Ever since the discovery of ARVs, I have always held onto the thought that HIV/Aids wasn’t a death sentence anymore. However, after putting to rest an old friend of mine Pius Tumusiime, whom the scourge claimed after a long battle, it occurred to me that my thought was misplaced.
On the eve of his demise, I visited him on his hospital bed. Pius, a once well-built and muscular guy, now looked frail and thin—his face was pale and his jaws sunken, his eyeballs stood out of his head like electric bulbs, his lips dry, cracked and coated with a white powder-like substance, his teeth hanged out of his mouth, his limbs were pencil-thin and his entire body was emaciated.
As I stood looking at his appearance in disbelief, sharp chills of fear ran down my spine. I was so shaken because this wasn’t the Pius I had known before.
When he saw me, he sobbed; I couldn’t help but also cry along. It was an overwhelming moment for both of us and I guess it was somehow relieving for him to know that I shared his pain. All that done, speaking with immense difficulty and interruptions of dry and deep-fetched coughs and visible breathing problems, Payo (as we fondly called him) gave me an account of his pain and suffering. He complained of general body weakness, acute diarrhea that was certainly responsible for his dehydration and a dry and sore throat that made eating food difficult.
Just like many other adolescents out there, Pius spent most of his teenage hood chasing after girls; he often stormed to discos, danced and drank the night away. He had affairs with sugar mummies all the time. He did not know that time would catch up with him.
Several years later, Pius began experiencing endless bouts of malaria until he went for a blood test. When he discovered that he was HIV positive, he kept it secret because he was afraid of stigma and public isolation. It was not until he went into coma a few months later, that he was admitted to the hospital where he eventually breathed his last.
This only makes me want to sound the bell of caution, if you aren’t married yet, do yourself justice and refrain from sex, and use a condom if inevitable. For the married, stick to faithfulness, if you are skeptical about your status or have undergone numerous vague illnesses, go for a blood test. You shouldn’t hide your face in the sand like an ostrich when faced with problems and expect them to retreat, after all being HIV positive doesn’t grant you an outright death certificate because chances of a long life are guaranteed with ARVs.
Let, Pius’ ordeal serve as a perfect example for those who cherish the life of recklessness. Be warned because AIDS is not a joke.