Thursday, January 12, 2006

Derek's visit to an HIV ward

On Sunday, LPG organized a visit to the HIV ward in Sg Buloh hospital. I have always been concern about HIV-related issues and all, so naturally I was there. CF came along as well.

I didn’t know what to expect. Well, actually I did. I was under the impression that the patients would be terminally ill or in the advance stages of AIDS.

We met at nine in the morning at A&W New Town. We had a breakfast and a short briefing of what to expect. We were told not to ask “How did you get the virus?”

We reached the hospital at almost eleven. Turned out that I was waaaayy wrong. The ward is only for patients who need to take anti-HIV drugs. It’s a place for people who haven’t reached the critical stages of AIDS.

Basically, the patients there are under medication for HIV and some other sickness like TB.

For some of them, the ward may be the last place they ever see on earth, although there are those who can leave if their CD4 cells are sufficiently high. (HIV drugs are only administered when the CD4 cell count is below 200)

I talked to a few of them. One was a lorry driver. He had worked in quite a few countries before (Hong Kong and Taiwan) as a bartender. He was cheerful and didn’t seem sick at all. He has been in the ward for about two weeks due to TB infection, but has recovered.

Another guy that I spoke to, let’s call him A, has been in the Royal Navy of Malaysia. He was regaling us with his experiences at sea, of pirates and dark magic. Very interesting man indeed.

When he told us he has a CD4 count of less than 10, I was truly shocked. He seemed healthy and in a better shape than the rest. Some of them were really thin, with skins wrapped tight around the bones, with visible rib cages, and H was not like that at all.

H was a realist; he revealed that he could die anytime. Even though he looked pretty fit, he can barely walk a few steps without running out of breath. He has to hold onto walls to move around.

It goes to show that we can never tell whether one has been infected or not by looking at them.

The visit has been quite an eye-opener for me. It actually doesn’t matter how they got infected; it has already happened. Ultimately, HIV postive people are still, well, people and they should be treated just like anybody else. They face stigma from society because they are being judged, and assumed to be, morally-loosed.

And we call ourselves a caring society.

The situation in Malaysia has not reach epidemic levels yet, but the way things are being done here i.e. lackadaisical and reactive rather than proactive, things could get out of hand.

The UNAID report said that “Malaysia has now the fifth highest prevalence HIV rate in the Asia Pacific region. Moreover, the epidemic is spreading from traditionally marginalized groups into the general population.

I think this is partly due to the availability of anti-viral drugs, which may suppress the virus for a very long time and allow the infected the person to lead almost a normal life.

This might have led some to believe that getting infected is not big a deal.

However, one would need to take the drugs everyday, twice. Imagine popping 10 pills twice daily, for the rest of your lives.

Prevention is, and always has been, better than cure.

Just a little reminder here to my dear readers. Two words: safer sex.

At the risk of sounding like an HIV awareness campaigner, do check out this website called Love Life. I find that it presents the facts in an extremely interactive and cool way. The homepage itself has a condom which looks like a pair of lips and which speaks! ;P

Anyway, we left at about half past noon and went to some nurseries nearby. Heh, gay men and their affinity to flowers. We spent an hour there and I bought a pot of flower for my mom.

My mom really liked it and she even asked why I didn’t buy more.

While we were there, we took some pictures while we were there. There were pictures of flowers and the other LPG members. Candid and arranged shots.

Of all the pictures, I like one the most. This picture turned out really well; very clear and vibrant.

A picture which shows two guys beaming happily, in almost matching shirts, amidst lovely greenery.


ça va pas la tête said...

That's a very nice gesture - to visit the sick! ;) Keep it up.

savante said...

You're a good man. Continue the good work.


Shigeki said...

Derek, it was very well put. that's right. Even though it's terminal ill, it's not yet cureable. It's a big deal. But many don't seem to think so.

Derek said...

ça va pas la tête: Thanks. I am just doing my part to help, that's all.

savante: Again, thanks. We can all do our part to make society a better place to live in.

shigeki: Thanks.

Exactly. For Malaysians, when something is not in the news often, it gets forgotten. People get careless and even complacent.

Alex said...

Salute! Keep up the great work!