No More Heartache and Humiliation
Just Like What Ellen and Her Children Experienced
Ellen lightens up the room with her warm smile but behind the happy face is a story that any person, HIV positive or not, could relate to. Thus, after hearing or reading her story, any person with sound judgment would realize that everybody deserves to be treated kindly. In fact, it is every person’s right to be treated fairly. So, if you want to learn how Ellen surpassed discrimination and injustice, read on.
When Ellen Found Out
Elena Felix or Ellen to her family and friends was in her early 30s with four young children ages 14, 13, 12 and eight to care for and an abusive husband to contend with. However, the mounting violence at home left her no choice but to face the hardships of being a single parent; and any responsible and loving parent would do anything to give her children a bright future, thus Ellen became one of the many Filipinos working overseas.
She went to Dubai in 1991 and she was earning well as a master cutter in a boutique and tailoring. Needless to say, she had been able to provide well for her family. For Ellen, everything was going smoothly. Even her love life is doing great. However, when 1994 came, she needed to go back to the Philippines and renew her work visa. It was when she found out that the love of her life infected her with HIV.
She was stricken with grief not only because she learned that the person whom she loved and trusted infected her but the news of her condition also came during the funeral of her mother. “Akala ng mga kapatid ko ang nanay (ko) ang iniiyakan ko pero ang sarili ko, (My siblings thought that I was crying because of my mother but it was actually for myself),” she says.
She was scared and unsure of her future especially that the doctor told her that she only had five to 10 years to live. However, she spent 12 years without stepping in a doctor’s clinic since her condition was asymptomatic. “Noon, hindi nagkikita-kita ang mga positibo at takot ako na pumasok sa ospital dahil baka hindi na ako palabasin (Before, people positive with HIV don’t see each other and I was scared to enter a hospital because they (doctors) might not allow me to go out).”
When Ellen was Denied Medical Attention
When 2005 came, Ellen felt a lump in her stomach. Her menstrual cycle was not normal and she was fast losing weight. “Pumayat ako at nagkaroon ng mga butlig-butlig sa katawan,” she says but despite her condition, it still took her another year to see a doctor and needless to say, she was afraid to hear what the doctor had to say. But her condition was getting worst and this left her no choice but to gather enough courage and consult a doctor. Not long, she found out that she has myoma.
She was referred to a hospital in Manila for surgery. She took the liberty of disclosing her condition for she felt that it was the right thing to do. However, her attending physician placed Hepatitis instead of HIV and the reason for it? It was easier for society to accept the condition of Hepatitis rather than HIV, well according to her physician. Even though Ellen might disagree with her doctor, she heeded. Her surgery was scheduled but the surgeons who will perform her operation backed out. Accordingly, the surgeons feared her condition thus she was denied medical attention.
Understandably, Ellen was mad and she was frustrated. Yet that time, she felt that she was helpless and could not do anything to fight for her right to receive medical attention. That time, she did not know RA 8504 and she also didn’t know that she was discriminated. All Ellen could do was to go back to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and ask for help.
When she got to RITM, her condition was getting worst. She dropped a lot of weight and she needed to undergo anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment soon. Yet, her myoma needed to be treated first and it was when the good doctors at RITM referred her to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
The Malicious Bantering
Ellen was operated at last and thought that her ordeal was over, that she could recuperate in peace, continue her life and enjoy the love of her children. But not all people understand her condition. She tells that during that time, she was half sedated from the operation and they were on their way to transfer her to the recovery room when the tasteless bantering happened. Accordingly, a hospital aid asked a nurse if she knew that Ellen has HIV. The nurse retorted, ‘Sige, isigaw mo (shout it out)’ and the half-witted hospital aid exactly did. The aid’s words were like sharpened knives struck in Ellen’s heart over and over. Adding insult to injury, other people who heard the bantering secured a safe distance away from her.
She wanted to get out of the hospital, fast. She wanted to avoid the curiosity of other patients and their family over the sign ‘Practice Universal Precaution’ placed at the foot of her hospital bed. More so, she wanted to save her children from more hurt especially after she learned that her third child was asked by a nurse if she knew that her mother has AIDS.
Ellen already disclosed her condition to her children and they loved and supported her the same. Her children even encouraged her to disclose to their other relatives and some of their close friends. But the incident left a scar in Ellen’ heart which made her wary of other people. She only learned how to slowly accept her condition when she met the volunteers of Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PAFPI) and Pinoy Plus Association (PPA). “Itong dalawang organizations na ito ang nagbigay ng lakas ng loob sa akin para harapin ang diskriminasyon (These two organizations gave me the courage to face discrimination).”
Education Dispels Discrimination
However, a time came when Ellen felt that she was on the brink of death. She was admitted at the San Lazaro Hospital (SLH) for one and a half months because of oral candiasis. She was also very weak, had no appetite and was losing weight.
Her children continuously cared and supported yet she was also longing for her bestfriend who visited her at SLH for the first and last time. Accordingly, her friend’s lack of understanding on HIV led her to fear Ellen’s condition. Her friend only changed her mind after her friend’s daughter finished a degree in nursing. Accordingly, her friend’s daughter explained the modes of HIV transmission which then led her to understand Ellen.
Now, the 52 year-old Ellen is an active volunteer of Babae Plus, a support for women living with HIV. She became an active volunteer in the care and support groups like PAFPI and PPA in 2007 as a speaker and a resource person for the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS). She firmly believes that proper education on HIV and AIDS and its modes of transmission would help dispel injustice and discrimination, like what Ellen experienced.
“Ang gusto ko lang naman ay pantay na pagtingin o pagtrato. Ayaw kong maranasan ng ibang tao ang sama ng loob at kahihiyan na dinanas ko at ng aking anak. (I only want a fair and equal treatment. I don’t want other people to experience the heartache and humiliation just like what me and my children experienced.)”
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Last Updated (Wednesday, 29 June 2011 04:36)