MARRIAGE AND SEX WITH AN HIV POSITIVE PERSON; WILL YOU?
The job of a doctor is unique in many ways. It not only confers on the practitioner some special responsibilities but also some special privileges that are not common with others. One of such is getting to know the deepest secrets of patients which one is under oath not to divulge even at the demise of such a patient.
Such is the case with a patient, Miss O (let me call her Onome for the purpose of this article) who has been enjoying a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Bello for some years now. Miss O is a dream woman in every sense of it. Above average in beauty, brilliant, well mannered, pleasant personality with a thriving and well paid job. She became Dr. Bello’s patients a few years ago following a bout of malaria fever for which he treated her. Along the line Dr. Bello became her personal physician that she consults for most of her medical issues and she soon told him her HIV status which was accidentally discovered while she was trying to join the Nigerian Navy few years earlier. The discovery put paid to her interest in the Navy and she even relocated from Kaduna where she was then living with her parents to Lagos.
Some 14 years down the line, Miss O has made a success of her carrier and has also been able to keep the ravage of HIV under control through strict adherence to her drugs, top personal hygiene, well balanced diet, adequate rest and regular medical checkups. She is healthy by every physical standard and her viral level has been undetectable for about many now. Despite this, Miss O has a deep wound in her heart in the area of her love life and romantic relationship with the opposite sex.
This was about 3 years ago now, when she developed this consuming desire to get married and have her own kids. Apparently, she kind of came to the conclusion that time is no longer on her side and with the constant pressure from her parents (who are ignorant of her HIV status) and the society at large, she is now desperate to start her own family.
Onome has not been really short of male admirers and toasters. On one occasion, she has even taken the affair far, only for it to collapse at the last minute. That was the affair with Bode which was wonderful in every respect until a few weeks to their proposed wedding when she told him her HIV status. She had met Bode at a training program from the office and the two of them hit it off. Bode was then in his early 30s while she was in her late 20s. The affair blossomed to the extent that marriage became a consideration. There were initial problems over sexual intercourse as she was always turning him down. After much pressure, she gave in but never without the use of condom.
After about 2 years of dating, Debo proposed and started demanding that Onome gets pregnant. Some 6 months down the line, after he had met with her parent and proposed a date for the wedding, she ran out of excuses and had to reveal her HIV status. Bode simply walked out of her life never to get in touch again. Since then, she has not been able to summon the courage to have any long lasting affair with any man preferring a short stints just to keep up with societal expectation. Occasionally, when sex is involved it is always with a condom and once the man start getting serious or even pester her for sex without a condom, she just find an excuse and breaks up the affair. On a few occasions, she has tried to look for an HIV positive man to marry and even tried a dating site only to get scammed.
Now, Onome is desperate to get married and fill a big void in her life. Her parents and her siblings are putting her under intense pressure. Her church members, friends, office colleagues, neighbors, all seem to look at her with scorn these days. That is the problem Onome has now dropped on Dr. Bello’s laps and as her doctor, who must treat the whole patient and not just her physical illness, he must rise up to the challenge and help Onome find a solution.
Dr. Bello did rise up to the challenge and today some 19 months after Onome first sought her doctor’s help to get a husband, she is not only married but also expecting to have a baby of her own in the next 6 months.
Sexual and Reproductive health of People living with HIV/AIDS is a fundamental right that is often denied by the society including even health workers. For most people, once a person is found to be HIV positive, he or she should just forget about romantic relationships, sex and raising a family. This believe is not only totally unfounded, it is in no way helpful to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it also negates the dignity that every human being must be accorded. If society fails to properly accommodate the sexual and reproductive health and rights of this category of people, there is tendency for them to resort to self help or even become desperate and revolt against the society by indiscriminating spreading the disease.
With the advancement in the management of HIV/AIDS (though still incurable), sufferers now live a reasonably healthy life, can enjoy sexual relationship under strict safe sexual practices, can get married and have normal healthy babies even with HIV negative spouse. The first step as an adult is to know your HIV status and then operate under the guidance of a qualified health professional with full adherence to all medical prescription. Sex and childbearing are central to the lives of most humans and being HIV positive should not be a sentence to a life of no romance, no relationship, no marriage, and no family.
- IZIAQ ADEKUNLE SALAKO
Public Health Physician, President, Health and Wellness (HOW) Optimization Foundation.