Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Young People as A Force For Change

by Sarah Hasnor Abu Hassan

Let me tell you of my thousand-mile story. This story was not written just so people would weep and then simply forget about it. No, this story is for everyone to reflect on themselves, and open their minds to the fact that the world is not utopian. It is up to us to make it a brighter place, to live life accordingly, through love for others and ourselves.

My best friend in the whole wide world, Linda, was HIV-positive. It’s as simple as that. Or so it seems. The news came as a shock to me, of course, and for the whole week I refused to meet her for fear of being ‘contaminated’. What was worse, I allowed my selfish, ignorant, narrow mind to make negative assumptions on how Linda contracted it— sex, drugs, and all that which seemed so wrong to me.I came to my senses when Mum finally pulled my aside and told me exactly how my friend contracted the virus. Linda had had to have a blood transfusion when she was young and at that time, somehow or other the blood was not screened beforehand to check for the virus. I pretended that it did not matter because I wasn’t ever going to see her again, but deep down I was feeling remorseful and guilty. I found myself feeling lonely and sad that whole day and I finally decided that I was guilty, and had to go and apologise to Linda.

When I went to see her, she was so sweet and forgiving. We sat on the swings and it was me who was overdoing it — weeping on her shoulder, asking for her forgiveness over and over again. I marvel at the fact that she did not hate me for kicking sand in her eyes. I gave her a big hug and said, ‘Lin, you are my best friend and I promise I will do anything in my power to help you. From that day, we had a mutual understanding and we gave each other a sense of comfort. I think that my being there gave Linda strength.The first thing I did to fulfill my promise was to increase my awareness and get rid of my ignorance on the topic of HIV and AIDS. I went to the National Library, travelled to the Malaysian AIDS Council and searched online for any information on HIV/AIDS. I remember looking at an article on stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and I started crying all over again, recalling my own prejudice towards Linda. One of the staff at the Malaysian AIDS Council noticed me in that state and after I had explained what I was going through between choked sobs, she looked at me in the eye and said, It’s normal that we feel different around people with HIV/AIDS. But you must understand that the stigma surrounding this disease can only be eliminated when we are all aware of what it actually is. We have to help these people go through life as normally as possible, we have to be strong for them.” I reflected on these words and realised that it is not so much the virus that kills people, but rather the fear and hopelessness.

Through my research and reading, I began to understand more and more about HIV and AIDS. However, the more I knew, the more frightened I became. I realised that Lin was not as healthy as she made herself look. I learned that her viral load was 10 000 and her T-cell count, or CD4 was only 300. CD4 cells are an important part of the immune system, and a healthy person averages between 500 — 1 500 CD4 cells per milliliter of blood. Although Linda didn’t have AIDS, these figures meant that her immune system was at alow, where AIDS- related complications could easily develop.

I kept Linda company as much as I could, and I tried not to sympathise, but rather empathise with her. I treated her as I had always treated her before I knew of her condition. I reminded her to take her medication consistently, and my fussiness sometimes annoyed her. However, once in a while we would argue because she made herself feel helpless. I would try to make her see that it was up to her to prove that she was not a victim and realise that there was still so much that she could do. At other times, we would talk and pour our hearts out. Lin confessed that she was terrified and it ached my heart to see her speak of her future as if it would not be there. But, right then I also understood that sometimes, when there’s nothing else you can do, talking relieves a lot of the pressure.Sometimes, those who did not understand what she was going through would taunt her. Some people even made it a point to purposely avoid her, or simply refuse to be in the same room as her. It was during these times that I knew she would feel isolated and vulnerable therefore I stood up for her. I tried to make my other friends understand, and finally they did. They saw through the disease and realised that they could not abandon Linda simply because she was sick. With the support of all our friends, we tried to create a happy and caring environment for Linda.

I think the most poignant moment during these times were when we visited the Malaysian AIDS Council together. I stood back and watched my best friend engage in contact with other people who were HIV-positive. She also talked to the counsellors and I could see that she would be thinking deeply after those sessions. When I asked, she would reply, “It’s not right that I think it’s unfair that I have HIV. Now I think about all those underprivileged people who do not have the chance to talk to counsellors, or have friends, or have the means to purchase medication.After a year, the nightmares began. Linda suffered severe weight loss and began to get endlessly ill. She went in and out of hospitals and I dreaded to hear the truth. One day, her parents called me up to tell me gently that Linda had developed AIDS and was only given 6 months to live. I didn’t register it at first, because all this while I was so sure that Linda was going to stay well, even though she had HIV. I didn’t know what to say or do during my first few visits to the hospital after knowing that she had developed AIDS. We just looked at each other and I couldn’t bear to see the pain in her eyes. Gradually we both accepted the situation. Our acceptance freed ourselves from the fear of what might come, and instilled a new power in Linda.During the next few months, I managed to get a grip on myself. With my other friends, the school counsellors and Student Council, we organised an AIDS charity drive to promote understanding and knowledge of the disease. The proceeds went to Linda, to pay for her medical treatment. Our other friends, and even those who did not know Linda all sent cards wishing her well, and visited her as often as she wanted us to. We would bring her favourite cookies, and we’d talk about current events, trends, everything that teenagers should know. We tried not to make her feel that the world was passing by without her, so sometimes we’d bring our newly-bought clothes and let her try them out. We sneaked in my Playstation that she loved to play so much, and brought CDs of her favourite singers for her to listen to.

As much as we tried, we did not have the power to make the disease go away. Linda soon developed a lung infection called Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia. My friends and I would stay at her bedside, reciting prayers together. When I went home, I’d do the Hajat prayers and beg Allah to lessen my friend’s pain.My best friend Linda returned to Allah the Almighty seven months after she was confirmed as having developed AIDS. I have lost a best friend, but I know that it is the will of God to try us. When I recollect the memories, I see that it has taught me many valuable lessons, the most valuable being that we should treasure our friends, and love them as we love ourselves. I am also now an activist, working hard at eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS. I hope that AIDS awareness is promoted to people, especially young people, around the world so that we can take a firm stand and prevent this epidemic from prolonging.

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Collection of SPM English Language Question Papers

Terengganu Trial [Paper 1]

Johor Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2] [Answers], Melaka Trial 2007 [Paper 1] [Paper 2], TIMES [Paper 1] [Paper 2] SPB [Paper 1] [Paper 2]


Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2],
MRSM Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], SBP Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Kelantan Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Terengganu Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Kedah Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Johor Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Perlis Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Sabah Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2], Sarawak Trial [Paper 1 & 2], Melaka Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2]


Terengganu TOV [Paper 1] [Paper 2] Terengganu Mid Year [Paper 1] [Paper 2]
Melaka Trial , Johor Trial , Sabah Trial , Kedah Trial , Perlis Trial , Times , SBP , Pahang Trial [Paper 1] [Paper 2]