AIDs is real. Scientists seem to be uncertain about the true origin of the disease. Some say that the virus may have originated as a result of secret experiment with monkeys or a human being shagging a gorilla. A human being nacking a monkey? How did that even happen? Maybe it is true because on a date with my ex-girlfiend to a London Zoo, you should have seen how the baboons were scoping her out. I couldn’t blame them though – she was a stunner, even though they were probably attracted to that fact that she had forgotten to shave her legs that morning.
Most people my age may have become aware of AIDs and the menace of HIV either through Magic Johnson’s (that name has funny undertones – there was nothing magical about his Johnson if he got the virus) shocking announcement in the 90s that he had the virus, or by watching the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia. Then there were those government public health service announcements in Nigerian in the late 80s, one of which spurned a hit duet between Onyeka Onwenu and KSA.
In Health Science class in primary school, our books and our prude teacher Ma Ganiyu only mentioned gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and unwanted pregnancies as the possible outcomes of irate sex. My older cousin from the village who came to stay with us to write JAMB later told me about other strains like cut cut and the dreaded ibi di gi n’amu. Let me not bother you with the remedies he prescribed for this strains.
The shocking thing about the AIDS epidemic is how much many ordinary educated Nigerians believe that it only exists in South African infomercials and those dodgy self-righteous money-raising ads with the kwashiorkor children sitting in front of thatched African huts. Most people fail to realize that it hits very close to home. That Vera Wang dress rocking, Blackberry pressing, MAC powder air-brushing, Hermes bag elbowing, Swarovski crystal clad, Ikoyi town-house residing, Master’s degree educated, Salvatore Ferragamo shoe fitted lass you are about to shag may have it. No, it is not written on her forehead. No, it doesn’t only happen to people who have names like “Goodness” or “Favour”.
My cousin wanted to hire a maid to help take care of her 3 kids. She requested that the maid take an AIDS test before starting work. The maid failed it. My cousin was very sympathetic to the maid. She obviously couldn’t hire her anymore to take care of the kids, but she wanted to help the girl so she offered to enroll the maid in a government sponsored support program for AIDS, and assist the girl any other way she could.
The maid bluntly and viciously refused any help, saying that she did not believe she had any disease, and walked away into the night.
It is a no win situation. What would you have had my cousin do? The ordinary Nigerian is scared and mis-informed about AIDS/HIV. Most Nigerians attach a stigma to it, and assume that the carrier must be an ashewo or a mumu for getting it in the first place. Then there are practitioners with names like Chief Nze Mgaebugi Nyereyaogu who take out small spaces in soft-sell dailies advertising a cure.
Though shamefully I had not always practiced it to the letter, I still believe that abstinence is the best and only way to arrest the spread of AIDS. You have to cut out cigarettes to reduce/eliminate the risk of lung cancer, so why is sex different. Many people have agreed that people usually stop using protection or fail to use it sometimes when they are in a long-term or steady relationship, because they now ‘trust’ their partner. Some find it tiresome and cumbersome to break out a rubber in the heat of passion. And buying rubbers all the time can be an expensive business in a long or aggro filled relationship; and no, Gold Circle doesn’t count.
In Nigeria, my friends and chaps I know have noticed that girls seem to be more reluctant to use a condom than a guy would especially when they are seeing someone steady or someone who they feel they love and can marry. They say they want to “feel closer.” Close wetin? You are asking for closed casket o.
Some years back, I noticed an infection on my back when dressing up after a shower. It was like a dark discoloration. A few weeks, later I still noticed it, and it had spread a bit. So, I decided to stop by a hospital not too far from my house, so they could prescribe something for it.
When I got there, I was ushered into a junior doctor’s office. The doc made me take of my shirt, and then he inspected it. The silence in the room was deafening when he was done. Looking at me straight in the face he said “Esco, I can’t make a diagnosis right now; I may need to refer you to our consultant who is a specialist”
Diag- wetin?! For just a mere skin infection? What happened to telling me to swallow some pills, and rub a nasty smelling embrocation so that I could go home and watch Entourage on TV tonight?
Apparently, the consultant was stationed in another branch of the hospital so I would have to go see him there.
Some hours later, I worked in to see the consultant, a bespectacled, gruff looking man in his late 50s. He looked at my medical records, and started asking me questions in a quick manner.
