When the "illness" is better than “Wellness”.

2014-08-13 06:15

Over the past 30 years, HIV has been a weapon of mass destruction for an African child. For decades, it remained the scariest infective condition the world has ever seen. It has been, by far, a subject of medical research and healthcare funding from all corners of the world.

The progression of HIV infection leads to AIDS… a combination of diseases that is known as a syndrome. Literally, it can be any disease, although there is a list of conditions that are specifically associated with the progression of this infection.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed some overwhelming and applaudable breakthrough, as far as the treatment of HIV infection is concerned. From a handful of tablets, now the infected patients only take one tablet a day… just one pill. Hallelujah!

Life expectancy has also found its way up, rendering HIV infection less fatal, if at all. In contrary, people now die from other medical conditions not-so-associated with HIV. That’s how effective the ARV’s are. Thumbs up, bra Aaron!

Weird though, a lot of people are still reluctant to go for HIV testing. Those who happened to be tested are lost to follow up or simply default on their treatment. Strange, isn’t it?

But why? The stigmata that come with the disease. That’s the answer. We seem to die mostly from the psychological impact, rather than the physiological deterioration of this disease.

In many hospitals, for many (if not all) medical conditions, there is a “one-stop-service”… a “doctor-sees-it-all” kind of a thing… an environment where a patient is being treated, rather than a disease. An asthmatic patient who also suffers from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes would normal be seen by only one healthcare provider, and be treated for all his/ her conditions.

The above is not true about HIV/ AIDS. We have WELLNESS Clinics… a designated area for HIV patients. More often, these clinics are situated in a hospital corner where nobody else goes… far from “normal” patients. Their ARV’s are brought there, or they have a separate window at the pharmacy. There is just something unique about this “specialized” clinic. An isolated kind of environment.

According to the community, anybody who walks that direction is cursed… well, I guess they meant infected. Nobody wants to be labeled as being “a different patient”. So, people tend to refrain from being seen going to “Wellness clinic”.

But really? If something brings such stigmata and emotional trauma to patients, why do we still call it “wellness”? What’s so “well” about this? Why are we even still keeping these torturous clinics? Is this for the convenient of the patients, or was it a political decision?

I mean, ill patients actually prefer to remain ill than to go to “Wellness clinics”. They prefer illness than to walk to “wellness” clinics, where everybody will simply know of their HIV status without any blood tests. It is a daily torture that our community is confronted with.

When asked if he takes any chronic medication, my not-so-learned patient replied: “Yes, doc. I take HELLness pills”. It might have been a mispronunciation of “wellness”, but I think he gave it a better name. Yes. A better name! HELLness! A much befitting name.

As much as I’m aware there is a lot of funding in HIV management, a lot of statistics and auditing, and a lot paper work to be done for the funding Papa, I refuse to believe that segregating HIV services from the rest of the hospital services was/ is a smart move. I believe it is an unnecessary emotional torture, and serves no better purpose to the patient but the funder.

To me, wellness clinics are an insult to the community, and should all be scrapped off. Like any other patient who requires any other “non-specialized” medical care, HIV-infected patient should also be afforded dignity to consult in general consultation rooms that are not stigmatized.

Until then, HIV shall remain a curse! A monster! A weapon of mass destruction. A psychological torture! A nightmare!

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