Thursday, 30th May 2013.
I woke up feeling better today. And with all the excitement fading away, I had started to feel the pain from yesterday’s injection. After a hurried breakfast, I found my way to the hospital for my second injection. Dr E had left instructions with the receptionist that I had to see him before leaving.What again? I wondered? Could it be about the test? No oh. Please I’ve crossed that bridge, I reassured myself.
‘The other side ‘ I yelled at the nurse who was just about to puncture my right butt.
She promptly did as she was told. Seeing as I had shouted at her, I had to form like the injection wasn’t painful. Holding my head high, I walked to the reception. It was already full. Apparently it was maternity day. I found an empty spot next to a pregnant woman who had a feisty little boy on her lap.
Again I began to wonder what else Dr. E had to say that he couldn’t have just said on phone. Thankfully, the little boy’s noise kept interrupting my wayward thoughts. At some point Dr E stepped out of the office. I quickly greeted him so he could see me waiting. He responded with a rather grim face…….. or was it just my imagination ?
I decided to pass the time by playing music on my phone. After what seemed like eternity, Dr E asked me in.
‘I want you to go to Yaba tomorrow for a test. It’s at the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research. It usually doesn’t take time and you will get your result before you leave. Please get there early so you can be attended to early enough. Then you should bring the result here when you come foryour injection tomorrow.’
‘Alright Sir’ I replied.
He scribbled something on a paper, signed and stamped it. He then went on to fold and staple the paper and then addressed it.
Which one is this one again ? I wondered as I left his office . On the way home, I actually attempted to open it but the pin just kept ruining my nails. Whatever, I said aloud, frustrated and gave up trying to open it.
Afterall even if I see it, it won’t make any difference. I’ll still go for the test.
Friday, 31st May 2013
I woke up with the test on my mind. By 8.15 a.m I was at the Institute of Medical Research gate. The security man gave me directions based on the envelope in my hand.
Walking into what seemed to double as a passage and reception, I asked the woman at the desk for further directions. She ripped open the paper Dr E had given me and looked intently at it.
‘It is Esh-hi-fee ‘ she bellowed and pointed me in the direction of the lab. My heart did a quick backflip. And another. And three more.
HIV ? I dragged my foot in the direction of the laboratory. Why ? Did Dr E lie to me ? Why carry out two HIV tests within two days ? Was there a mix up ? Was my joy premature ?
There were about 8 people waiting for the test when I got there. With shaky hands, I wrote my name on the list I found and we all waited. It was now about 8.30am. None of the staff in that department had resumed.
People there started talking about HIV. They all just wouldn’t shut up. By now I had a headache and so using earphones wouldnt gave been a good idea. A lady was talking about how its not the end of the world. She mentioned she knew many couples living with the virus and living normally.
At this point I got up and walked away. I so wasn’t interested in this gist. I came back about ten minutes later. The list had reached twenty one. Still no one had resumed. I began to pace restlessly.
Finally a woman arrived and without apology, picked up the list. She introduced herself as ‘Mrs R’. Her job was to counsel us in groups of 10 before our test, and to refer for treatment anyone who turned out positive.
As number 9, I made it with the first batch. She went on to give us many details as well as the demonstration with a plastic penis and vagina. When she was done, she explained we would all fill forms which we would hand over to the lab woman.
However the forms would be filled by her. She then called everyone in one at a time to fill the form. Waiting for my turn was a harrowing experience but I had no choice.
Eventually I went in and made to sit on the chair right in front of her. She asked me to sit at the one close to the wall.
‘Sit on that chair’ she repeated firmly. I wondered to myself if that was the procedure or she would just rather yell across the room. I opened my mouth to speak but the look on her face shut it right back. I obeyed instantly.
She asked a series of questions from the questionnaire(which was supposed to calculate how risk prone a person is)
Finally she asked when last I was tested.
‘Tuesday’ I replied.
She hissed. Long. And hard.
‘Then why are you here ? ‘ , she asked, obviously irritated.
I thought about it too. Really, what am I doing here ?
‘I don’t know ma’, I replied weakly.
Choii what is this ? Dr E should have at least given me heads up naa.
‘What did your doctor tell you after the first test ?’
‘Negative’ I responded
‘Mschewww. I don’t just understand what the problem is with all these private doctors. See they have done it and its positive and they don’t know how to tell you. This is what they always do. Thenthey will remember NIMER and push people here. Mschewww. He told you its negative yet he’ssending you here.. Mschewww.’
I was speechless. Don’t even ask about my heartbeat. She stretched the form/questionnaire towards me. I got up to collect it but my shaky legs did not allow. I fell back in the chair.
‘Next person’ she yelled, looking at me with disdain. I stepped out of the room weak and drowsy. I found a chair quickly so I wouldn’t fall down. This woman just passed a death sentence on me so callously. What’s the point of even carrying out any test again ?
By now it was time for the test, again starting from Number 1. The lab woman came out and apologised to us all, explaining that she was going to look for the person with the keys to the cupboard which had the test kits.
Lord Jesus I started to pray, but could not find more words. Again the lady started another creepy HIV story. My heart was beating fast , fast, fast. This time, I had no idea how to pass time. I was so uncomfortable.
Eventually the woman returned with the keys and testing started. It went pretty quickly.
Again we had to wait for results . Argh ! I was angry. At myself. At the world. At civil servants. At Dr E. Especially at Dr. E. I searched my phone desperately for his number. No luck.
Arrrggghhhhh. I was sweating. God !!!
Results were ready. Again they started from the beginning. I sat on the edge of my chair . Number 5 was a woman with two little boys and she had somehow disappeared as the younger one wanted to “wee-wee”. They all agreed to wait for her.
‘Please let Number 6 go in’ I yelled. Everybody turned to look at me. I had screamed louder than I intended. Also we had been there more than three hours and I seemed to be the only one who didn’t complain about civil servants resuming late or tell any stories.
Finally it was my turn.
“Congrats, you’re negative,’ lab woman said to me.
‘Are you sure ?’
‘Of course’ she responded with a smile. She showed me the paper and went on to explain something I didn’t even listen to. She handed me my result and I left.
At this time, Mrs R had started with the next batch. I wondered how many other people she had ever scared. I wondered whether as an experienced HIV counsellor, she hadn’t been told how to handle sensitive issues. There would be people who would just walk out dejected and not even bother with the test again.
I left the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research thinkin, I gotta write this story. Oh and if you ever go there, please feel free to shoot Mrs R for me. She is evil !!!!!