Saturday, June 02, 2012
i would like to say this is a south african story, but , truth be told, when people see the opprtunity to make money off the backs of the stupid and vulnerable, then it is pretty much a free for all (eg, eg.)
at the local state hospital, as it should be, there is an hiv clinic. as the name would imply they treat the many people in our area with hiv using modern antiretroviral medication which is proven to lower the viral load and can turn a once deadly disease into a manageable one, not unlike diabetes.
yet still there is a stigma associated with hiv and it gets treated unlike any other disease. you can't simply test someone for it like you would for diabetes. before testing someone, they have to be counseled so they fully understand the implications of knowing about the disease. if they refuse testing, then they are allowed to continue in their ignorance, without treatment of course. also, if they choose to be tested and are found to be positive, before they are permitted to see the doctor who will be managing their newly diagnosed disease, they are required to speak to the councilor once more. this is supposed to be a time where the councilor explains to the patient that hiv is no longer a death sentence and explains the importance of adhering to the treatment plan. yet this is also an opportunity for an enterprising charlatan.
the patient in question was back after having her hiv test the previous week. i think in her mind she actually knew she was positive. there was little else that could explain her symptom complex and she had already accepted the inevitable. all she wanted to do was to get through the obligatory counseling and to get to the doctor so they could work out a treatment plan. she sat down with the councilor.
"you are hiv positive,"
"yes, i thought as much."
"now you are going to see the doctor shortly and he is going to discuss treatment with you." this is exactly what she wanted. she just wanted to get through this and see the doctor after all. "he will tell you about all sorts of western medicine that you will have to take every day for the rest of your life." again, no surprises. "but there is an alternative." what? this was not in the script. she thought she would rush through this so called post counseling and get to the doctor. yet humans are inquisitive creatures.
"what do you mean?"
"i mean there is another way." with this, she reached under the table and produced a second hand pepsi bottle full of some liquid. the patient looked at it in surprise. it had a slightly green hue to it. the lid had scratches on it indicating that it was probably quite old and had been used many times before. "this is a cure for hiv. it is a mixture that a sangoma has created. unlike the western treatment that the doctor is going to offer you, it has no side effects. the other advantage is, because it is a cure, you only need to buy two bottles and use it for only two weeks and you will be cured. and each bottle costs only two hundred rand." she smiled. it was meant to be a warm, reassuring smile, but the patient saw it for what it really was, an evil smile hoping to snare yet another victim and send her down a slippery slope after fleecing her of her hard earned money.
yes south africans can be entrepreneurs. i don't have it in me though.