Yesterday HIV ceased to be a mere statistic for me

Infectious Disease lectures at Class 72 Theatre, UP College of Medicine

To the casual observer, she looked healthy. When she faced the class and talked about her life story, she didn't sound like she was dying. But we knew what was happening: her immune system was being attacked, making her more and more prone to infections that could potentially lead to her demise.

She got it from her husband. He worked overseas for a time. He had known he was HIV positive when he went home to the Philippines, but for some reason he didn't tell her. They had unprotected sex. By the time she knew, it was already too late. When she had herself checked, she too, had tested positive. Those lab results changed her life.

Her husband has long been dead. Speaking with a faint Visayan accent, she told us that all she wants now is to live for another five or ten years, just in time for her children's graduation. Many of her friends who had tested positive are now gone. She sounded amazed when she related how long God has kept her alive.

Her story made my classmates teary-eyed. I mean, who wouldn't be?

Ate Imelda probably noticed this, but she went on, unperturbed by the gush of emotions in class: a mixture of pity, pain, anger, and surprise. She told us to be careful.

The professor who invited her asked the entire class to shake her hand. HIV/AIDS is not transmitted by mere physical contact. It has to be sexual or parenteral. I went up to her, shook her hand, and thanked her for her courage in speaking about a topic not everyone felt comfortable dealing with. She was the first HIV positive person I had seen in the flesh.

Soon after the class was dismissed, my friends and I asked if she could spare us a moment. We'd like to pray for her, we said. And pray we did. We prayed that God would protect her and give her hope, and then we said goodbye.

We would never forget her, that's almost sure, but, above all, I hope we would never forget what she had told us. To not take risks. To be wise in our actions.

2 thoughts on “Yesterday HIV ceased to be a mere statistic for me”

  1. I really hope that's something we could take time to do for our patients in the near future, not only when it's convenient.

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