One of the most common question I get asked in the clinic or when teaching medical student is this one:
“What happens if a ……….. (insert doctor/nurse/medical student/lab tech) gets HIV? Will he lose his ….. (insert job/undergraduate studies/MARA scholarship)?”
I have, in the course of working, encountered quite a number of such people who were infected with blood-borne viruses (HIV, hepatitis B or C) due to their occupation or through behavioral indiscretions. And every single one of them have the same concern:
“What would happen to me?! Will I lose my job?”
I would like to invite you to find out for yourself, what is the position of the Medical Council of Malaysia on this issue, by downloading their guideline here: MMC position on HCW with BBV
Basically, this is what happens:
1. If you are a medical student and have HIV, you will be asked to stop medical studies.
2. If you are a medical student IN FINAL YEAR and have HIV, you continue studying, pass the MBBS, graduate and WORK as HO (terms and conditions apply), and even go on to do your Masters (T&Cs apply).
3. If you are a house officer with HIV, you can continue working (again T&Cs apply).
4. If you are a medical officer or specialist with HIV, you can continue working (and yes, again T&Cs apply).
The other day I was exiting the ward after the morning rounds when a Medical Officer (MO) came up to me and we had this conversation:
MO: “Prof, I hope you don’t mind, I have a stupid question to ask.”
MO: “The other day, I was resuscitating this patient who has HIV-infection and I came in contact with some of his body fluid.”
MO: “Um…my index finger..”
Me: “Were you wearing gloves at the time?”
Me: “Did you have any visible wound on that finger?”
MO: “No, I don’t think so.”
Me: “What are you worried about?”
MO: “Ummm….err… arrr…will I be infected?”
Me: “Nah…don’t worry about it!”, I said, as I left the ward with a smile and a twinkle in my eye…. “and oh, just don’t do anything naughty with that finger!!”. ;)
Once upon a time, in an institution of higher learning, complaints arose about the inappropriateness of the attire of some of its students, particularly that of the female gender. And so a meeting was hastily convened and distinguished people attended the meeting with the sole objective to regulating the attire of offending females.
A: We have received a lot of complaints about how indecent our students dresses.
B: True! Even the security guard at the entrance had complaint!
C: I agree! But it’s only limited to the women actually. Guys generally are ok.
D: Well, that’s coz guys have not much variety to wear anyway.
B: Some of the girls wear dresses that are way above the knees!
E: But I think it’s alright la, I mean just a little bit above is ok. Girls nowadays don’t like to wear knees below the knees. Maybe one inch above is fine.
C: Are we going to go around measuring the length of dresses now?
E: I also think that wearing round neck T-shirts is ok, as long as it is plain and has no words on it.
B: I disagree. Since the government institutions are going around handing out towels and sarongs to females with indecent attire, I feel we should follow the same.
F: I think we need to come out with a poster! A picture! Of a girl! Wearing a coat, and then next picture, show what the girl is wearing under the coat! And the stuff under the coat should be what is approved attire.
C: Good good! Just because there is a coat doesn’t mean they can wear anything they like underneath!
G: I honestly think any clothes are ok, unless they are transparent….
J: I think we need to ask the students what they think are appropriate or decent.
A, B, C, D, E, F, G: SILENCE! WHO ASKED YOU FOR YOUR OPINION? WE SAY, THEY DO. END OF STORY.
And that is the sad reflection of the shitty situation that has engulfed the long and large tract of land between Singapore and Thailand.
*This story is purely fictitious, any resemblance to any living or dying or dead organisms or objects are probably coincidental and tragically unfortunate.
Ironically, my son learned a hard fact of life in one of the happiest places (for a 12-year-old boy) on the planet – the Universal Studio in Singapore: that life is unfair.
We were there several weeks ago and because we were early, we managed to get into most of the fun rides in the amusement park fairly easy. As the day wore on, more and more visitors poured into the park and consequently, the queue for any fun rides became longer and longer.
There we were, at ‘Far Far Away’ – the corner of the park where characters from famous fairy tales reside, although strangely we only saw Pinocchio and Puss-in-Boots walking around that day; that my son decided he would stand in line for 40 minutes to get into the roller-coaster ride (that paradoxically, lasted not more than 4 minutes). It was while he was waiting for his turn in the long hot and noisy queue that he first noticed some kids holding special passes were allowed to go through a special lane and get ahead.
He wasn’t happy.
After the 40-minute queue and 4 minute ride, he complained to me about “people who got ahead because they paid more”.
“Why can’t we all be in the same queue?”, he asked irritably.
“Well, they did pay more to get that privilege”, I replied.
“In that case, why can’t we all pay more?”, he asked again.
“In that case, they will have to make a special express lane for the express lane, for people who could pay even more”, I quipped.
“But it’s so unfair!!”, he grumbled.
“Yes, it is. Life is not fair. People who have more money will have more privilege that those who do not’, I said.
“Well, why can’t the conductors allow 2/3 of the express lane people to go and 1/3 of the normal lane people to get onto the ride at one time?”, he offered, in my opinion, a thought well ahead of his age.
“I think that is what they are doing, but there will always be more people in the normal lane and there will always be people who have special privilege simply because they are richer”, I responded.
It was getting late and waiting in line for another 40 minutes for another 4 minutes ride was not a pleasant option. We decided to move on to the next attraction, which was Jurassic Park and found, to our utter chagrin, that the waiting time for the rides there was between 1.5 to 2 hours long!
Anyway, we spent the rest of the time loitering in souvenir shops looking at nice things that we could not afford.
I felt a little sad that day as we finally left the park – that one of the happiest moment in my son’s experience was tainted by one of the hardest reality of life – that wealth instead of merit brings privilege. I only hope that he would also realize that he, being able to go to the Universal Studio in Singapore, was a privilege that many kids his age would never have.