without Astro but we cannot live without water - so set your priorities right lah!

I wish Mrs K was more like Nuri whom we helped initially and with our help she started her own food stall and after that never bothered us anymore. I wish Mrs K was more like Ani and her husband whom we helped with their EPF drawings and with the money they built their own house. I wish Mrs K was more like Fuzi who would only spend according to her means. I wish Mrs K was more like Shila who is always thankful with whatever that she gets and never goes around asking for more.

Ah, but it takes all kinds to make this world. I can't expect everyone to behave the way I want them to. Likewise, I'm sure there are people out there who aren't too pleased with my attitude and wish they could change me into someone else more to their liking.

But still, cases like Mrs K's and Yah's always manage to make my blood go upstairs lah!

Well, you win some, you lose some...

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The week that was...

I had initially planned to visit Fuzi over this weekend, but weekend is here and somehow I just don’t feel like going anywhere. I feel sooooo lazy. Like my former Science teacher used to tell my batch-mates in school when we were in form 3 – “You girls are plain LAZY – capital L capital A capital Z capital Y, underline twice with red ink!!”

Yep, THAT lazy! I just feel like having a good rest. Oh well, I think I’d better take a good rest before I suffer from burnout.

Maybe I just feel tired after attending a seminar in KL the other day – am not the kind to sit still the whole day to listen to people talking so a whole day seminar is indeed tiring, not forgetting the additional 2 hours driving to KL and 2 hours driving back. But I was running out of time to gain another 8 CPD (continuing professional development) hours required for this year to renew my license with the professional body of which I am a member – so a whole day seminar it had to be.

Earlier in the week I had to attend a business client’s board meeting where the topic of discussion didn’t really follow the agenda – and where whatever that went wrong in the company was always the fault of somebody else. Sigh…

I guess that’s why I prefer to do voluntary work – there may not be any monetary rewards, but I do get more satisfaction - except for the few cases like Yah’s lah… this one can drive me up the wall if I pay too serious attention to her! (Nanti I jadi spiderwoman le pulak asyik panjat dinding je…)

Samsul called up from the hospital on Wednesday. He and his wife Suhaila were there for their blood tests and since they were in Ipoh, they wanted to pass me the copies of supporting documents we requested from them to enable us to help submit their application for financial assistance, particularly for their child. Thank goodness things weren’t too hectic at the office that day so I went out for a while – this is Ipoh after all… so the hospital was just 10 - 15 minutes drive away. The only problem was that it’s never easy getting a parking spot at the hospital.

As I entered the hospital compound, I was surprised when I saw a certain area cordoned off from the public. There was one tent outside with the staff fully equipped with the kind of equipments like the ones used during the SARS or bird flu outbreak. I was thinking to myself… Huh? Is there an epidemic or pandemic going on that I’m not aware of? I must really be out of touch with the real world!!

I couldn’t get a parking spot at first, far or near. I called Suhaila, thinking maybe I could tell them to meet me outside so I didn’t have to park my car. But I was told they were at the canteen, eating. I couldn’t simply ask them to leave just like that without finishing their food and drinks. For people like them who earn so little, every single drop counts! Thank goodness during my second round of looking for a parking spot, somebody just drove out of a spot very near to the specialist clinic, so lucky me it didn’t take me too long to get my car parked.

As I walked to the canteen, I saw a signboard – Latihan Simulasi Pandemic Influenza. Ohhh… so it was just a simulation exercise! I’m not so out of touch with the real world after all… phew!!

Anyway, I just had a short chat with Suhaila and Samsul. I just took the copies of documents from them and then I left. No doubt things weren’t too hectic at the office, but usually it’s when I’m not in the office that the business clients want me to sign this and that and they always seem to want things immediately. It’s their payments that are never immediate.

I will still have to visit Fuzi soon to get the reports on her children’s progress in school. I hope to do so within this coming week. I need to prepare the full report for all the children under our sponsorship program as I need to send the reports to each individual sponsor before year end. Besides, I will need to ask for next year’s sponsorship money…

Aiseh… lots of paperwork coming up laa…

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Tagged again - Cringe moments!

