Recently saw this in the news. It’s from the state in India where I spent my elective. Basically, a pregnant woman was transfused blood for anaemia. She then tested positive for HIV. She was tested because the man who had donated his blood underwent an HIV test at a government hospital as part of a job application.
He had donated his blood twice in the last 2 years. He was HIV positive both times.
3 people at the blood bank in the government hospital are under suspicion for negligence. Because both times he had donated blood, no one had alerted him to the fact that he was positive for HIV. He would never have found out he had this disease without being tested himself. And the woman who was transfused his blood would never have found out she had received HIV positive blood unless the donor had approached the hospital to have himself tested for a completely different reason.
The pregnant woman was all over the news. Because she was pregnant and she was transfused HIV positive blood. She is currently undergoing counselling and antiretroviral therapy for her unborn child.
The donor, was not mentioned at all on the news anywhere.
Except for today.
When it was mentioned that he had committed suicide.
Things like this makes me lose faith in humanity.
The discussion about this that followed in my house was one about stigma. I was extremely shocked that the man had killed himself. My sister said that he would’ve had no other choice. He wouldn’t get that job he did the test for, he would be shunned and ridiculed the rest of his life because nobody knows how he acquired the disease.
This sickened me.
Stigma about health problems always make me really angry. It’s as though people think humans request the universe for a particular medical condition and enjoy having it and/or spreading it.
The pregnant woman in this case had someone to blame. She could blame the donor for giving her the disease. But how did the donor acquire HIV? Everyone would assume promiscuity. If this were the case, I’d think he would have found out he had the condition sooner. But the point is, he could have acquired it accidentally just like this. From a transfusion or some other blood contact.
If anyone is to blame, it would be the blood bank that didn’t inform him he had the condition. He was being a good person, donating blood for those who need it, and he had never known he was donating contaminated blood. He had found out that on his own.
Did he deserve to die?
What bothered me was that my sister was right. People do attach a whole lot of stigma to certain medical conditions. And it is so unnecessary. Nobody wished to live with a medical condition. And nobody feels good about it. To shun things and people who have conditions like HIV or a mental illness or anything they don’t have control over, is in my opinion, a crime.
The man could have also received the same antiretroviral therapy the pregnant woman was receiving. But he didn’t have the chance to. He was a young man. Everyone probably blamed him for donating blood. His own family may have shunned him for having HIV. He had no choice but to end his life.
I think that’s a sad day for all of humanity. For all the progress we have in the world today, people still shun others for things they don’t have any control over. And this is far too high a price to pay.
Stigma like this makes people hide illnesses they have, makes them isolate themselves in society, it even makes them refrain from receiving the treatment they require. Fear of being labelled as a “patient” of a certain condition stops people from receiving life-saving interventions. Even improvement in quality of life is vital. And they miss out. Because everyone in society would look at them differently.
Pushing someone to the edge where they feel so lost and lonely for something they didn’t even do, is a crime committed by everyone involved.
The little things people judge others for makes me lose a lot of faith in the world. I hope one day all of this ends. And no more lives are lost to small minds.
A moment of silence for the man, and all of humanity.