AIDS and Mental Health
Nasrin is the five-year-old daughter of Halima and Ratan. Nasrin was a premature baby and required blood replenishment early in life. The apple of her parent’s eyes Nasrin kept falling sick. Her parents kept blaming her poor immune system on her early birth. Nasrin’s father was a poor shop assistant and her mother was a homemaker. They couldn’t afford to take her to a doctor every time she fell sick. But on her sixth birthday, she had a bad fever that kept rising. Her condition deteriorating, with fainting spells and nausea, her parents took her to the local healthcare center. The doctor, a kind old man, asked them to describe her symptoms. After listening to their tale, the doctor asked them to get her blood tests done.
After getting the result, the doctor was desolate. He called in Nasrin and her parents, and with a grim look on his kindly face he said, “Nasrin is suffering from AIDS”. A deafening silence met his claim. “It can’t be”, broke down her parents. With a sad smile, the doctor consoled the hysterical parents. Little Nasrin did not know what was going on, she looked at her crying parents with fear in her once-sparkling eyes.
Nasrin had contracted HIV from the blood transfusion that happened in her infancy. With no way to cure their precious daughter, Halima and Ratan had lost hope, but they wanted to make the remaining days of their daughter as bearable as possible. But words got out about her situation, and soon the family found themselves isolated. Their neighbors and extended families shunned them, they were a social pariah. They suffered from no fault of theirs. The costly medicines of Nasrin brought them to the roads. And the social disgrace crumbled their spirits and rendered them depressed and desolate. The family had lost everything.
This is an imaginary story, but the situation stands true. The person suffering from AIDS faces social disparity as well as a financial crisis. The pain not only affects the person but their families as well. The backlash from AIDS makes their situation worse for wear. The mental pressure caused by the stress of an incurable disease combined with the shunning makes the person and their family go through the pain of isolation, depression, sadness, and sometimes even makes them angry, and prone to suicidal thoughts.
There are accounts of the family of the afflicted committing suicide not being able to stand the social disgrace and the pain of knowing that they cannot save their precious son or daughter or brother or sister.
AIDS is a well-known Sexually Transmitted Disease(STD), But that is not the only way to contract the disease. As in Nasrin’s case, the virus came from the blood transfusion, probably due to an affected syringe or from the blood itself. But the stigma associated with an STD heavily outweighs any rationality regarding the situation.
The affected person is viewed as morally loose or in the case of a child, the parents are seen as such. As a result, people don’t want to be associated with the family. Another aspect to consider is that people might not be aware of how the disease is contracted and are afraid of getting sick themselves. Their lack of awareness and narrow-mindedness causes huge distress to the family of the affected.
A person can contract HIV from several sources. Bangladesh’s government has taken multiple attempts to increase awareness regarding this including the “Nijeke Jano” book series that specializes in sex education and STDs and the advertising campaign highlighting the causes of AIDS and how it is not a contagious disease. However, the campaigns did not highlight the mental issues that can stem from AIDS. At a glance, we could determine some of the more common mental health problems that could arise due to suffering from AIDS.
- Bouts of anger
- Isolating tendencies
- Feeling inferior
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts and more.
If you are someone suffering from the disease or know someone who is suffering from it, you probably are at risk of mental illness. And there is nothing anyone can say or do to make you feel better. Because how could they? A person suffering from AIDS knows surely that they are dying, which can cause anyone distress. And it is normal to feel that way. But what we say is don’t let the feelings of worthlessness, anger, or sadness drown you.
Help is always given to those who ask for it. So, maybe you’re facing social backlash due to people around you, but stay strong. Live your life to the fullest. Don’t let someone’s words affect you. Reach out to professionals for help. Develop healthy habits. Eat, sleep, and exercise. You can do this. Because you are not alone in your pain and anger. Reach out to people who can help you and don’t lose hope.