I think one of the most dreaded tasks any doctor has to perform, is to deliver a positive HIV test result. The thought of the patient’s reaction, (people have been known to collapse), is enough to make one sweat. Usually, there is pre and post counselling. Also, I personally, try to guage the patient’s temperance, hoping and praying he or she is not given to fainting, or worse still, taking it out on someone. Some incidents in the past, have led to my deciding to do this post.
This is about a young man, no more than 30, who came in for a medical fitness assessment few years ago. Most Nigerian companies, ask for HIV tests. They claim that they will not discriminate against those found positive, but potenial employees doubt this. I’ve had a man go on his knees begging for his result to be falsified, because he believed it would affect his chances of getting a job. Unfortunately, the hospital can only recommend that the subject is fit despite being HIV positive, but cannot fight for the person.
So this young man in question was positive, and had come for the results. I held the sheet, wondering how to break the news. A handsome, well spoken, gentleman, I felt he would take it badly.
“As you know we ran several tests”, I was buying time.
“Yeah, I know”
“Among them, tests for syphilis, hepatitis B, and more. All the tests were negative but one”
“Really? Which one?”
“Before I tell you, I hope you know that having any disease is not a death sentence? There is….” he didn’t let me finish.
“Is it the HIV? I know it’s positive” he stated.
I let out a breath. Why was I so worried?
“You already knew your status?” I asked.
“No, I did not”
“Then how did you conclude that the result is positive? ”
“I just suspected”
“Why? Did you hear from a previous partner, that she is affected, or you noticed any symptoms?”
“No, I just had a feeling”
“Why?” I asked.
” Before I became a Christian, I was very promiscuous. I was in bed with a different girl every night, sometimes 2 at a time. Occasionally, I used protection. During my service year, after university, I did the test when an organization offered us free, voluntary counseling, and testing on camp. It was negative. I was so happy about the result, the next time someone preached to me, I gave my life to Christ”
I was by this time, leaning forward, eager to hear the rest of the story.
He went on. “I began to preach after camp.Everybody in my neighbourhood knows me as a preacher. I usually hold crusades, and so on. The truth is that I have been celibate since that time, but I just felt that I may not get away with the rough life I lived”
I was very sad. Here was a man who genuinely repented of his lifestyle, and still had to pay this sort of huge price. Was God unable to deliver his own son? How would the people he had converted take this news, if they got to know? Would they believe he had been celibate, or assume he was living a double life?
“I am not even worried for myself, what do I tell my fiancee?” he added.
I was dumbfounded. “You are due to be married?” I asked in shock
“Yeah, we’ve fixed a date, informed my parents. This job was supposed to cement everything. I don’t know how she’ll take this news”
I thought for a while.” Ask her to come in for a test. You can tell her it’s a pre marital tests since most churches demand genotype and HIV tests. If she is positive, we’ll break the news to her and decide what next. If not, you will decide how to tell her that you are infected”
“We have never had sex” he informed me.
“Really? That’s great news! I’m so happy to hear that. You have to think. What kind of a person is she? Does she believe in you? Is she a tale bearer? Can she keep a secret? If she can, then open up to her and follow it from there. On the other hand, if she is the type who will go and tell the world that you are HIV positive, just break up with her, without telling her why”
“I can’t imagine living without her, I love her so much. I’ve been looking forward to our wedding night, keeping myself for her. How can I leave her?”
“Well, this does not mean you can never marry.There are ways to protect partners who are not carrying the virus” I chipped in
“No, I can’t do that to her. I can’t take the risk”
“I don’t want you to give up. Don’t decide that you deserve this diagnosis because of your past. You have to appeal to God for healing based on his word that any man in Christ is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Can you practice what you preach? ”
I will end this story, here for I never saw the man again. Please write and tell me how you would have handled the situation. If you were his girlfriend, would you rather not be told? Does repentance exclude us from the fruits of our mistakes? How do we break the cycle?