HIV? Me? No, I am married (18)

“Doctor, please tell my husband what is going on.” Nma put her hands together under her chin and sighed.

I stared back at her confused for a moment.

Could it be that she hadn’t told him her status? Was she seriously expecting me to do this? First her daughter, now her husband. How many more family members was I expected to break this news to?

I felt a bit panicky at the thought of Nma bringing an endless line up of sons, daughters, uncles and aunties, in short a whole clan of people for me to speak to.

Nma had come back to see me with her husband a week after I’d seen her with her daughter. I was glad they had come together. I immediately recognised Dike, though we hadn’t met for nearly a year. He looked much older than I remembered but still had that distinguished look about him. Perhaps a few more grey hairs than last time.

“This is my husband, Dike,” Nma spoke once they sat down.
I had nodded at him and smiled. I wasn’t sure how much he had disclosed to Nma. Had he told her his status? He nodded back at me, his face blank. Maybe he didn’t recognise me.

“Nma,” I started trying to gather my thoughts. “I…”

“What is going on, doctor,” Dike snapped. “My wife has been losing weight, she is always tired, I have found her crying on several occasions for no reason…is she at meno…meno…whatever you women experience when you are older?”

What! I screamed inside. If it hadn’t been such a serious situation, I was sure I’d have burst out laughing. Instead, my mind went into a tail spin. What game was Dike playing??

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (17)

HIV, Black women, Hepatitis“Yes, that’s wise. It will be good if you all get tested and we can arrange
that for you.”

”Meanwhile if someone has a bloodborne virus like HIV, it is good medical
practice to check for other bloodborne viruses like hepatitis as these can
sometimes go together because they can be passed on in similar ways.”

”Hepatitis?’ Nma frowned “Isn’t that a liver problem?”

”Yes it is. It can be…..’

”That’s what grandma had when her eyes were all yellow,” Aka interjected. Nma
nodded.

”Yes, hepatitis can cause jaundice which is what makes the eye appear yellow.
There are different types: You can get hepatitis A from contaminated food, That’s
not a big problem but the ones we worry about are Hepatitis B and C. These can be
acquired by using unsterilised needles, sexual intercourse, using unscreened
blood or blood products…

”I had a blood transfusion after I gave birth to Aka…so I might have this
hepatitis too?” Nma started crying again.

”Hei, dont think like that,” I chided. ”We need to do a blood test to find out
first. No need worrying yourself to death about something you might not have.”

”Mum please take it easy,” Aka pleaded.

”We don’t have to do it immediately if you would rather take some time to think
about it.”

Nma looked blankly ahead.

”Doctor, lets sort out the HIV first and maybe do the hepatitis later,” Aka
said.

”Fine,” I handed her some information leaflets on hepatitis.

”So how do we get rid of mum’s HIV?” she asked.

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (16)

I stood up when he did, our eyes clashing. For once I was grateful for my
height because he was really tall and imposing. I wasn’t going to be
intimidated, however.

“Please do the right thing. Tell her your status so she can get tested’.”

He maintained his defiant stance for a moment.

“And if I don’t?”

“I owe you a duty of confidentiality as my patient so she will not hear it from
me without your permission. But be aware that its a legal offence to
deliberately engage in activity that will get another person infected with
HIV.”
HIV, SEXUAL HEALTH
He lowered his gaze. I could see he was reconsidering so I pushed on.

“Remember it’s not a death sentence, HIV can be treated even though there is no
cure. If she is positive, you can both receive treatment and support each other.
If she is negative, then you can take steps to protect her like making sure you
always use condoms during sex.”

He sighed heavily, rubbing his hand across his forehead. I felt a twinge of
compassion for him.

“Okay” he said at last, raising his eyes. I smiled at him.

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (15)

HIV, SEXUAL HEALTHDike looked up finally.

“I couldn’t tell her. She will be furious to learn I have been with other women.”

”We are talking about a serious infection, Dike. If she doesn’t get tested, she cannot benefit from treatment if she needs it. If she is tested and she is negative, then she can protect herself and not have to get HIV as well.”

”I can’t” he said with a note of finality.

I felt myself getting angry. How selfish! All he could worry about was losing face before his wife.

”But what of her health?” I demanded.

He picked up his keys off the table – his usual way of signalling that he was finished with me.

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (14)

”No you can’t get HIV from hugging someone. There has to be blood or body fluid contact.”
Nma had backed away from her daughter’s hug.

”I don’t want Aka to catch it,” she muttered.

”HIV is a blood-borne virus. It’s passed on through blood transfusions, sex, using contaminated needles and things like that.”

”We have some really good leaflets on HIV and I’ll give you some to have a read through at home.”

”No, I wouldn’t want my husband to find such material at home.”

”Mum, Daddy has to get tested as well. You have to find a way of getting him to take a test.”

