DID YOU KNOW
Although the number of children living with HIV is small, there is no denying of the huge challenges that they face. More 500 children and young adults currently received various forms of supports from MAF – from shelter homes to monthly allowance for education. Social pressure also forced many PLHIV to stay in the shadow, afraid to come out even to seek treatment due to shame associated with the disease. It was estimated that from 30,000 PLHIV that require treatment, only 40% has done so.
PLHIV On Treatment
“I know there’s only so much I can do but I keep trying because like any mother, I want the best for my children.”
PICKING UP THE PIECES
For Rashidah Husin, another HIV positive mum, life has taken a turn for the worse after her diagnosis. The 44-year-old mother of two boys, aged nine and six, not only has to grapple with the challenges of being a single parent but also in dealing with her older son who is also HIV positive. She came to know about her status when she was tested while pregnant with her younger son.
Once tests confirmed she was HIV positive, she was immediately put on antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission to her unborn child. Her now six-year-old son was born free of the virus. Her husband and older son were also tested. Unfortunately, both were diagnosed as HIV positive. “My marriage broke down after that. It was already a problematic relationship to begin with and the diagnosis made it worse. We blamed each other. Things just went downhill after that and we separated.”
Today, she lives in a low-cost flat and works two jobs just to earn RM600 a month so she can support her boys. Being poor and HIV positive is a double blow for the family. Her husband provides no support and the family has not heard from him since he left home in 2014. “I have to take medication daily and also make sure my son does the same. He’s just a child. Every day I think about what I could have done differently to prevent him from being like me. It’s heartbreaking as a mum to know I passed this to him.”
Her son is a smart, active boy who’s always top of his class. Rashidah says he’s still unaware of his condition. Doctors have advised her to explain it to him as he grows older. She adds that her children remain her priority no matter how challenging and stressful life gets. She admits there are days when she feels like giving up because putting food on the table and struggling to make ends meet is so overwhelming but she perseveres for the sake of her sons. She works in a restaurant in the morning and does house cleaning in the later part of the day to bring home additional income.
She receives life-saving HIV medication for free but her life is a routine of hospital visits, work and chores at home. She has no family support and often relies on kind-hearted neighbours or friends to help her out when things get tough.
There are days when she’s too tired to do anything and days when feelings of fear and anxiety are overwhelming. Her two boys are very protective of their mum and are her source of comfort when things seem bleak. Rashidah says it pains her that they sometimes go hungry because there’s not enough food in the house. “I know there’s only so much I can do but I keep trying because like any mother, I want the best for my children.”