Tags, tags, tags... I am not a fan but somehow I still get tagged. Maybe it’s because I tend to give in easily. Ye lah... people tagging me means there are people thinking of me, right?

The first time I got tagged, it came in the form of an award – The Thinking Blogger Award. For this I was tagged by Kak Teh, Raden Galoh and Apandi. The rule of the award was that I’d have to name 5 other bloggers for the award. I withdrew myself for reasons stated here.

The next tag came from Kak Ruby and Cikgu KTN. This time it was a charity tag originating from Pak Payne (or back then better known as Idham). Since it was for charity, I gladly responded here.

Then came the blonde bimbo moments tag coming from Typhoon Sue, followed by the tagging galore coming from Nightwing, Pearly and Daphne Ling. I answered all 3 tags in one posting here.

Next was the 2007 takeaways tag coming from Pak Zawi. Then I stopped getting all these tags… until just recently when Kerp tagged me and I was supposed to expose 15 random facts about myself. That was less than a month ago.

Well, I just got tagged again – by Kak Teh. The tag is about my cringe moments – something similar to the blonde bimbo moments tag I responded to earlier. Since I withdrew myself the first time Kak Teh tagged me, this time I guess I owe her one. Kalau dia merajuk nanti susah nak pujuk…

My cringe moments? Ish, apasal sibuk nak tau ni??! Oh well, I had a good laugh reading Kak Teh’s and Kak Puteri’s cringe moments, so whaddaheck!! Here goes…


I was in form 3 or form 4 then. It was during staying up hours. There I was in the lounge at the hostel block, supposedly studying. But studying had always made me sleepy, so I got up and went out to the water cooler right outside the lounge, near the sliding doors. The sliding doors were made up of wooden frames and glass panes. For quite some time, one section of the door was without any glass pane and we’d happily walk through the door without any problem. Well, that particular day the glass pane was finally replaced. Having made it a habit to walk in through that door, that night after getting a drink from the water cooler, I did exactly that – I walked back into the lounge through that door and...


Silly old sleepy-head me banged into the glass pane lah! Lucky thing I didn't break the newly replaced glass. Needless to say, I was sleepy-head no more. The girls in the lounge had a good time giggling away. Well, they couldn’t laugh out loud since we weren’t supposed to make any noise during staying up hours.

Noticing that the shoes I wear to work gets worn out faster (especially the heels) if I wear them for driving, now I have a separate pair of shoes, either flat shoes or slippers, which I leave in my car.

I was on my way back from work one day when I decided to drop by a grocery shop to buy some things. Parked my car, got down and walked to the shop, bought whatever necessary and then I walked back to the car. No problemos.

As I was getting back into the car, I realized that I had my work shoe on my left foot and my driving shoe on my right foot! I had been wearing them all along when I walked to the grocery shop. Until now I wonder how I managed to walk around with one flat shoe and one heeled shoe without even realizing it! I must have looked like a MGB. (makcik-gone-bonkers)


It was my first time at a parking lot using auto-pay machines. As I was about to leave, I got to one of those auto-pay machines to pay for my parking. There was nobody in front of me so I couldn’t observe others using the machine. Whaddaheck, I thought… just follow the instructions lah, what’s so difficult? So I read the instruction, it said “insert ticket”. Confidently I inserted my parking ticket into the slot located on the right side of the machine. The machine didn’t seem to accept my ticket. Dia buat donno aje. I pushed the ticket further in, still no response from the machine. Kurang asam punya machine.

Then I heard some people walking by – am not sure if they noticed this jakun at the auto-pay machine but it was only then that I realized there was another slot on the left side. So inserted my ticket there and finally the machine accepted my ticket and the next instruction was to insert money. Of course by then I already knew where to insert the money lah kan…


I have already mentioned this story in my earlier respond to the blonde bimbo moments tag. But let me just mention a shorter version of it here.

