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Ghanaian Medicine: Preserving Marriages and Killing Women

This couple’s name has been changed to protect their identity*

 

Kojo’s ragged snoring woke Afua from a fitful sleep. Their sheets were hot and sticky, a clamminess caused by their recent love-making and listless air. The power had gone off again and there would be none for another 24 hours. Afua thought about getting a drink from the ridge, but she didn’t want to let out any reserves of cold air so she grabbed a sachet of room temperature water. The liquid soothed the dryness of her throat, but did nothing the quench the burning between her thighs. For 2 weeks Afua had suffered through a blistering heat in and around her vagina coupled with a foul discharge. At first she was embarrassed, but Kojo had been tender and understanding about it. He told her not to worry about it…that he was sure it would pass.

Afua tried in vain to ignore the pain she had endured for this long, but on this afternoon she knew she couldn’t take it anymore. As trickle of Kojo’s coital semen trailed down her thighs, she dabbed at the sensitive folds between her legs, careful not to make more contact than was necessary. Then she limped over to the wardrobe where she kept her purse and dug around for her phone. Afua left the room and dialed the number to her family doctor and waited to be connected.

“Hello? Dr. Thomas? I think I’m sick. I need to make an appointment…”

Two days later Afua sat on the examination table at the clinic that sat at the end of the road leading to her house. It was so convenient having a medical facility close by, and she was grateful for it. As she sat waiting for Dr. Thomas to return with her lab results, she took stock of the peeling medical posters stuck on the pale clinic walls. They were not unfamiliar to her. These were the same images that were plastered to the wall when Mark was brought here, dying on the examination table. Five years ago, a distracted taxi driver had struck him dead on as he was getting out of his driver’s seat, knocking both Mark and his car door onto the scorching, black asphalt just a few feet from the clinic. Concerned citizens rushed him in, hoping the doctor on duty could save him. He bled out before Afua had a chance to say goodbye. That was how Afua lost her first husband and the true love of her life. She was certain that she could never love or marry again, but Kojo came along and wooed her with his swaggering confidence. She didn’t love him the same way she loved Mark. How could she? Kojo was…well, he was Kojo. And he was very different from Mark. It was on this day that about to find just how different her two husbands were from each other.

“Mrs. Aidoo, we have your results here…and it looks as though you have a sexually transmitted disease,” Dr. Thomas said in introduction.

Afua sat straight up.

“What? What do you mean?” Kojo’s smug, sleeping face flashed before her eyes. Oh, don’t worry about it baby He was always saying. It’s probably nothing… “I’ll divorce that bastard! I’ll divorce him today!”

Dr. Thomas clicked her tongue. “Ah, ah! This is no reason for divorce, Afua. These things happen in a marriage, you know…”

“My marriage is only 2 weeks old. You kraa, you were there, Dr. Thomas. I invited you! What do you mean ‘these things happen’?”

“All I am advising is that you not be too hasty,” the doctor cautioned. “I mean, we can treat you both, and you can move forward from there…as a family.”

Afua cut her eyes at the woman who proudly handed out her cards that read ‘Dr. MRS. Eileen Thomas’ and resisted the urge to suck her teeth. What utter nonsense! She swallowed her insults and asked about her prognosis.

“What did he give me?”

“I have your prescription here. You can take it to the pharmacy just opposite here and they will fill it.”

“Doctor! What did my husband give me?”

Dr. Thomas refused to answer Afua’s question, and instead reminded her that she was available to treat both her and her husband.

“Besides,” she added, “how do you know it wasn’t you who brought sickness into your bed?”

Afua nearly hit the roof. “I haven’t had sex with anyone since my first husband died!”

Her anger was palatable and seemed to quell Dr. Thomas’ superior attitude, but not before she advised Afua to change her panties often because “certain ‘sexy panties’ can also cause irritation to the vagina.

“Remember,” she cautioned. “Don’t make any hasty decisions about your marriage.” The she called for the nurse to escort Afua out without another word. The nurse gave her an injection before sending her on her way.

Afua Aidoo was livid. She was outraged. She was scared. The pharmacy tech filled her prescription and asked her if she had any questions before handing her four paper bags. Afua shook her head. If her own doctor would not answer her questions, what could she expect from a mere pharmacy tech? Instead, she went home and looked up each prescription online later that night while Kojo was out “meeting friends.”

Chlamydia, syphilis and trichomoniasis. The painful shot she received was most likely for gonorrhea. As she researched the causes, symptoms and outcomes for each disease if left untreated, her emotions oscillated between rage, sadness and stoicism. How could Kojo do this? Why would he do this? How many people had he had unprotected sex during the course of their engagement to gather THIS many diseases? And Dr. Thomas…what in God’s name was she thinking?! How could she – a doctor and a WOMAN, at that! – advocate to stay with this man? Was the preservation of his feelings and patriarchy more important than her very life? No. This was not going to happen this way.

