14 Nov 2013 by Adeline Lum CM-
The day Wong left the hospital was the most grievous day for him. He had no home to return to, upon his diagnosis of latent tuberculosis and HIV. But this is the time when Wong needed his family the most in keeping his sickness under control. With his scrawny and feeble body, how can he keep up with swallowing 50 tablets a day at the appointed time?
With nowhere to go, Isaac Tan—a staff of the Crisis Home, a Christian rehabilitation home for people living with HIV/AIDS—faithfully took bed-ridden Wong in and fed him the medications around the clock. Now, Wong is nursed back into health, beaming with gratitude. In Crisis Home, seven other residents who were former drug addicts and/or HIV positive also found a second chance of living a normal life with dignity here.
“Most of them (people living with HIV/AIDS) have family members. When they were found out that they have HIV positive, the family would find shelters to take care of them or leave them in the hospital. But are they not their brothers, sisters, father, or mother?” said Isaac.
Why do cancer-stricken patients get treated at home while HIV-positive patients are either abandoned or left in shelters? Not only their own family members ostracized the HIV-positive patients, they are also stigmatized because most people do not know enough about HIV to interact comfortably with them.
“We want to bring awareness to HIV and AIDS. And it is to remove the concept that it only happens to other people, it will never happened to me, our children, our nephews, or children in our neighborhood,” said Isaac who was a drug addict for 13 years but had been clean from addiction for the past 25 years through a drug rehabiliation centre. Although he did not have HIV, he stayed and took care of HIV-positive residents in Crisis Home.
Stigmas exist because of the lack of understanding on HIV; people misperceived that this disease can be transmitted through touching, having meals together, swimming in the same pool, spending time in an enclosed air-conditioned room, using the same lavatory, and having bitten by the same mosquito.
But the fact is HIV cannot be transmitted through these ways because normal body fluids and waste products such as –feces, nasal fluid, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit– have insufficient amount of virus in them to infect, unless you have blood mixed in them or a significant direct contact with them.
However, certain body fluids contain high amount of HIV such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, breast milk, vaginal fluid, anal mucous, amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and synovial fluid. These types of body fluid cause transmission of HIV disease.
Protected sex then by using a new condom for every sexual intercourse can save people from a lifetime consequences of HIV or AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, and abortions. It is also important to note that HIV transmission through heterosexual intercourse is the highest now in Malaysia, overtaking sharing of unclean needles among drug users, which used to be the highest.
“Crisis Home wants to remove discrimination and stigma from the HIV community and also to bring awareness of this disease,” said Isaac who provides classes and also tours for everyone who wants to know more about HIV and AIDS in Crisis Home.
Working closely with LGBT friends, Crisis Home shared educational resources with People Living with HIV/AIDS for them to have a transformed and healthy lifestyle. Crisis Home accepts every person who is HIV-positive regardless of race, language, and creed.
Lastly, if we were to ask ourselves honestly, do we have empathy for former male drug addicts or male having unprotected sex with multiple partners who are contracted with HIV? Part of us may believe that they deserve these consequences in their lives, having made the wrong decision. And because the disease is infectious in certain modes, it is reasonable to leave them alone.
The truth is that while empathy can be easily extended to women and children with HIV or AIDS, there is little room to empathize men who usually receive the brunt of the stigma. But if we charged people who have sinned and are already receiving the lifetime consequences of a disease, is it right for us to add to their burden by ostracizing and abandoning them? Remember that the very HIV-positive boys whom we can easily empathize will also grow up to become grown-up men as well one day.
Yap, a resident of the Crisis Home, found acceptance and hope in Crisis Home. He started taking drugs when his girlfriend influenced him in his early twenties. And at 35 years old, he was diagnosed with HIV and then lung cancer in his early forties. Because the medications were too expensive, he stopped taking them, which eventually blurred his eyesight. With the hope of returning his eyesight in the hospital, he met a few Christians there and accepted the Lord.
“Without Jesus, life is different. Everything you do in the past, you need to worry and depend on yourself. But now I trust in the Lord; He said, ‘If you have a problem, I will bear the burden for you, you don’t need to worry,’” said 49-year-old Yap who found acceptance in Christ.
“Before I accepted Christ, I could feel a sense of rejection. But after accepting Christ, I was being accepted by my brothers and sisters-in-Christ. I feel more peaceful and joyful, without any worries. We need a place to allow us to transform our attitude, lifestyle, and behavior,” said 57-year-old Yen who had been in Crisis Home for seven years.
“Is the church ready to received those who are HIV positive into their church and include them in their activities?” asked Isaac, relating how HIV-positive males usually have a hard time in seeking employment. The residents of Crisis Home try hard to contribute to the expenses of the house including rental, food, electricity, and water bill. And with the faith of a few Good Samaritans, some of them are contributing financially by working as security guards and product deliverers. One is even working in the IT Department of a church.
Hence, if Jesus Christ accepted Yap, Wong, Yen, and other HIV-positive former drug addicts in love, should we as Christ followers do the same as well?
“There are about 15 homes in Malaysia for People Living with HIV/AIDS to stay and Crisis Home is one of the very few in Klang Valley now. Everyday, new cases are detected and recorded, how about those not detected and recorded?” asked Isaac.
Perhaps, it’s time to educate ourselves about HIV and AIDS so that we can accept those with this virus with reasonable precautions in love. Also, remember to educate your friends who are sexually active to practice safe sex (i.e. use a condom in every intercourse). And no, we are not advocating sex before marriage. The Bible says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Heb 13:4)."
Every day, about 10 Malaysians are recorded diagnosed with HIV (many more goes unrecorded), and with around 70 percent of the new HIV infections found in adults are aged 20 to 39 years old! Currently, there are over 91,362 reported cases of HIV in Malaysia since 1986.
Women are increasingly getting infected with HIV, making one-fifth of the newly infected persons in 2011. This percentage has increased four folds since a decade ago! From 1986 to 2011, 9494 women and girls have acquired HIV.
The trend of having more women cases is linked to heterosexual transmission. Most of the infected youths are unaware of their status and unknowingly pass the virus to other people. The main mode of infections among youths is through sexual contact.
The World AIDS Day is held on December 1, 2013 on Sunday! We would like to appeal to the Christian community to pray for people living with HIV/AIDS. If you like to know more, you can visit FGA Cheras on December 1 for a talk by Isaac Tan in conjunction with World AIDS Day.
Note: If you like to contribute to Crisis Home or have HIV/AIDS awareness talk in your church/workplace/school, or you would like to speak to someone about HIV/AIDS, please contact Isaac Tan at firstname.lastname@example.org or hand phone +6016-2727-072.
Find out more about HIV and AIDS here:
References for pictures: