*As I’ve mentioned in my first post in WUB, I am involved in HIV/AIDS voluntary work. My NGO name is Buddies of Ipoh whereby a buddy is assigned to each individual PLWHA. I intend to share real-life stories of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) whom I’ve had the chance to be their buddy. Hopefully by sharing their stories, people will understand more about their trials and tribulations. Please note that due to confidentiality, I do not use real names in any of my HIV stories.
This first story is about Rose…
Rose was a cheerful lady. She had delivered her 3rd child when her husband died. It was through normal delivery, and for a month or so she was breastfeeding her baby.
Only after her husband died did she go for a blood test…. and HORRORS! She found out she was HIV positive. “My baby! What about my baby?!” she thought. She had been breastfeeding him for a whole month!Thank God the baby was spared. Tests after tests had proven that the child was negative. The boy is 11 years old now and living healthily.
One of her husband’s colleagues, who knew about his HIV status, happened to be one of their neighbors. During the husband’s funeral, there were whispers going around saying that he died of HIV. Within a day, the whole neighborhood knew he had HIV and suspected she was infected too.
Rose and her children then moved to stay with her mother at the family house, together with her sister and brother-in-law. While some of the family members were understanding enough, some were still feeling awkward about sharing things with her. Her own loving mother, who didn’t know what HIV was in the first place, whenever friends and relatives came to visit and asked what Rose’s illness was, she’d just tell them innocently, “HIV.” Again, the whole neighborhood knew.
When Rose’s mother died a few years later, her family problems worsened. Rose sort of became dependent on her sister’s husband for help. Her sister got a bit jealous and said things she shouldn’t have said. Most of these HIV infected persons are very sensitive and so Rose really felt hurt with what her sister said. So, with the help of a male friend, she and her children moved back to her late husband’s house without telling any of her family members. She even changed her mobile number so they couldn’t contact her either. At that time, even the Buddies lost contact with her. Her buddy then was a Chinese guy (I had not joined them yet). Although Rose was okay with him, she was not comfortable enough to share her personal problems with him.
It was only some time later did her family members managed to locate her. They didn’t expect her to go back to her late husband’s house so they didn’t bother to check that place earlier. By this time Rose had already been diagnosed with cancer of the cervix and she had become dependent on the male friend who helped her to move earlier. Ah yes, the male friend, that’s another problem!
This male friend actually told the family members he intended to marry Rose. That left the family fuming. They were rather suspicious of him – he knew Rose was HIV positive, so why did he still want to marry her, they wondered.
Well, I understand their suspicion. Only problem was, due to this, Rose’s relationship with her family members didn’t get any better although at that point of time, she needed as much support as she could get. Rose needed people to depend on while the family members didn’t want to help her unless and until she forgets her boyfriend. She was getting weaker, had to go for radiotherapy in addition to her HIV clinic appointments, yet when she asked for help from her own family members, they gave her all sorts of conditions. So, in the end she still sought the help of her boyfriend, who was more willing to help.
When Buddies finally managed to get hold of Rose’s latest contact details, a few of us went to her house to visit. We were told by her neighbors that she had to be warded at the General Hospital. We immediately went to the hospital. The Buddies had lost touch with her for some time already; we needed to know her condition. Rose cried when she saw us. She was touched. Other than her boyfriend, nobody else visited her at the hospital. Not even her family members.
From then on, I was assigned to be her new buddy. We hit it off almost immediately. She told me everything about herself from A to Z. As she was rather weak to come to the hospital by herself, whenever free I’d fetch her from home and send her to the hospital and then later send her back home. Initially I used to meet the boyfriend. But as Rose began to get closer and closer to me, I saw less and less of him. Apparently, all Rose needed was someone to depend on, not necessarily a boyfriend or a husband. If only her family members supported her more…
-to be continued-
Pi Bani, Malaysia