A friend had approached me, asking me to talk to a relative of hers, a problematic rebellious teenager who always caused trouble to her family. So we agreed to meet up in front of a particular restaurant. My friend then left me with the girl and went off elsewhere. We figured the girl wouldn’t talk much if my friend was around. I told my friend I’d call her once we’re done.

We went into the restaurant, ordered some food and had our chat. After about an hour or so, I called my friend to inform her that we were done. We (the teenager and I) then got up and walked out to wait for my friend. Just as I was about to open the door to walk out, a waitress ran after me and said rather loudly, “Kak, belum bayar!”

I had totally forgotten to pay for the food!!! I looked at the bill, gave the waitress some money and told her to keep the change as I was too embarrassed to wait a second longer. There I was, talking to a problematic teenager, yet I looked like someone trying to escape without paying but got caught instead! During times like this, I wished the waitress would have called me makcik or even nenek instead of kak. Then at least people may think… alahai, kesian orang tua pelupa ni


I went to send my car for servicing at the regular service centre. They had a comfortable waiting area so I waited there while they serviced my car. Once done, the girl at the counter called me, “Kak, sudah siap!” I got up from my seat, went to the counter, the girl showed me the bill, and I paid in cash. After she gave me my change, I asked for my car key. The girl looked confused. Then she asked, “Yang kakak pegang tu bukan kunci kereta kakak ke?”

Actually when she showed me the bill earlier, she had already given me the key and I was holding it all along. There I was already holding the key and yet I was still asking for it. I then said to the girl, “Aiyo, sudah nyanyok lorr!” and then selamba-ly walked out (it helps that I have a muka sadin).

Alright then, 5 scenes enough lah okay? I hereby tag whoever wants to share their cringe moments with the rest of the world...

Monday, 10 November 2008

The problematic ladies...

When I was on clinic duty last Wednesday, I took the opportunity to get some additional info from SN on some of my old clients. SN now has an assistant helping her out at the HIV clinic so at least she has a bit of time to entertain me with my queries. Previously she was all alone in assisting the doctor - so it wasn't a good idea getting info from her on a clinic day. She'd be rushing here and there.

I had been trying to get in touch with a 69 year old lady client to whom I was assigned to as a buddy 2 months ago, but somehow all my calls didn't get through. Every time I called, I'd get the message, "Please try later." So I checked with SN in case I wrongly copied the phone number. SN took out the client's file, and yes, it was the correct number. What SN is afraid of, is that usually if we are unable to call the clients, chances are they'd be missing their next appointment. This lady's next appointment is in February 2009, so let's just wait and see if she's going to turn up. So far the other elderly lady I was assigned to, Makcik Minah, 74, came only for her first appointment and disappeared after that.

I also asked about Ifa, who, during my last meet with her, told me her blood test at a particular district hospital showed that she didn't have HIV. Well, according to SN, the latest blood test done at Ipoh GH showed Ifa's CD4 count had dropped drastically while her viral load shot up. My guess is, at the district hospital Ifa mentioned, they didn't even test her for HIV (she was warded for asthma). So of course the results didn't show anything about her HIV status. Obviously Ifa had not been compliant in taking her ARV medication. In fact, Ifa openly admitted she doesn't take her medication on weekends as she'd usually be at the disco then - and she didn't want the ARV medication to clash with the ecstasy pills she takes when at the disco. Ifa had told me earlier about this, and I've talked to her about the implications then. But whatever said to her seemed to be going in one ear and immediately out the other. Her earlier khalwat case has not been settled, yet she seems to be getting herself into more trouble. Earlier on, she used to cry a lot. Nowadays she doesn't cry anymore, but she seems oh so stubborn! She doesn't seem to care about the implications of whatever that she does. She said she doesn't want to think about her HIV anymore. To me, it looks as though she's not even thinking at all. Susahlah ini macam... we're trying to help her, but she doesn't want to help herself. And the fact that her father doesn't give a hoot about whatever happens to her is making it even worse. Sigh...


