I was scrolling down my twitter timeline as I religiously do, when I saw the tweet directed at the ubiquitous Giditraffic. The lady wanted help, her children’s nanny tested positive for HIV, she didn’t want to discriminate, what could she do?
Now, this is a dilemma most people would never want to find themselves, especially as the nanny was/is very good – she explained in further tweets. Finding help in the Lagos jungle is tough, finding good help is almost impossible. And, as a wife and mother in Nigeria, the benefits of a good support system (especially/including a great nanny to younger kids) cannot be overstated.
I reached out to this lady not just because I felt I needed to, and I could, but because I identified two issues. One, she was a good person with a good heart. Very few people would think twice about this situation: they would just fire the lady – fast. Secondly, I detected an issue with a lack of education about this illness and the attendant issues. And believe me, ignorance kills faster than infection when it comes to this disease.
So we exchanged contact details and the lady was nice enough to call me. Naturally, her fear was that her children were at risk. But upon discussion about the ways HIV CANNOT be transmitted I could tell any more fears she had were just offshoots of the ‘bad press’ HIV attracts. She also seemed surprised to find out that this illness is mostly ‘reversible’. What that means is that someone who is placed on drugs and sticks to a healthy regimen can one day be diagnosed with an undetectable viral load (i.e. the virus cannot be detected in their blood).
Just to rehash, here are the ways HIV CANNOT be transmitted :
By Air, Food or Water
Sharing cups and utensils
Sitting on the same toilet seats
Sneezing, coughing or any airborne method
Feces, nasal fluid, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit, unless blood is mixed in them
Anything that doesn’t involve blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk
It can be transmitted by:
Sharing needles or sharp objects with an infected person, maybe during a manicure, a shave, haircut or hairdo,etc., or using unsterilised needles, maybe for an injection or something
Receiving infected blood
Unprotected Sexual intercourse
From mother to unborn child either during gestation, delivery or by breastfeeding
So I told her if her nanny wanted to infect her children with the virus it would have to be very deliberate. Transmission of body fluids- except saliva- like blood and other fluids from the reproductive organs was highly unlikely if the lady was as good as she said she was. Besides a 40 year-old lady with 3 children was not very likely to harm someone else’s child if she had been taken in even after the diagnosis. But she still felt there was a slight chance; what if her (the nanny’s) hand was bleeding and her son had a cut and she touched it with the bleeding hand? I thought that was far-fetched but who’s to say that can’t happen? Also, unlike her, her husband had already made a decision: pay the lady off. Maybe occasionally send some money and/or check on her welfare.
Frankly speaking, it does not matter to me what decision this lady takes; a mother will usually do practically anything to ensure her child is safe and sound, it is natural. You cannot then say you are protecting someone else’s interests or feelings and neglect that of your children. Even I as a HIV+ mum with a HIV- child still ensures that I do not put her at risk of infection in any way. What is really of importance, however, is how whatever decision she makes is executed, and how it affects the nanny in question. And I will explain.
1. If you care enough, then care in total.
Truth be told firing someone because they are HIV+ is illegal. This is not a disease that is easily communicable. Hell! There are doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at YOUR hospital that have this illness and they are still in practice. If status was a basis for firing shouldn’t they be the first to go?
This nanny is a person, a human being with feelings and a heart that can be broken. Finding out she is HIV+ must have been devastating for her, but finding out ON a now-threatened job, that was supposed to provide a source of income for her and her children must be crushing. If you pay her off, it might assuage your conscience, but it could kill her spirit and- God forbid- end her life. If you must let her go, show her WHERE to go. Direct her to counselling and treatment so she can be assured that it is not over for her, and she can live a full life. I am here to help out, ask me! Or send her to LUTH to ask for directions.
Otherwise you are just telling her to find somewhere else, other than your house, to die. And even if the HIV does not kill her, the resultant depression will.
Check my last post- I was suicidal! And this is me who is supposed to be enlightened about this illness.
2. Get educated. I do not believe anything comes to us by chance. That she ran into a nanny who is HIV+ is no mistake or coincidence. I think she is being led to gain knowledge about this illness. Not to scare anyone or imply anything but HIV is closer than you think in this country! Nigeria has the highest number of people living with HIV in the whole world! And understand that these are based on the statistics they have. There are many people who have either refused to be tested, refused to be treated or refused to reveal their status, who are HIV+. I always tell the story of men who come secretly to the clinic for treatment without their wives’ knowledge, or about the higher income earners who go for private, secret consultation and treatment, and so on.
My point here is get tested, then get educated. Information is available on the internet for free! Crosscheck the facts against the myth. Testing is done twice in 3 months. I admit I am a bit irritated when I hear people speak ignorantly about HIV. Many illnesses kill faster, spread easier, and cause more problems than HIV. Hepatitis B for instance, it is so infectious and dangerous, that chefs are automatically fired if they are infected and it is very rampant and sexually transmitted. But people don’t ask for those test results often. Ignorance is not an option: don’t spread hate.
I feel the need to write this because I do not think I was as articulate when speaking to the lady who I will refer to as IT. I also feel that this is a message more people need to hear. There’s no illness that people can recover from if they add stress and depression to it, no matter the treatment they are receiving. With HIV we are encouraged to avoid depression because it actually physically worsens the illness. Having undergone a severe bout of depression recently, based around the absence of a source of income for me to provide for my dependents, I can identify in great measure with whatever this nanny may be feeling. And no one deserves to feel that way.
There is this general attitude towards people living with HIV, that they should be ashamed, should be in hiding. Especially if they were infected in the ‘illegitimate’ way. And I ask, for what?!! What are we apologising for? That we were infected with an illness? So what if it can be contacted through sex? We should apologise for having sex? A lot goes on behind closed doors than we care to admit, some are lucky and escape unscathed, others not so much. Practically everyone has something in their past they are ashamed of, if someone’s act, whether of stupidity or ignorance or nature, led to this infection who are you to judge? And what is the legitimate way to fall ill, please?
Please, Let One Lift One. That’s why we are here.
Love and Light