“I found mes­sages on his phone – he was see­ing dif­fer­ent women be­hind my back.”

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Singhealth Special -

A ngel* was just 18 when she started dat­ing 23-year-old James. He was charm­ing and ma­ture, and knew how to make her feel spe­cial. She was so taken by him that she didn’t feel alarmed when he ad­mit­ted that he vis­ited red-light dis­tricts dur­ing his fre­quent business trips. “I was sure all of that would change, since we were get­ting se­ri­ous,” she shares.

They had a whirl­wind ro­mance and James pro­posed months later. Even though her friends were con­cerned that they weren’t a good match, An­gel agreed to marry him, with­out the slight­est inkling of the hor­ror and tur­moil that would follow.

The first few years were happy. It wasn’t un­til An­gel was preg­nant with their sec­ond child that ev­ery­thing be­gan to change. James was drink­ing heav­ily and start­ing to take drugs, but it didn’t stop there.

“I found mes­sages on his phone – he was see­ing dif­fer­ent women be­hind my back. I cried ev­ery day,” she re­calls. The changes she’d hoped for after mar­riage – that he would be­come a fam­ily man and set­tle down – didn’t hap­pen. “He got worse. It was a night­mare. I wanted to end our mar­riage and even con­sid­ered an abor­tion,” she says. When An­gel con­fronted him and asked for a di­vorce, James tried to kill him­self in front of her by slash­ing his wrist. “He was bleed­ing pro­fusely. He ended up need­ing a five-hour op­er­a­tion in the hos­pi­tal. After that in­ci­dent, we were both shaken up, so I de­cided to give him a sec­ond chance.”

Things were bet­ter un­til An­gel fell preg­nant with their third child. James slipped into his old ways – his mo­bile phone again re­vealed his af­fairs with mul­ti­ple women.

An­gel was dev­as­tated. “When I told him I couldn’t take it any­more, he begged for for­give­ness and asked me to give him a fi­nal chance.”

Against her bet­ter judg­ment and for the sake of their chil­dren, she did. The cou­ple stayed to­gether for A few months after An­gel started di­vorce pro­ceed­ings, she be­gan feel­ing un­well. “I had been cough­ing for over a month and felt re­ally sick,” she re­mem­bers. She had asthma and a lung in­fec­tion.

She was warded for about a week, and dur­ing that time, her doc­tor ad­vised her to test for HIV (Hu­man Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Virus). “I told her that was un­nec­es­sary as I had only been with one sex­ual part­ner – my hus­band,” says An­gel. “But the doc­tor was very per­sis­tent, so I agreed. Straight after the test, I asked to be dis­charged so that I could go home to my chil­dren. I never thought the re­sults would be pos­i­tive.”

An­gel’s doc­tor sum­moned her back to the hos­pi­tal. “The mo­ment my doc­tor told me I had HIV, I started cry­ing un­con­trol­lably and col­lapsed,” she says. “When I woke up, I was on a stretcher. I had had another asthma at­tack, and they had to re-ad­mit me.”

An­gel stayed a month in hos­pi­tal for asthma and se­ri­ous de­pres­sion; James was away on a work trip. “I kept blam­ing my­self, and ask­ing my­self why I had trusted this man. I wanted to end my life,” she says. She didn’t need treat­ment for HIV yet, be­cause her im­mune sys­tem was still healthy. When James re­turned from his trip, the hos­pi­tal ar­ranged a coun­selling ses­sion with a med­i­cal so­cial worker. “James wasn’t shocked when they told him I was HIV pos­i­tive,” says An­gel. “He just said ‘Oh, okay. Not to worry, I’ll never leave you’. I told him I was go­ing ahead with the di­vorce, and asked him to take an HIV test. I wanted to con­firm that I’d con­tracted the virus from him, so I could use it as ev­i­dence in the di­vorce.”

James’ test re­sults showed he was in­deed HIV pos­i­tive. “He told me, ‘Just for­get about the di­vorce and I’ll take care of you’. I told him he had de­stroyed my life. I was so mad, I couldn’t bear to look at him. I told him that as soon as I was dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal, he had to move out.”

Another coun­selling ses­sion took place with An­gel’s chil­dren, who were told what was wrong with her. “I couldn’t say a word; all I could do was cry,” says An­gel. “So the so­cial worker had to tell them. They were very calm. They hugged me and told me not to worry. I thank God for my chil­dren – they are so strong.” An­gel’s doc­tor also gave her a full phys­i­cal check-up, be­cause women with HIV have a higher chance of con­tract­ing HPV (the Hu­man Pa­pil­loma Virus, which can cause cer­vi­cal can­cer) and other com­pli­ca­tions.

“My Pap smear came back pos­i­tive for ab­nor­mal cells and I was told I had early-stage cer­vi­cal can­cer,” says An­gel. “It was just too much to bear. But I had to be strong for my chil­dren.”

The can­cer was treated with oral med­i­ca­tion and she also sought out al­ter­na­tive herbal treat­ment. Four years later, An­gel was told that she was clear of the can­cer. An­gel re­sumed her job as a sec­re­tary even while be­ing treated for cer­vi­cal can­cer. But two years after the HIV di­ag­no­sis, she started feel­ing very weak. Her doc­tor then did a blood test to gauge her CD4 count – CD4 refers to white blood

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