I have many hats in my little bag and on days like this I get to wear two. I had just been on the phone with a heart-broken patient (names changed to protect their identities). Amanda had been diagnosed with HIV a year ago following a shady blood transfusion at one of the private hospitals in Lagos. This had to have been the most terrifying period of her life but she survived the ill health, the drug side effects and the stigma from family members and after a protracted sick leave returned back to work. None of her colleagues was the wiser. They treated her the same and seeing that my dear patient was successful, smart and very beautiful she had an army of interested menfolk wanting to make her their Mrs. She made a conscious effort to ward off any advances even though she admitted that every night she still cried unto God to give her a good husband. She wasn’t very hopeful because the average Nigerian man would never willingly marry a HIV positive woman and likewise. Then along came Emeka. Emeka was a dream and soon despite her steely exterior he began to affect her and that was when I got the first phone call. She wanted to know when was the best time to tell a suitor that she had HIV and more importantly HOW to break the news. She was convinced she would be judged, abandoned and worse still, the news of her status would be spread abroad by her suitor leaving her with a stigma she wouldn’t be able to shake off. She was in a dilemma, I was in a dilemma. Seriously nothing in med school prepares you to be able to give this sort of advice. I told her to follow her instincts, be sure his love was genuine before sharing her secret and most of all, not expose him to the virus in anyway. At this point, I would like to say categorically that you cannot catch HIV by hugging, kissing, sharing toilets or cooking utensils or by sleeping together on a bed!
Amanda started dating Emeka without informing him of her status. She said she tried several times but just couldn’t. Emeka sensed she was hiding something and kept bugging her while assuring her of his unconditional love. He began to hint about marriage and Amanda realized time had run out. Most churches in Nigeria require a HIV test before they conduct the ceremony. Amanda under a lot of duress broke the news to Emeka. Emeka’s first reaction was fear, his second unfortunately was rejection and the rest is history. Emeka wanted a fairytale not the harsh reality he was presented with. Before you start defending him and preaching about why self-preservation is key, let me tell you about the eye-opening experience I had at a missionary hospital. I was on a one month posting to the hospital and I saw a lot of families, some having up to six children attending the special clinic they ran. At the clinic the most common demographic were families comprising of one HIV positive patient and his/her HIV negative spouse and children. The clinic staff provided support and counselling for couples who had one HIV positive partner and ensured they and their families lived a healthy life without transferring the virus. So YES it is very possible and you may ask yourself what made these HIV negative people stick it out with their partners and even marry them and have children together. According to Lionel Ritchie, ‘They call it, we call it, you call it, I call it love…♥♥♥’
So now the question to ask yourself is how deep is your love? How much can it take? Many people just want the fairytale wedding along with the fairytale tall, dark (or extremely yellow), slim, good-looking and very rich spouse. Unfortunately the number of people in the world who fit that description is very small compared to the average looking, 99 problems, struggling to make ends meet populace that abounds. No wonder so many women and men are crying out for a spouse. They all have the same expectations for a spouse and the supply of this particular breed of perfect homo sapiens can never meet the demand. So is your love the stuff that real life happy endings are made of or is it as flighty as our beloved fairytales? Would you marry a HIV positive person? Or maybe someone who was blind, mute, deaf or without arms or legs? Would you marry a person with vitiligo or albinism? Would you marry someone scarred by accidents or burns? Some of you wouldn’t even date a fat, seemingly unattractive person much less one with heart disease or a grim diagnosis or even someone with sickle cell genotype. Would you marry a broke dude or a woman who couldn’t have children? I can hear the loud ‘Olorunmaje!!!’
People who do not conform to the world’s idea of beautiful are usually the most beautiful of souls. Warm, kind, funny, amidst their suffering they have developed strength and the grace to laugh at their condition and reachout to others. Under the layer of imperfection is a soul and a spirit no different from yours and when you talk to the wonderful people who have chosen unconditional love and married someone who the world would have otherwise scorned, they seem genuinely happy with their choices, seeing a depth that is incomprehensible to the keenest of eyes. What is the guarantee that your hubby or perhaps wifey, the perfect one you married will not lose his/her job, health, money, position, property, figure or looks after marriage? What would happen to your fairytale then? Adversity develops character and unfortunately most people with seemingly perfect lives have never really had the chance to develop their inner man so what happens when they are stripped of everything? Nobody yearns for misfortune but time and chance happens to them all. Today I urge you to ditch the fairytale love affairs the same way you swapped Disney cartoons for blockbuster movies and embrace the imperfections and endurance that make true love what it is. Remember that beneath the bleached skin, Brazilian hair, red lips, designer clothes, money bags, six packs and baby face lies the person you will be waking up to for the rest of your life. Remember that pedigree does not mean he will respect you, wealth does not mean he will be kind to you, education does not equate faithfulness and looks do not guarantee fine children!
Have a great day chutzpah fam, Xoxoxoxo 🙂