Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Policemen get AIDS too.

We fondly remember one policeman we looked after a few years ago. In his prime he was a champion boxer. By the time he came to us he was skin and bones. We were not able to extend his life by much - but he died in peace - and his brave wife continues to do an excellent job raising their two amazing children.

The husbands of policewomen - and the policewomen themselves - can also get infected with HIV. We have been working with one such couple for some years now. Sadly he keeps taking detours to the bottle. She keeps the family going by putting on her police uniform and putting up with him - largely for the sake of their pre-teen daughter. Little do her colleagues know that she is living with HIV.

Sheba saw a police officer today. She had met him a month ago. At that point it was clear that he had tuberculosis and was in a very poor state. He had told no one of his illness. Sheba told him to come for treatment. He did not.

Why not? Probably fear. Fear that others will find out. He had not even told his wife.

Today this man told one of his younger relatives about his condition. He brought the policeman to our centre. Sheba saw him. He can hardly walk now. His immunity is rock bottom. He still had not told his wife.

Sheba asked him to call her. The relative went to fetch her. The lady came and was told about her husband's condition.

It was a terrible shock for her.

She was also asked to be tested.

As part of the pre-test counselling, we ask the person how they will react if they are found to be HIV positive.

"But I won't be positive" said the policeman's wife. "OK, but imagine if you are... how do you think you will react?" asked Sheba.

"I won't be positive" was all the lady could muster.

Its very, very hard. The deep stigma and loathing that surrounds HIV continues. Faced with awkward truths - most of us try to hide and post-pone the moment of when we have to reveal - and be vulnerable. For so many who have HIV - this postponing and procrastination goes on for years. In this family the man has been exposing his wife to the virus for years now.

The lady talked to Sheba about how such 'big-big' people used to come to her house. Now no one does.

Its hard for the poor to get care. But for the rich and powerful - it is just as hard. This poor man lives in a posh appartment only a brisk walk away from our clinic. Because of fear of others finding out about his condition - he has now deteriorated to a state where he is too weak to walk.

Who will look after our law-enforcers? The virus has made deep in-roads into the force. We have been privileged to work in a small way with a few families - but there are so many others who are living in silence and fear - while wearing the uniform.

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