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‘ NOT ME ’ ARJUNE TEELUCK © Copyright Arjune Teeluck – Jan. 1, 2001. E-mail: leaguetandt@yahoo.com Phone: 355-8920 29 Realize Junction Road, Central Village – Lengua, Via. Princes Town, Trinidad, WI.

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INTRODUCTION Since the discovery of the Human Immune Virus, substantial work has been done to sensitize the international community on all concerns relating to this global epidemic. In recent times, there has been an even more concerted and united effort, not only for deepening awareness but also for providing an effective range of combatant drugs as well. Considerable time, energy and finances continue to be expended in seeking to provide a vaccine. However, in spite of all endeavors HIV/AIDS continue to pose an ever-increasing challenge as the disease continue to spread. Medical science, through its creditable intervention has led to the effective of this once deemed terminal disease as one that is now classified as chronic but treatable, promoting longer and healthier lives for its victims. The age-old adage that prevention is always better than providing a cure rings true in this case, as it is now the prevailing opinion that our greatest hope at present for curbing this assault on humanity’s health rests squarely on prevention. This play ‘NOT ME’ can be a formidable weapon in promoting this all important prevention drive. It is written in the language of the masses and in a style to which all can relate. This play takes the message home – simple, easy, clear and direct. It provokes an aura of indomitable commitment in the holistic embrace of both in its content and intent. Those who read/view this play would no doubt have implanted in their minds all they presently need to know in order to effectively protect themselves and in case they may have been at risk, empowering appropriate action. It effectively dissipates the myths surrounding this disease and focuses an awareness that is at once wholly edifying.

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It is my sincere belief that copies of this work are made available to all citizens and its stage version presented through the medium of television and live at our secondary schools, community centers, churches, mosques, temples and such other places that provide effective outreach. The indispensability of prevention then must continue to focus on information for transformation – education for liberation.

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THE CHALLENGE ‘BIG ENOUGH’ Big enough to see the good in others, To appreciate people for who they are. Big enough to share in the struggle, Rather than stand aloft and afar. To Praise and encourage acts of virtue, Every thought, word and deed. Rather than belittle and ill-speak another, I’ll sow some virtuous seed. Big enough to bring people together, Charitable to the cause and call. Big enough to assemble and so help provide, For the common good of us all. Big enough to say please, thanks, I am sorry; And to make amends when wrong, Big enough to provide hope for the fallen, And to nurture their will to be strong. Big enough to culture empathy, That understand others’ pain, Surrendering self –centered prejudices, Never obsessed in selfish gain. Cultivating the strength but the will, Greater virtues to now embrace. Always willing to respect each-others’, Right to their own place and space. Big enough to happy in this day, Knowing, I cannot have it all my way. Big enough to embrace real faith and hope, And so with tempering adversity cope. To rise above sloth, envy, lie, Anger, lust, hate and greed. Big enough to listen and with heart and hand, 6


The voice of conscience heed. And when I am big enough, yea big enough, Love in all to see. Then I’ll be much bigger, bigger than, That little fellow in me!

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THE END A group of villagers assemble on the ‘block’ (Community liming spot) for their regular ‘lime’ and old talk. This day’s activity centers around discussions on HIV/AIDS. SCENE 1 BRAYAN Allyuh eh hear woh going on, everybody sayin dat how da fella, Teacher Smart, he ded wid dat kine-ah bad sickness, wey going arrong de place, wey dey call de AIDS ting. JOANNE Ye look so we, one week ah see he lookin good good an de nex week ah see he melt dong like ah snowball in de hot sun. JOHN Boh ent teacher Smart dem family an dem sayin that how he de ha some kine-ah spine oh back problem, so ye cunda walk, an den ye geh ah heart attack an is so how ye ded. TOMMY Is shame dey shame to say is AIDS wey ye ded wid. Dem feel dat dey is too big to geh AIDS an dem kine-ah ting so. 8


SUSAN Allyuh kyya remember how one time people de sayin how ye de try to hold dong ah teacher in de school an how ye uz-is to molest dem little gyul chirran an dem. Ent ye wife leve im for da same kine-ah chuppidness. In sread ah calling he Smart dey cudda well call he chuppid! BOODLAL Susan, like ye de tackle you oh woh, ah know dat long time he uz-is to stoddy drop yuh home from school an ting. SUSAN Yea, boh he de know better dan to try dem ting on me. He uz-is to drop me home because meh faada de gee im we old house to live in till he bill-up ye own house, so he de smarter dan to try dem ting wid me. JOANNE Susan if yuh know yuh an de man was in ting yuh better go an check out yuh-self to see if yuh hav da AIDS ting we. SAM Boh ent Carltan littlle son Shane hav it, so how come dem eh shame to tell nobody. Ent dem is big time pappy too.