Have you had major surgery before? No
Do you smoke? Rothmans, but I have quit…
Do you abuse alcohol? Gulder when watching Chelsea FC play; palm wine is great though..
Are you sexually active? Ermmm…my girl broke up with me months ago. Do wet dreams count?
Do you use protection? I have a baseball bat at home, and I kept my cutlass from boarding school…
Do you have any family history of diabetes, stroke, hypertension or high blood pressure? My father’s blood ‘temperature’ went through the roof when a certain Nigerian bank crashed in the 90s and he lost all his life savings. He subsequently introduced austerity measures in the house, like no sugar with our garri or tea, so nobody caught diabetes thankfully.
Have you experienced any of the following symptoms – fever, excessive sweating or pains in your joints? I sweat well well every night, especially when NEPA takes light, and there is no diesel for the generator.
Are you allergic to any drug? I hate fake drugs.
Doctor ‘Death” looked up at me unimpressed.
He continued ‘The infection on your back covers a large area. This is worrisome to us. So we are going to be recommending you for a couple of tests – an ECG and a chest X-ray”
When I heard the word ‘tests’, I went gaga. I got my Nollywood on: Doctor, dokinta, doc, please tell me what is wrong? I thought it was a mere skin infection? What are you testing me for?”
The doctor kept schtum like he had taken a mafia oath or omerta. He rang the nurse, as he barely answered me: “We will have a better idea after the tests”
I concluded the tests that evening, and was told to come back the next evening for the result.
When I returned the next evening, the doctor told me that the tests had been inconclusive. He advised “We need to take a blood, urine and sperm sample.”
Wtf?! Blood, I could give easily, no problems. I am a full time orobo.
Urine? I ate beans that morning, and had downed 8 big sachets of ‘pure-water’ so my bladder had enough H2O to spare.
Sperm was the problem. Doc, would you be donating one of your nurses to help ‘milk’ me?
The fine nurse of yesterday wasn’t on duty today. Instead, there was an elderly woman with huge tribal marks, and white in her eye. I quickly ‘re-arranged’ my mind. She drew my blood, and shoved me 2 containers – one for my piss, and the other for my nuts juice.
In Yankee, they would normally hand you a magazine to ‘assist’ you. Here, good luck with asking for a Genevieve, Wow, Mania or any of our magazines. Trouble o.
I asked the nurse, if I could do the sperm test tomorrow instead. Maybe I would be able to make a few calls later to some girls I knew to make it happen.
The nurse declined “No, Doctor says he needs the samples as soon as possible, so we can send them to a diagnostic lab for quick testing”
I hated the way she said the word ‘sample.’
How was I going to do this? I could refuse of course, but the hospital had put fear in my heart. What if this was something serious like AIDS? Ah, the pen is mightier than the sword o.
The nurse stood there watching. She was clearly enjoying this too much.
After the test, I drove home slowly. I started noticing things I had not noticed before. I cranked up my car stereo and could hear every lyric of the song jamming. I noticed every contour on the road which I had passed a million times, I could count all the stars in the sky. I smelled the unmistaken fume of roasted corn from a road side hawker, mixed with spilled gas from a filling station across the expressway.
These were going to be the longest 24 hours of my life. What would be result? Could this be the end for Esco?
The next morning, I walked into the doctor’s office very slowly.
The doctor announced the result “Very positive…”
I slumped into my chair, shrieking “E wo! I am finished…Positive? How can it be positive?”
The doctor looked at me like I was craze was ‘worrying’ me or something “Mr. Esco, calm down. I meant the results are very positive. You don’t have AIDS or any heart ailment. You have a clean bill of health. Congratulations. I suggest you……”
I was not listening anymore, as I was beside myself with joy. So, I don’t have the dread virus. Thank you doctor; may your consultancy always get plenty sick customers.
I was given a prescription list to buy a very potent anti-biotic ointment and some tablets too. I snatched the list happily from the doc’s hands.
I whistled happily down the hall way to the bursary to pay my bill. Then the Nigerian in me came out, my bill was almost 45,000 grand. Yekparikpa…
As I argued with the cashier regarding the huge bill, I had a sick smile in my heart.
AIDS is real. Get tested and get help. Read up all you can and keep informed. When you strap up, you hope for the best, and must be prepared for the worst.