Kojo got home just after 1 am. Afua was waiting for him in the living room. As soon as he turned the door key, she began flinging his fancy shoes, ties and shirts at his shadowy frame.

“Get out, Kojo! Get out NOW!”

A month later, their divorce was finalized.

*****

 

Adventurers: This story was told to me this afternoon by Afua, who lived through this frightening ordeal. I spoke to another friend who shared some other stories around STDs that I will hopefully get to this week (they are worse than this one, if you can believe it), but I wanted to make sure a certain part of Afua’s conversation with her GP triggered for you. Did you notice how Dr. Thomas was willing to move Heaven and Earth to make sure Afua stayed in her marriage, despite the fact that her husband had made her ill? Thank goodness he hadn’t contracted HIV/AIDS, but a cocktail of STDs is still pretty bad. What is behind that? Are you shaking in rage? I was! Let’s explore this and give advise to some other women who might not be strong enough to put their own ‘Kojo’s’ out now…please!

About the Author

Published on: 06 April 2015 by in Creative Non Fiction

has written 185 stories on this site.

11 Comments
  1. Maame O. says:

    What is wrong with Dr. Thomas? She couldn’t tell Afua her diagnosis. I am here shaking with rage like you wrote.

  2. Malaka says:

    She’s nutso. We had a discussion last night on Twitter and this sort of overstepping of boundaries is apparently pretty commonplace. It’s outrageous!

  3. Maame O. says:

    Doctors and “expert” should know their boundaries. The rate of STDs rates among heterosexual Black women is outrageous too. I had an issue with STD once and after that I am very paranoid and OCD when it comes to unprotected sex. Testing should be routine thing that we women should do. Before I have sex any guy, I have to see their recent STDs test results this includes HIV testing too. I show mine first before I require one. Women should be in charge of their own sexual health.
    I am glad you wrote about this. This is an education we all need.

  4. This is very common. WE have experienced women whose husbands gave them Hiv seriously. The medical profession seem to think it is okay to not do what they are supposed to do because of certain cultural or religious beliefs.

  5. Kwunume says:

    the Dr has something to hide

  6. Nyamek3 says:

    I got angry at the dialog and rushed to the end, unable to really finish the story. I hate when doctors, especially older ones tend to appoint themselves life coach, marriage counselor and Auntie Adisa when you haven’t asked.

    It also really rubbed me the wrong way that she wouldn’t even tell her what she had – you know, the only part of the conversation that was actually her job. Smh.

    And I wonder, like Kwunume, if the doctor knows more than she should about this. Whatever the case, totally unprofessional.

    I wonder if some collaboration could come out of this – adventures and a panel of GPs/Gynaecologists. Professional conduct when it comes to these things (sexual and reproductive health). What your rights and options are, and if there are any actions we can take in unpleasant circumstances, like when a neighbor’s help nearly died because the midwives thought it would help her learn her lesson about teenage pregnancy better if childbirth was as horrifying as possible and so ignored her screams when things began to go terribly wrong with her birth process. There is probably a place for high and mighty advice or lessons. The hospital aint it.

  7. Malaka says:

    Nyamek3, I think that’s an excellent idea and a discussion that is sorely needed. And you’re damn right: the hospital is no place for a lesson in morality and ethics. That poor girl. Some people…I just don’t know!

  8. Abena says:

    WOW!Efua didnt waste time nor did she ‘give it to God’ like how many would advice. Pray for your husband seems to be one of them they like saying paa…
    Glad Efua kicked him out,aint nobody got time for that!rubbish

  9. Malaka says:

    You know! In real life, people don’t like Afua because she’s too hard and “unmanageable”. They say she’s too “white” because she doesn’t tolerate nonsense at ALL. Can you imagine that? You give me 3-4 STDs and I’m just supposed to give that to God? How!

  10. Nana Darkoa says:

    Malaka thanks for writing this. Nyameky3 I love your suggestion. I have tried in the past to get a Dr to write regularly for Adventures with no luck. One of my Dr friends has written maybe 3 posts over the lifetime of this blog and I know she wants to write more regularly so I’m hoping that one of these days she will be able to make that commitment.

    This whole STD scenario is serious as well as the lack of GUM clinics here. There is actually a story I want to write along those lines. Hopefully will do so this weekend

  11. Nyamek3 says:

    Thank you Malaka and Nana, I hope something can come out of this. It’s really sad how we kill each other softly in these circumstances.

    Malaka, you’re absolutely right that people would wag their tongues at Afua. Everybody seems to conveniently forget that the same conducive behaviors for gonorrhea and co. are conducive for spreading HIV when giving these pieces of advice. I should give the cocktail of non-HIV STIs to God, and when HIV comes eh? The same God?

    There are many reasons adultery is accepted as grounds for divorce. If you can plead manslaughter if you killed somebody before they could kill you, why do we continue to vilify leaving someone before their choices ‘kill’ you? *sigh*

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