Sunday, January 30, 2011

STDs and Exhaustion!

This week I have done 84 prenatals. That makes for one exhausted midwife! Of those 84, half were new patients. Where are all these women coming from? Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I’m not sure I can keep this up much longer. I try to give them my best but by the end of a long day, my brain twitches.

Plus, a large portion of these women have raging STDs. It’s great they are getting treatment, but come on! Why are so many of them infected? I asked my translator what he thought and he just shrugged. So, I pushed him a bit.

-- “When these young women marry older men, are they faithful?” I asked.
-- “Some go to any man that comes,” he explained, “but not all.”
-- “So is it the men? Are they unfaithful?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
-- “Yes. The men have sex with many many.” he explained.
I continued to pester. “But if they have ten wives, are they still sleeping with prostitutes as well?”
He just nodded uncomfortably.
-- “But why?” I badgered. I wanted him to say it out loud.
-- “Because they can,” he admitted, “that is the way of things here.”

Frustrated by constantly cleaning up after these unfaithful men, I have to admit that my translator is right. Socially here, it is understood that every man will stray. Monogamy is laughable to them. So what if they pick up a disease and cause their wife infertility and pain. That’s not their problem. If she cannot produce a child, he’ll just leave her in squalor and marry some new young thing.

One of those new young things was on my prenatal bed this week. She was two months pregnant and suffering from a long history of venereal symptoms. She was wife number five. Her last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 3 months which was most likely due to this infection.

Investigating further, she explained that three of the other wives were infertile. Even after years of marriage, they have never carried a child to term. So, I explained to her the role STDs play in infertility and miscarriage. Surprised but happy to learn this lesson early, she promised to take her medicines carefully and encourage the others to come for treatment as well.

This man, no doubt desperate for children, married five times. Did he know he was the problem? Probably not. Will he come for treatment? I don’t know. Will he allow his other wives to come? I hope so. I hope he gets a clue before it’s too late.

Sigh.

You probably didn’t think this post would entail me ranting and raving on the rate of STDs among the Sudanese. Ha! But there you have it. That is what you get from this exhausted midwife. Rants!

Pray for me to find socially acceptable ways to teach these families about STD prevention. I think some of the women will listen, but what about the men? There seems to be some kind of stigma; some men equate STDs with AIDS. They are ignorant that a few drugs can mean the difference between healthy children and pain free sex!

The good thing about all of this is... my translator gets it. I can safely say at least one Dinka man has learned this lesson well. Now for the rest of them!