When my colleague and I were on our way to visit Suhaila and Samsul last week, my colleague told me about Yah's latest "adventures". Well, Yah doesn't seem to call me anymore (unless the financial assistance she usually gets are banked in late - even though I told her time and again, all the financial assistance she gets are not under my control) ever since she got herself involved with so many men. First she got herself involved with Mr Darling. Then with one engineer (the one she chased all the way to Kelantan and caught this guy in bed with another woman). Then with one army guy whom she slept with without informing the guy of her HIV status. The army guy did find out later about her HIV and threatened to kill her if tests show he's infected. Hmmm... I wonder what happened to this guy... never heard about him since then.

And remember in my earlier posting I mentioned about Yah getting from Fuzi the phone number of Fuzi's friend and ended up telling this friend about Fuzi's HIV status? Well, according to Fuzi, Yah asked for the number "saja nak kawan-kawan". Aiyo, she wanted to kawan-kawan and Fuzi just gave her the number?? To me Fuzi was at fault too for giving Yah the number. I mean, the least she could have done was to ask for the friend's permission to give his number to someone else.

Anyway, according to my colleague, he spoke to Yah quite recently and she told him about her newfound "Datuk" friend who bought her a RM200 handbag. Well, I'm not quite sure if this Datuk is a spouse to a datin or to a nenek, but as my colleague mentioned, we don't understand why anyone would want to "saja-saja" buy her an expensive handbag. We're quite sure Yah did not mention to him about her HIV. What we're not sure about is what Yah gave in exchange for the handbag... after flirting around from one man to another, you get what I mean lah...

Sigh. First she was just Yah, the tough kampong lady. Then after her angau episode with Mr Darling, she became Yah Ah Ngau. I guess now it's Wild, Wild Yah...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Clinic duty and house visit

I was on clinic duty last Wednesday. It had been quite some time since my last clinic duty. Ever since my mother underwent her knee operation in August, I took a break from the clinic duties.

My mother is doing well now, and things aren’t too hectic (yet) at the office, so I decided it’s about time I go for clinic duty. After all, I needed to get some info from SN about some of my old clients.

There were only 3 new cases referred to us that day. The first 2 were Chinese-speaking patients so I let my 2 colleagues do the talking while I wrote down their particulars for our record. The 3rd one was a Malay guy though, and so my colleagues let me handle the session. But I didn’t really have to say much.

You see, this third guy, an ex-IVDU, did all the talking! He was diagnosed HIV positive when he was still in a pusat serenti and since then he was determined to give up on drugs. Now still on methadone treatment, he has also already started taking his ARV medication. He is actively involved in the activities of AADK (agensi anti dadah kebangsaan) and even gives talks to youths; talking about his own experience – how he got involved in drugs etc. He told us that his “journey” to being an addict began since he was in form 2. He told us how, when he started working in KL, he could get his heroin supply for the day for as low as RM2. During the talks to the youths he’d also openly admit he has HIV.

The moment this guy left the counseling room, my colleague commented, “First time lah, the patient talks more than us.” True indeed, usually the people referred would still be in shock, and feeling rather lost, they wouldn’t know what to say and most of the time they’d just keep quiet and would only answer whenever we ask them anything.

Later in the afternoon, together with another colleague, I went to visit Suhaila and Samsul at their home in another town. We promised Samsul we’d give him a call once we reach the town so he could wait by the roadside. Their house is right beside the main road leading to another town, and while it was easy finding the road, it’s not so easy looking out for the house number!

I have never met Samsul or Suhaila before, so I had to depend on my colleague to look out for Samsul. When we got there, at first I was quite surprised. What I saw was a lovely kampong house which definitely looks much better than the kampong house I'm staying in now! I thought Suhaila and Samsul told us they desperately needed help financially?! Then I looked around, and then I noticed there were a few small wooden houses at the back within the same compound. Ahh, Suhaila and Samsul were actually renting a house within the same compound as the landlord’s.

