the long and painful illness

Today’s post is sadder than usual. I don’t want to hurt their privacy even in anonymity, and so I won’t talk about anyone specifically. The long and painful illness is of, course, HIV-AIDS, and is a part of daily life in Congo.  I know friends who have fallen to its reaping blows, I know friends who are in the throes of battling it. It is never something named, it is never something spoken of, it is always sneaky, it always comes too early and lasts too long, it always leaves exhaustion and tears in its path. And because it is never spoken of, people do not know how to speak of it, and people do not know their ennemy as they should, when it needs to be faced so often.

I spoke to a dear friend who is a doctor here, and has been living in this country for decades. A group of non-profit workers came here from France and interviewed people about the long and painful illness. Many things surfaced that surprised my seasoned friend, things that came out in conversations, and follow-up questions that were heart-breaking, and jaw-dropping, knee-buckling, and all sorts of other bodily-reactions-causing.

One of the ones I will share to end this short and sad post, is something quite fascinating. Often, here, people will say “I’m going to get a blood type done“–“Je vais faire un groupe sanguin” . This is literal: they’re getting their blood type determined. My doctor friend would be puzzled as to why so many people would want to know their blood type, after all, it’s not something you just go to the doctor to find out specifically.

It turns out, rumor had been circulating that blood type O Positive was the HIV-AIDS carrier blood type. It’s also a very common blood type here in Congo, so one can imagine how that rumor got started. Anyway. Upon being announced their blood type, if it was O Positive, the patient would not comment, thank the doctor and leave, but with a very different diagnosis: I’m dying.

So now when you receive a patient who asked for blood type work done, you have to preface the answer with a soothing remark about what blood types are and what, they indeed, thankfully, are not.


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