Nma shook her head in wordless resignation.HIV, Black women, Adaeze Ifezulike

”We all need to get tested as well,” Aka said with a maturity I hadn’t realised she possessed.

I smiled at her and nodded.

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (13)

  “It’s okay,” I hurried to reassure her. ”Noooo,” she screamed. ”Mum, tell me that’s not true.” ”Its true.” ”How could that be?” Aka asked at us both, bewildered, ”….does it mean…Daddy?” She stopped in confusion.

”I really don’t know,” Nma answered her unspoken question. ”What’s going to happen now?” Aka started crying.

”I know it’s a shock,” I said gently. ”But things have changed a lot and HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be.With treatment, many people live normal lives with HIV.”

”Everybody will find out and we will be ostracised,” said Aka. It appeared she hadn’t heard a word I’d said.HIV, Black women health

”No one needs to find out,” Nma spoke sharply to her daughter. ”You are not to tell a soul, promise me.”

”But Mum..!’ ”Promise me NOW!”

”OKAY, OKAY!”

”I only wanted you to know because I have no one else to tell,” Nma’s voice broke and she sobbed quietly.

It was as if seeing her mum cry sobered Aka. Wiping her own tears, she tentatively reached out to Nma and gave her a hug. ”Its okay, Mum,” she whispered.

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (11)

Black couple

Dike returned for his blood test result a week later. He’d called the receptionist for his result but, due to our surgery policy, this could not be given over the phone and he had been asked to make an appointment to see a doctor.

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”How is work?” I asked when he sat down. He looked the picture of prosperity with his well-cut brown suit and an expensive tie to match. “I must get my husband one of those ties for his birthday,” I thought as my mind strayed momentarily.

”It’s going very well. I have just been promoted and my company is sending me to Angola for a few weeks.”

“Lucky him,” I thought and wondered how I ended up becoming a doctor and not an engineer in a wealthy oil company. All expense paid travel, luxurious homes… I had to discipline my mind to stay in the clinic and not drift off to Abu Dhabi.

”Oh, that’s lovely! Congratulations!” I was genuinely pleased for him.

”Thanks. So about the test…?”

”Well, I’m sorry, I don’t have good news for you.”I paused. 

It seemed that all I had done today was give out bad news to patients. There was the man with lung cancer, the lady whose wrist had broken after a minor fall, the lady who’d been barren for 12 years and had forgotten about childbearing only to find out she is pregnant and wouldn’t hear of keeping the baby. She was still trying to work out why the pregnancy was bad news for her. Oh well!

”Yes?”he asked.

”One of the viral tests was positive.”

We talked for a while. And long after Dike left I sat stunned and unable to move on to my next patient. How could this be? Had I really heard him correctly…?

 

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HIV? Me? No, I am married! (10)

Nma came with her daughter Aka to see me a few days later. I was surprised as I thought she might be coming with Dike as mentioned at the last meeting.
I had no idea if she had told her daughter about her diagnosis.
As usual she looked immaculate and so did her daughter.

”Hello, come and have a seat” I smiled at them.
”How can I help you today?” I asked once the pleasantries were done.
”I would like you to tell my daughter about my sickness,” Nma said.
I gave her a questioning look.

”Yes, go ahead” she read my unspoken question.
”What’s wrong with my mother?” Aka asked with a frown on her face.
I hesitated uncertainly.
”I..Nma could I have a word in private with you?” I asked gently with an apologetic glance at Aka.
”There’s no need,” Nma replied with a hint of irritation ”Just tell her, please.”

Aka spoke up ”Tell me what? Tell me what?” she repeated with a slightly raised voice as I hesitated.
”Your mother has been unwell,” I started carefully.
”Yes I know..”
”We have run a number of tests and we found out that she has a viral infection..”
”Viral infection? What’s that?”
”I have got HIV,” Nma declared, impatient at my delay.

”What?” Aka screamed and instantly backed away from her mother.

Female Condoms: Greatest Invention since sliced bread?

An article on the BBC News website yesterday caught my eye. It was titled ”The return of the Female Condom.”

Some interesting pictures of female condoms on the site have been included here. I can feel some of our ladies cringing at the look of these objects 😀

Sexualwellbeingnetwork, BBC News.

sexualwellbeingnetwork, BBC News

They don’t look very sexy, these objects. But if they do the job, who cares?

Sexualwellbeingnetwork. BBC News.

Sexual wellbeing network. BBC News.

You can read all about them here

Sexual wellbeing network. BBC News.

Sexual wellbeing network. BBC News.

With women constituting 60% of people living with HIV in Sub-Sahara Africa, drastic measures are needed and that may have to include female condoms, no matter how ugly they look.

Of course our men can save us the trouble by simply using male condoms…..

On a lighter note, the rings found at the outer end of some female condoms have now turned into fashion assessories with some women using the rings as bangles!! I hope they wash them first…ew!