I had brought along some foodstuff with me in my car, including rice, flour, noodles and some canned stuff (yes Pak Malim, including canned sardines!) and unlike some other clients who’d usually say, “Alaa… buat susah kakak je!”, Suhaila and Samsul just thanked me. Obviously they were already desperate.

When I got into the house, at first I thought it looked rather spacious for a small house. Then I realised it looked spacious because they didn't have any furniture whatsoever. Just a mat. (people with susunitis like Kak Puteri will mati kutu here...)

The couple has a very active 2 year old boy who has been tested negative for HIV. Alhamdulillah. Suhaila is a fulltime housewife while Samsul collects and sells recyclable goods, earning just over RM200 per month. Their house rental? RM150 per month. Just about RM50 a month left for food and other things including travelling to Ipoh for their appointments. How lah to survive like that?

Samsul is willing to work. It’s just that at the place where they live, there are not many job openings, especially those which don’t require him to do medical check up, particularly blood tests. There are many job openings in Ipoh but he’d need to move to Ipoh first. Samsul and Suhaila doesn’t mind moving as long as we could get them a cheap house.

So we are now trying to find a cheap house (circa RM200 rental) for them and there is a very good chance that he can get a job as a security guard (Samsul by the way, is still strong and healthy despite his HIV). If the plan works out, they will definitely have more than RM50 a month to spend on necessities, and since they’ll be staying in Ipoh, the cost of travelling to the hospital for their appointments will be much cheaper!

Not forgetting, it will be much easier for me to visit them too.

I really hope the plan will work out… soon!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

How to break the news?

I was getting ready to go to work on Monday when a text message came in on my hand phone. So I checked and the message was "Akum". That's it. Nothing else. And it came from an unfamiliar number so I couldn't figure out who the sender was. Now, who on earth would text me a message just to say "Akum"?

At first I thought maybe the sender accidentally sent the message before he/she managed to finish keying in whatever he/she wanted to say. But no other SMS came in, so I just let it be. Maybe it was just a case of wrong number. I have received calls on my hand phone before asking for Adelyn lah... Zul lah... Chong lah...

Later in the afternoon I got a call from the same number. But the phone just rang once and then it stopped. It was as though the caller purposely gave me a missed call. He/she wanted me to call back or what?! Usually only my niece would do that (giving me a missed call and expecting me to call back).

I sent a text message to the number - "Siapa ni?"

Then the reply came: "Maaf ya. Saya dpt no fon ni dr hspital. Saya dijangkiti kuman HIV."

I still had no idea if this person was a male or a female but that didn't matter; I decided to call this person. Chances were this person wasn't really sure if he/she should call me.

A guy answered my call. He had just been diagnosed HIV+ less than a month ago and was feeling rather lost and confused at the moment.

I asked if he was free to come to my NGO center the next day around 3 pm. Since he said he's usually free after 2 pm, he agreed.

The next day I made sure I reached the center before 3 pm. The guy reached our center at 3 pm sharp.

Razif found out about his HIV infection when he went to a private clinic for his very bad cough which didn't seem to stop. The private clinic did a full blood test on him. Before the test results came out, Razif was admitted to the Ipoh GH for some lung infection. Somehow, he was not tested for HIV when he was warded. After he got discharged, the doctor at the private clinic called him to inform him that he had been infected with HIV. The doctor then gave him a referral letter and told him to go to the ID clinic at Ipoh GH.

So last week he went to the ID clinic and met up with SN to fix for an appointment. SN also got him to do another blood test at the hospital to find out his CD4 and CD8 count. His appointment with the doctor will be in about 2 weeks time.

Razif has not told any of his family members about his HIV. He is confused. He is scared. His parents and siblings may not need to know, but his wife definitely needs to know as she will have to get tested as well. Yes, Razif is married and has 3 young kids aged between 5 to 8 years old.

I asked Razif how he got infected. No, I wasn't trying to be judgmental or whatever but how he got the virus may make a difference as to how his wife will react when she finds out. From what I've seen so far, the wives are more forgiving if their husbands were IVDUs as compared to those who got the virus by having sex with other women. And for those who have had sex with other women, how the wife would react would also depend on WHEN his sexual activities took place. If before their marriage, then maybe there's a bit more room for forgiveness (the wife will still be upset and/or angry la). But if he had those affairs after marriage, a big war may follow after the wife finds out...

