Before I proceed I’d like everyone to know that this is a true story.
I am filled with guilt, dismay, sadness and totally overwhelmed by the news of his death as I write this. It feels even more terrible when I think about the possibility of being the one who could have saved his life.
Kweku was a young, adventurous and ‘wild’ 23-year-old, whose education did not go beyond Senior High School. As expected of some sexually active men his age, Kweku was excited about the fun he was having with the girls and older women around him, so much that he lost sight of the prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections in this generation.
I was working on a news feature on HIV/AIDS when I met a young man called Kobby who told me about a friend of his, who got infected with HIV. A curious journalist that I was, I got interested in interviewing this friend of his as part of my feature. So, Kobby and I arranged a meeting with his friend. Even though Kobby had a hard time convincing him, Kweku eventually agreed to meet me.
I met Kweku whose HIV had developed into AIDS so rapidly. Before I entered the compound, Kobby and Ekua (Kweku’s cousin) advised me to stay out of his room, and cover my nose while speaking to him (I was encouraged to speak to him from outside his room). With mixed emotions, I entered the compound with Kobby and Ekua and we stood right outside Kweku’s room. The door to the room was open so I could see from outside.
The sight of him and the room he lived in, explained everything. It was a small room at one corner of the house which was unkempt. Dirty sheets, dirty floor, dirty dishes and lots of dirty items where scattered all over the room, with a slight stench emanating from the room. What Kobby told me earlier was true. He was all by himself, and practically took care of himself. Kweku’s mother according to Kobby, did not want to get close to him for fear of getting infected with the virus. She was scared an insect which touches him and touches her afterwards would get her infected(the mother was clearly not sensitized about STIs). His father had since abandoned him.
He was skinny and his ribs were visible, with sores all over his body. I spotted blood on his boxer shorts. What made Kweku’s case worst was that he was blind in both eyes. Before he got infected, he got blind in one eye from a childhood injury. Unfortunately, the other eye as part of the effects of AIDS got deteriorated (it looked like a red bubble). He could not see from both eyes.
I managed to convince him about the bright side of speaking to me in the interview, and he agreed. I assured him of the likelihood of finding someone who would be willing to help if he made his situation known. So I assured him to wait while I went back to the office to get what I needed for the interview. Even though I got him some provisions, his cousin insisted I gave them to her, to be given to him later, which I did. I left for the office to prepare for the interview while Kweku waited for me, as he psyched hhimself on what to do.
I never got back to Kweku as agreed. My editor did not approve when I told her about my plans, and for some reason I was not able to get back to him. I felt so terrible about this.
Weeks later, I went to the Ghana AIDS Commission to find help. I was told to introduce him to one of their officers to help, but due to my busy schedule, I could not facilitate that. I guess I thought he probably had more time to live. I procrastinated until I was embarrassed to visit him again. For months I lived and wondered what was possibly going on with him.
Just two days ago, I asked a friend to call on my behalf, to find out how Kweku is faring. This is because I’m still living with the guilt of not doing what I should have done to help him.
Unfortunately, she gave me bad news. He is dead.
It’s the eve to World AIDS Day and I am thinking about what I could have done to save the life of a young AIDS patient.
Did I let him down?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.