Tuesday, 10 March 2009


We hadn't seen him for months. Years actually.

About 3 years ago he had been scheduled for an operation. He and his young wife were unable to conceive. They did a number of tests - and found that he needed a procedure to be done.

When he was admitted and anaesthetised, the surgeon did and unethical but very common practice. He tested him for HIV without telling him.

Most of the time the test comes back negative - and the surgeon proceeds with the cutting.

This time it was positive.

The surgery was not done. The young man was sent home with the news that he had 'AIDS'.

He came broken with his father. The old man cried. His son had HIV.

Over the next few months we tried to help this young man. After he got over the initial shock he became increasingly hostile to our team meeting him. "I am fine" he said. "I am well. Don't bother me."

We encouraged him to tell his wife about his condition, but he stone-walled. Eventually we gave in to his demands and stopped seeing him on a regular basis. The occasional look-in by our staff every 6-7 months or so got a shoo-off from the young man.


Yesterday the young man - and his old father came to see Dr. Sheba. The man was in a miserable state - complaining mainly of rectal bleeding ('piles') for which he was very concerned. He also was running a 104 degree fever when Sheba checked. The man refused to admit that he was sick - saying that his 'jaundice' was being healed by a healer who puts drops in his nose, causing it to water profusely after which he feels very well.

Why had he come? He was afraid of the blood he was losing. Wanted that to stop.

Had he told his wife yet? No. They now have a small child. They are obviously taking no precautions to stop his wife from getting his HIV, despite clearly being told. Sheba looked up the old file - and it still was there - and saw the advice that was given when we first met him.

So here is the question. What do we do when people clearly engage in self-destructive behaviour? Should we forcefully tell the man's wife about what her husband has not told her over the last 3 years? If we do tell her, then what? If we don't, aren't we party to the injustice meted out to her but this man?

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