Well, Razif was never an IVDU. The infection was through sexual contacts. When asked if his wife ever knew of his affairs with other women, he just said maybe. He's not too sure himself.

OK, so how does one break the news? How do we tell a person that he/she has been infected with HIV? How do we tell someone that her husband/his wife has HIV?

Heck, I don't know! Breaking the news of someone's HIV infection is something I have never done before and I bet neither have most, if not all, of my other fellow Buddies. You see, most of the cases referred to us are of those who have already been told of their HIV status. All we do is talk/listen to them as it is during the first few weeks that they would feel very, very down.

Back to Razif - how do we help him? Yes, we can go to his house to talk to his wife if he wants us to, but with 3 young kids around and not knowing how his wife would react, I don't think that's a good idea. If she becomes too shocked to say anything, it wouldn't be too bad. But what if suddenly "world war 3" starts immediately? Who knows, anything is possible.

Since Razif will be seeing the doctor in about 2 weeks time, I suggested to him to tell his wife that he has an appointment at Ipoh GH on that date and that the doctor had requested that he brings his wife along. Let the doctors break the news. They are used to doing so. And they can explain better to the wife of the implications whatsoever. Hopefully the wife will be able to control herself better at the hospital rather than at home. How the wife will react later when they get home... that's a different story altogether. I told Razif to still be prepared for whatever that was to come and that if he needed to talk after that, he could always call us. Or if his wife needs someone to talk to, then she can call us too.

Razif was receptive to the idea. After all, he was warded at the Ipoh GH quite recently and so the wife may think that some test results are out and the doctor may want to talk to them both regarding Razif's illness.

So, yes, that is how it will be. Or at least that was what Razif agreed to do. The wife needs to be tested for HIV. If she's negative, alhamdulillah. But if she is positive, then the kids will need to be tested too.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Anita & her baby

It had been quite a while since HIV positive mothers with babies were referred to us Buddies. The most recent cases assigned to me were more than a year ago. The youngest of the toddlers is almost 2 years old, with others already over 2 years of age. All already running around.

Recently a colleague informed me that we may be getting a new case of mother and baby soon. Initially I was made to understand that the baby too is infected. It was an out of wedlock childbirth, so when I was told the baby was positive, I thought probably the mother did not go for proper checkups for her pregnancy. Apparently my colleague had assumed the baby was positive based on what he heard from someone else - without checking the facts.

Remember Anita, the young mother I mentioned in my last posting? Well, this is about her.

Anita is 22 years of age. She had an affair with a foreign worker, got pregnant and the foreign worker left her. Anita was then staying with her sister in another state. When the sister found out about her pregnancy, she was reluctant to let Anita stay with her. Anita was passed around from one sister to another, until finally the sister closest to her agreed to take care of her. The sister, already married, took in Anita to stay with her and took care of her throughout her pregnancy.

So yes, Anita did go for proper checkups at the hospital, and that was when she found out about her HIV infection. Necessary precautions were taken to minimise the chances of infection to the baby and so, no, the baby is NOT confirmed positive. The baby, a cute little boy, now 2 1/2 months old, is however under observation and blood tests will have to be done from time to time. I truly hope and believe the baby is spared from the virus.

The problem now is not about the baby being infected, but the fact that Anita has yet to get a birth cert for the baby. I was rather confused at first as to what the problem really was. Anita has been liaising with one of the hospital welfare staff, and was told that they'd help her out with the registration. But the last time Anita went to see the guy, he gave Anita the forms and told her to check back with him later. Or at least that was Anita said. I believe she didn't really understand what the problem was.

Just by speaking to Anita and her sister, I didn't really understand what the problem was either. Yes, the baby doesn't have a father, but I've seen a few such cases before and that didn't stop the child from having a birth cert. The only problem was that at the column for father's particulars it was written "Maklumat tidak diketahui."

