Ali and Hussein’s Mother

Forty-seven years old.
Middle school dropout.
Widow for three years now.
Two kids: Ali, age 14, and Hussein, age 11.
My husband found out about his condition,
But he kept it from me for two whole years.

It was during the late 90s when my sister-in-law was having a cesarean.
He went to donate blood to her.
They found out when he ran the blood test.
But no one told me.
Preventative health care summoned him several times.
When I asked him why, he said he had hepatitis C.
His siblings and their spouses found out later on,
But no one told his mother and I the truth. C
He was the type of person who fooled around with his friends.
Our sex life was weak.
We’d do it about once a year and even then he’d be tired.
I used to tell him to get treated.
That we were still young and should enjoy our youth.
Honestly, he was really kind and sweet to me.
So, I didn’t say anything.

I noticed the thing with his friends at the beginning of our marriage.
He had problems with his rectum.
And sometimes there was blood in his underwear.
This problem is common in his family.
He had an uncle who went through the same thing too.

Around two years later preventative health care sent someone for me.
He asked that I take the kids and go.
He said that they needed me there.
When I went, I met someone who worked with Dr. X.
“Do you know what your husband has?” she asked.
“Hepatitis C,” I replied.
She took the kids out to the balcony then said,
“No, he has AIDS. You and the kids must get tested at the Fever Hospital.”
I found out that they had asked him to send me and the kids to get tested before,
But he hadn’t bothered,
And he didn’t say anything until they had sent for me.
Of course I shouted at him and broke down,
“How could you keep this from me for two years?”

When the results came out,
the woman who worked with Dr. X sent for me.
“You have the virus, but the kids don’t,” she said.
“Thank God that the kids are safe!” I said.
“Who is going to raise them?” she asked,
“It’s going to destroy the both of you!”
When I got home I couldn’t look at him or talk to him for three days.
I locked myself in the bedroom and asked for a divorce.
“What’s done is done,” his siblings said,
“Now who will take care of the kids if you get divorced?
Get back on your feet and raise them!”

He stayed on his same path until he destroyed himself and his health deteriorated.
He lost weight and constantly had fever.
We used to go the Fever Hospital,
but he didn’t want to say what he had.
He wanted his secret to die with him,
So they never knew what he had.
He was hospitalised for three months in Gamal Abdel Nasser Hospital through his work.
When he had lymphoma, he underwent chemotherapy.
He later found out that chemo was very bad for him.
He died around 3 years ago.

I used to go to Abbassia’s Fever Hospital every two months to run some blood tests
(I don’t know what kind of tests).
One time, on the 4th of July, 2004, they tested me for CDV.
They said that I’d have to get tested every 6 months, but they didn’t run it again.
I met Ahmed at the hospital.
I was dressed in black because my husband had passed away.
He’s the one who told me about Caritas.
I felt better when I went to Caritas, and met with the group there.
I felt that I wasn’t alone.
We’d sit together and whoever had a problem would share it.

We want doctors we can visit without having to say that we have “HIV”.
I went to the dentist one time without telling him what I had.
One time I went with a colleague to a gynecologist for a check-up.
After the check-up, the doctor removed all the sheets and everything.

We’re scared that if we tell doctors, they’d refuse to treat us,
And we don’t know whether we should tell them or not.
Even our doctor tells us not to tell anyone.
But we’re also scared that they’d give us the wrong treatment if we didn’t say anything.
Our friend Gamal had nightmarish cancer.
At the hospital they gave him cobalt therapy
They told him that chemotherapy was dangerous.
My husband underwent chemotherapy because he didn’t say.
Mohammed, our colleague, has fistula and needs treatment.
He’s scared of seeking medical help, because the cancer has spread in his body
But doctors will know even if he doesn’t tell them.

They started a very good department at the hospital called “personal immunity”.
It used to be terrible when I went with my husband three years ago.
Now they have the CD4 analyser, but we still didn’t get tested.
Dr. Hisham says that he must get permission from the department in Cairo first.
We called Dr. Ehab.
He said that they’ll ask us to go in groups of fives.
But they still didn’t say when.

No one follows up with us.
We ran into Mohammed, a colleague of ours, at the hospital.
He was really sick, and we were the ones who took him to Cairo to get treatment.
Now, after the treatment, he’s feeling so much better and is back to work.
If he had been left without treatment, he would’ve been dead.
The treatment must come from the Ministry,
But they say that it will be available in fever hospitals in Alexandria, Mahala, and Behira.

I told my parents, and all my cousins know and we’re still in touch.
One of my cousins got a little distant after she found out.
In the beginning, she used to have me over for lunch,
But now she’s asked me to stop visiting.
Sometimes she sends me help through a third party.
My neighbors don’t know though.
One time my neighbor found a book about AIDS on my bed.
She got scared and asked me, “What’s this?”
I told her it was a book I was reading for work.
If my neighbors found out about this they’ll get scared of me.
A man who lives in my building proposed to me but I turned him down.
I’m scared if I tell him about my case, he’d tell the neighbors,
And I can’t marry him without telling him.

AIDS awareness campaigns are scary.
I only knew that it was transmitted through sex and blood.
We want something that changes people’s ideas a little.
For example, the movie Love in Taba painted a terrible picture of AIDS.

The biggest problem about receiving treatment,
Is whether or not I want to go see a doctor.
I wish there were doctors I could see without feeling embarrassed.
I want to get the right treatment, and I don’t want to hurt anyone.
We want small businesses, or employment that provides people with stability.

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