“Man is a make believe animal; he is never so truly himself as when he is acting a part.” – William Hazlitt
Tomorrow is a special day. It’s a day that we transition into a new and the last month of the year 2020. The day being 1st December and if you can tell, it’ll be World AIDS Day. The theme for this year is: “Global Solidarity: Shared Responsibility.” Probably you are asking yourself why I’d consider it a special day yet it’s all about HIV/AIDS. To me it means more than that and that’s why I consider it a special day.
Growing up in a rural village in Siaya County, most of the knowledge I got about HIV/AIDS was either from the radios, school during science classes or once in a while during family discussions which were not often. When people talked about HIV/AIDS, the HIV part was often neglected and the focus was shifted to the AIDS i.e. symptomatic phase of the disease and then at that physical appearance and manifestations were considered signs of infection. If you can relate, you’ll talk of weight loss, sunken eyes among others. Anybody who happened to be sick looking was considered positive and most often shunned even though not told off outright. There was some level of common human decency even though I later got to know that not all those with HIV/AIDS are sick looking. The sick looking are the exception and most likely these are people not on medication.
If you’ve been following on my articles you already know that I am medical practitioner (pharmacist to be specific). In my training and practice I had a chance to work at HIV/AIDS clinics and as usual having had that societal perception of the positive people you’d most likely expect to see the same when you get to the hospital. It was totally the opposite. There is this day I got to the hospital and went for clinical rotations on the opposite side of the hospital before getting back to start my duty at the clinic. Past the gate I met this pretty lady. She was stunning to a point I didn’t hesitate extending my greetings and being in my best behavior with a white coat I had an extra point. (It’s not unprofessional, she wasn’t in the hospital setting but outside so there’s not a doctor-patient relationship here.) We had a brief chat and exchanged contacts to catch up later and later we did catch up.
Going to my work station I was super ready to discharge my duties with a smile having had a great encounter to start the day and number to add to it. How lucky could one be? The day moved on well until around mid-day when on getting back from the store to get extra packs of medicines I’d meet my pretty lady. The prospective that she was. Deflation I say. I did my best to stay professional not to alert any of the other persons in the station. It went well and luckily enough she was “positively positive” so she wasn’t bothered at all. I attended to her and promised to see her in the evening. There’s never been a date as enlightening as that. I wasn’t sure of the next steps in the whole relationship but I had two main answers from the date:
- Not every person living with HIV/AIDS will look sickly. Some will be healthier than those living without the virus, you better be safe than sorry.
- Positive living isn’t a sin or a crime. It’s okay to be sick and accept the fact that it’s your situation. Acceptance helps ensure you take care of yourself and that’s a win in the fight against eradication of HIV/AIDS.
We talk once in a while and I’m glad I made a friend on that day.
Recently as I was doing my internship I had an experience with a youth support group where I was enlightened of the challenges of disclosing an individuals’ HIV status especially when one is positive. You can find the account of this here.
It’s up to us to take precaution and look out for each other. We can defeat this epidemic if only we become responsible. Let’s do that.