The JPN form has been filled and signed, the borang pengesahan kelahiran has also been signed by the maternity unit, so what's the problem in getting a birth cert for the baby?

After more digging, we found out that Anita herself doesn't own an Identity Card. All she has is her birth cert. Duh! Already 22 and her IC not done yet? OK, never mind, we thought. With her birth cert, she should still be able to get her IC done - of course she has to pay fines and all that, but that's not a major problem. Or so we thought.

You see, Anita and her siblings share the same mother, but Anita has a different father. The late father of the siblings was a Malaysian who married a Singaporean who eventually got herself a Malaysian citizenship. When their father died, their mother married an Indonesian with Malaysian PR status. Despite already having obtained citizenship by then, in Anita's birth cert, her mother's citizenship was written as Singaporean, while the father, Indonesian. Her father has since disappeared, and although Anita's siblings tried to look for him to help with Anita's IC, they could not locate him.

They were in the process of getting their mother to sign the necessary statutory declarations to correct Anita's birth cert and to confirm Anita's citizenship status when Anita's mother died.

The sister with whom Anita is currently staying is willing to help her out, but she herself is not quite sure how to go about. So for the time being, Anita still doesn't have an IC. I asked if there were any problems in school without her IC. To my surprise, I was told that Anita only went to a sekolah rakyat for a short while. Ahh! No wonder lah! My first impression of Anita was that she wasn't such a "wild" girl like the previous case of the out-of-wedlock pregnancy I had handled before (remember Zana?). She looked the innocent type. She didn't even get proper education. Anita is just the kind who can be easily duped.

I am not sure if that (of Anita not having an IC) was the problem in getting a birth cert for the baby. Anita herself was a victim of circumstances, we don't want her baby to inherit the same. We hope to help her settle the problem soonest possible, although frankly speaking, I am not too sure myself how to go about. Right now I am like going around the roundabout not knowing which junction to take. Must we settle Anita's IC problem first before getting a birth cert for the baby? Or can we get the birth cert without having to wait for Anita's IC to be done? Any readers out there care to advise?

One good thing is that Anita has at least one sister willing to take care of her and the baby. Otherwise, we'd probably have to send her to a shelter home.

Monday, 3 November 2008

A busy Sunday

A senior writer of a monthly magazine emailed me last week, wanting to interview me on my voluntary work; and asking if I could arrange to get any HIV+ mothers to be interviewed as well.

I had no problems about being interviewed, as long as they were willing to come to Ipoh for the interview. It would be good publicity for the Buddies. As for them interviewing my clients, well, I could ask a few of my clients, but if they refuse I would have to respect their decision and would not persuade them further. Some conditions would have to be met of course - the clients shall remain anonymous - so no photos of them and no real names either. And since we are not supposed to bring outsiders to the homes of our clients, the interview would have to be held elsewhere.

Since Fuzi has a +ve child, at first I thought she may be the right person to be interviewed. After all, her neighbors already know about her HIV status. But due to the discrimination she has been facing from her neighbors of late, Fuzi was reluctant.

I then called Shila and asked her the same thing. Shila was quite okay with the idea as long as she could remain anonymous. And since Shila is good friends with Jah, I told Shila I'd try to rope in Jah as well so that she wouldn't be the only one interviewed. Asking Jah was not a problem at all. She'd always jump at the opportunity to jalan-jalan anywhere, and upon hearing that Shila would be joining as well, she said yes on the spot. In her mind was... jalan-jalan and FREE LUNCH!! :)

And so the date was fixed - we were to meet the senior writer at a particular shopping center at 2 pm on Sunday. I told Shila and Jah I'd fetch them at the bus station at 1.30pm and I promised them after that I'd send them back right to their doorsteps.

With the program set for Sunday, I figured I'd spend my Saturday relaxing at home. I needed time to relax too.

