Helpless baby gets accustomed to being sexually abused
- Nurse Bentick adopts a cast-iron stomach World AIDS Day 2006
By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
November 27, 2006

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NURSE Janet Bentick has seen the pain of many families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Some of the stories she tells are heart wrenching. Really, her job demands she develops a cast-iron stomach.

She remembers a commercial sex worker who gave birth to a baby and then moved to an interior location after separating from the baby’s father. The woman subsequently died of HIV/AIDS, but the baby and her father were found not to be positive.

Nurse Bentick would make a gruesome discovery. The baby girl, then three years old, could not sleep at nights.

When an investigation was done by the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic, where she works, it was found that the child was being sexually abused by perhaps one of the men her mother used to be with.

“When the child was put to lay on her back, this child’s feet just went in ‘the position’, thrown up, that means someone was having sex with her,” Nurse Bentick said.

It was also found that because of being abused, the girl, now four years old, was infected with the HIV virus. Thankfully, her father has taken on his responsibility and he never misses the appointments at the GUM clinic. He wants to save his daughter’s life.

“That is a story that touched me,” Nurse Bentick said. However, that was just one of the experiences she has had working at the GUM clinic, located in the compound of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

She was selected to be honoured for her dedicated service yesterday when the National AIDS Programme held an awards ceremony for health care workers in the ten administrative regions of the country.

The GUM clinic tests for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Apart from performing duties as a nurse, Nurse Bentick cannot divorce herself from the role of counsellor.

“At the GUM clinic we work as a team,” she said. “Although we are not counsellors, sometimes when these patients test positive, they would cry and we would brace them,” she says.

Nurse Bentick said her task becomes difficult at times. “Sometimes they come and tell us who how they are taking their medication and they are not taking it right. Some just want their own way.”

“Some tell us they are not taking the medication, they take herbs. We try to reassure them and get them back to the counsellor. Our work is to get them to give them proper treatment and care,” Nurse Bentick added.

However, despite the challenge of having to confront stories of pain, she gets a bit of humour to liven up.

“The first section is enquiries, where the people come and tell us what is wrong. Some might tell you a bone stuck them on the gum,” she laughs. “Then, we now would have to tell them what GUM means and what we do. Then, we would send them to the appropriate place for treatment.”

Often, people who suspect they have symptoms of HIV/AIDS, refuse to go for testing at the GUM clinic, a public institution, because they fear their status getting out.

Nurse Bentick would like to this change this perception.

She said that when people go to the GUM clinic, they might see someone they know and assume that the health worker would not keep their health status confidential.

She recalled that one family from Linden noticed a nurse from the town at the GUM clinic and accused her of letting others know of their status, even though it was the first time they had come to the clinic when she was there.

“So we are faced with challenges like these. We try our best to be confidential at that clinic, but wherever you go, somebody would know you,” she explained.

Nurse Bentick would like to see more people coming forth and getting tested early.

“Don’t wait to have the symptoms to get tested, so if you are positive, you can get treatment early,” she urged.

(** This is the fourth in a series of articles being published to coincide with World AIDS Day, which would be observed on December 1)