HIV/AIDS Patients: Facing Slow Death Alone [Archives:1999/04/Health]

January 25 1999

An AIDS patient’s medical needs cost about US$ 100,000 to 150,000 a year. That does not include requirements of food, clothes, accommodation or specialized health services. This has made the disease one of the costliest in human history.
This is a sad story, but the predicament of aids patients in Yemen is a story that makes you cry. Most officials would rather not know about the horrible conditions of Yemen’s AIDS patients. That is one of the reasons most cases are not reported.
Even those cases that are reported do not receive proper care. The responsible authorities do not offer AIDS patients any facilities, accommodation, medical care, or any help at all. What makes matters worse is people’s ignorance. People are scared of AIDS patients because they think the disease is contagious. That is why patients are abandoned by their families and friends. Your heart becomes sick when you see their condition.
“They deserve it. It is a worthy punishment.” That is what many relatives and friends say in order to cover up for their guilt. Some even tell you it is God’s punishment for loose sexual behavior. Their logic is based on the dictum: “The patients brought slow death and social disgrace upon themselves by their deeds.”
But, we are talking about human beings. Even if they got AIDS through extra-marital sex, these people continue to have some rights. We can’t abandon them as they face slow death.
Mr. A. Th, 34, is an AIDS patient. He is from Shameer, Taiz. His father died when he was 12 years old yet. He left the country when he was still 13 years old to Saudi Arabia where he worked in different jobs (waiter, worker, cashier, etc.) for 22 years. He did not receive any formal schooling. He is married and has 4 children. His family lives in Shameer while he lives in Sanaa.
During my investigation of the condition of AIDS victims, I met him. He agreed to talk to me on the record. Excerpts:
Q: When and How did you discover that you are infected with AIDS?
A: Before one year, when I was working in Saudi Arabia, I applied for a job in a factory. I had to take a thorough medical check up. Blood tests indicated that I am infected with AIDS. I did not know, then, what this disease was. The doctors told me it can’t be cured. I was expelled to Yemen.
Q: Coming back home, what did you find?
A: All my family members and friends refused to meet me or to let me live with them. I saw loathing in their eyes. I left my family and decided to live in Sanaa alone.
Q: Where and with whom do you live?
A: I live in a motel with some people. They don’t know I am infected. I don’t have a particular work, but I sell some shirts on the streets. I don’t earn enough money even to cover the bare necessities of life, but there are some people who give me money from time to time.
I have my own clothing and things. I use my own shaving machine. I don’t want to mix with people because I don’t want others to be infected.
Q: How did you get the disease?
A: When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had sex with women, boys and men from different nationalities (Ethiopians, Somalis, and Saudis).
Q: How do you spend your time on a daily basis?
A: I don’t smoke or chew qat. I spend my time with my mates in the motel. I eat with them, but most of the time, I stay alone.
Q: Are you on any treatment at the moment?
A: No.
Q: Is there something you long for?
A: I wish I could visit with my children.
Q: Anything you want to add?
A: People like me need help. There is none in Yemen at this time.
This was the interview I made with him. In every word he said, I felt sorrow and pain. This man still believes that authorities can help him. He has no other alternative but to wait for help until he dies. He is withering away.
I appeal to national and international organizations if they can do something for HIV/AIDS patients in Yemen.
By: Nadwa Al-Dawsari,
Yemen Times