A large Muslim woman with a head scarf and long sleeved dress with Middle Eastern patterned embroidery comes into my office. I can tell she is nervous. I’ve sent her to be tested because she is the third wife of a man I just tested and found to be HIV+.
She sits in the chair across the desk, her hands folded in her lap as she anxiously bites her lower lip.
“I have your test results and the HIV test is negative.”
The woman starts to cry and wail.
“Jus’ counsel me, doctuh…tell me de trute.”
“Ma’am, calm down. You don’t have HIV…”
She falls off the chair and starts writhing on the ground wailing. She looks up at me with bleary eyes as tears roll down her cheeks. “Oh! Oh! OH!” She slowly pulls herself together and sits back on the chair.
“Ma’am I don’t think you understood. The test is ok, it’s good. You don’t have the disease…”
“Oh tank God. Tank God. Look at dis…” And she lifts up her sleeve to reveal scars on her forearm and a massive, stellate scar on the back of her upper arm. “I a war victim. Dey torture’ me. I shounnah be alive. Look at dis…”
She lifts up her skirt and shows me an equally enormous scar on her thigh. She raises her hands and eyes to heaven. “God is great! I not wanna marry dis man. My mudduh force me. He own many stores, he rich. He take care of my mudduh and brudduh. I ha’ no fadduh. But I de tird wife o’ dis man. I knew it wasna mah destiny.”
She falls on her face on the ground reciting some words in Arabic “Allahu Akbar…la ila illa Al-Lah” then she gets up. “I knew when they wan’ a take ma blood. I knew the test woul’ be positive o’ negative. So I went to pray and I pray to God. Now I know God love me. I know he love me. I will be free.” And she continues to cry.
“Tank you, doctuh and tank God. He has saved me. I will go back to ma family now. He save me fra’ de war and He save me fra’ dis disease. Allahu akbar. Doctuh, may God protect you and not let anyting’ hurt you. All dis Ebola, may God not let it near you. Tank you. You ha’ been straight wid me. I know God loves me.”
s she walks out I call out to her, “As salaam aleikum…”
She turns and smiles, “Wa aleikum as salaam doctuh."