While I was relaxing at home on Saturday, blog-hopping in cyberspace, a call came in with the familiar James Bond ring-tone. It was from Suhaila. I have never met Suhaila before. SN had referred Suhaila and her husband to us, as this couple is a poor couple with a young child. Her husband, Samsul, does odd jobs and as such they don't get fixed income. The last time they came to the hospital for their appointments, I was busy at work. So I told them to meet up with a colleague who was on clinic duty that day. That was quite some time ago.

Suhaila called on Saturday to ask if there were any latest developments about their application for financial help, particularly for their child. She said my colleague had promised that he'd visit them at home to arrange for the financial help. Since I wasn't really sure what were discussed the last time they met at the hospital, I told Suhaila I would have to discuss with my colleague first. I also told her that we are all working people and since she stays quite far from Ipoh, we may have problems finding the time to visit them. It's not like I can just drop by at their place on my way home from work.

When I asked my colleague later, he said Suhaila and Samsul were supposed to call him the next time they were to come to Ipoh for their appointments, to hand over whatever copies of supporting documents needed. Yes, he did mention that we Buddies may be visiting them when we have the time. I guess Suhaila and Samsul took it that it was part of our job to help them. I doubt they are aware that we are doing this voluntarily without getting paid.

Anyway, the future of a child is at stake here, so I will try to arrange a visit, hopefully soon.

Later the same day, a call came in from an unfamiliar number. The caller introduced herself as Anita, and asked if I was Cik Afizah; and when I said yes, she asked to speak to my colleague. And I was thinking... aiya, want to speak to my colleague, call my colleague lah, we don't stay in the same house!

Apparently she was referred to us during our last clinic duty (I wasn't on duty then) and since there were problems she needed us to help her with, my colleague promised to visit her at home to assess her situation. But my colleague had been unwell himself lately, and so he had been postponing the visit. Anita didn't take down my colleague's number. So she decided to call me since my number was written on the brochure that she got. Since the girl stays in Ipoh, I told my colleague that we'd visit her after Jah's and Shila's interview with the magazine writer. I asked my colleague to call Anita and inform her of our plan and that we'd bring along 2 HIV positive ladies as well.

Came Sunday, after attending a kenduri and my zohor prayer, I headed to the bus-station to fetch Jah and Shila (and Shila's daughter, Laila). Just as I was about to reach the place, a text message came in from Shila, telling me they were on their way. They were about 10 minutes late.

I then brought them to the shopping complex to meet up with the magazine writer. The interview went smoothly, and was held over lunch, paid for by the interviewer. Selamat poket aku... :)

After an hour or so, the interview (and lunch) was over. I then took the ladies to my NGO center where I promised to fetch my colleague to come along to visit Anita. It wasn't much of a problem looking for Anita's home - her sister's home actually, Anita stays with her sister. Anita has a cute, adorable, rasa nak cubit-cubit 2 1/2 month old baby - so while Jah, Shila and Laila just watched, I was busy, very busy... playing with the baby!

Anita's story has a lot of pusing-pusing and bikin pening, so I'll save her story for my next posting. (sorry, the Pak Malim-syndrome at work here!)

Since it was getting late and I had promised Jah and Shila I'd send them home, we couldn't stay longer at Anita's home. And since I was going to send Jah home, I promised Hana I'd drop by for a while at her home (Jah and Hana stay in the same town). I needed to get a copy of Rashid's death certificate.

Hana had just moved to a new house - in the same kampong and at the foot of the hill instead of perched on the hill. I still had to climb a bit, but this time I could see the house from where I parked my car - unlike her last house. Her last house was getting dangerous to live in anyway. Hana had forewarned me that her father was home and that he doesn't know anything about her HIV (her father has 2 wives and spends most of his time at the home of his 2nd wife). As such I was not to mention anything about her HIV status. I just went as someone from a charitable organisation.

After leaving Hana's house, we sent Jah home before dropping off Shila and Laila on our way back to Ipoh. It was a rather busy day for me.

More house visits are planned for this week - but before that, I will be coming up with Anita's pusing-pusing bikin pening story in my next posting. Stay tuned!