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SUSAN Yea, boh da is because he geh it by accident, it was not he oh dey family fault. He geh da by miskate. When ye de geh in da big accident wid de taxi and de sweet drink truck, allyuh eh remember dat he de ha to go in de hospital an dey gee ye blood wey de ha de AIDS ting in it by miskate. JOHN Boy as allyuh torkin dat ah jess remember dat Carltan dem invite meh lill bredda to Shane birtday party. Boh me eh sennin my lill bredda dey for hell, I over fraid he ketch da AIDS ting. TOOLSIE Boy yuh daz kyya geh AIDS jess so. Yoh cud only geh it if blood an ting from somebody wey hav it geh inside ah you blood. BRAYAN Yea, like how Shawn geh it, oh if yuh geh ah injection wid de same needle way dey jook somebody way hav de AIDS ting, witout boiling de needle fuss. SUSAN Yuh cud geh it too if yuh sex wid somebody who way hav it an yuh din uze no rubber to protect yuh-self.

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TOMMY So yuh kyya geh it den, if yuh shake dey han oh uze de same barchroom oh toilet an dem kine-ah ting? TOOLSIE Na man, yuh kyya geh it so, like from eatin from the same plate oh sleepin in de same room, oh from wen insect an ting bite yuh an dem kine-ah ting. TOMMY Boh leh we say I kiss ah gyul, ah talking bout ah reel-reel kiss, an she hav ah lill cut in she mout an I hav ah lill cut in my mouth too, ent we blood cud geh mix-up wid one another own, an if one ah we hav it, de nex one ah we cud geh it too. TOOLSIE Yea, da might be possible. Boh I read up on diss HIV/ AIDS ting plenty an it only have one possen way dey know way geh it so. BRAYAN Well Toolsie boy, yuh better tell we hommoch ah way ye hav way we cud geh da ting, so we go know wot to do, to be on de safe side.

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TOOLSIE Leh meh tell allyuh de ways an dem how allyuh cud geh de HIV/AIDS. One, is if nuff ting from inside somebody way hav it geh inside ah you body an it en up in yuh blood. Ting like blood, saliva an ting like way ‘com’ out ah yuh ting, oh de gyul ting wen yuh sexing an ting. BRAYAN Well Toolsie, yuh better tell we one time all de ting way we muss do for we not to geh da sickness. TOOLSIE Da is easy. Doh hav no sex before yuh marrid. (John remarks, “boh yuh good man”) If yuh hivin sex befo oh after yuh marrid uze ah rubber every single time. Never ever, horn yuh wife oh yuh husband no matter wot happen. Doh uze ah injection needle way somebody else uze to inject yuh-self witout boiling it fuss, an if yuh tekin care wid someone way have ah cut oh ah sore oh someting so, who may hav de HIV/AIDS ting, mek sure dat yuh put on gloves in yuh han. Mek sure dat yuh put ah good plaster to cover-up any cut an sore an ting dat yuh hav on you, an de last ting is to do everyting clean an good so no blood, saliva oh ting way coming out from de sick possen sore an ting kyya geh inside ah you and den geh in yuh blood. BRAYAN Toolsie boy, you really stoddy up diss ting we. Well if way yuh saying is true, how come I done hav sex wid 12


plenty gyul areddy, an me din uze no rubber, an look me eh hav it. TOOLSIE How you know dat you eh have it. You ever geh any tess to know if yuh hav it. Hear na fellas, yuh hav to geh ah tess if yuh know yuh do any ah dese ting an dem. (1) If yuh de hav sex wid anyone who hav de HIV/AIDS ting. (2) If yuh uze ah injection needle way somebody else uze witout boiling it fuss. (3) If yuh de have sex wid one oh moh people witout uzeing ah rubber. (4) If you de tekin care wid ah HIV/AIDS patent and yuh din follow de rules way de doctor an dem make. And (5) If yuh de interfare wid blood witout ah gloves in yuh han. BRAYAN Boh if I de hav AIDS I udda bong to know, I runnin ball better dan all dem fellas every day an I daz feel reel strong an good. Yuh boy strong like ah yayan. TOOLSIE Fellas, wen yuh geh de HIV germs in yuh blood yuh doh geh de AIDS ting one time yuh know. Ye daz take time foh yuh to geh de AIDS sickness. De doctor an dem daz call de AIDS germs dem Human Immune Virus, is so how dey geh da name HIV. ‘H’ for Human, ‘I’ for Immune an ‘V’ for virus.

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JOHN Yea, like how dey daz call Rumlal, BTD – Bong To Drunk, an dem ooman way daz lime by de bridge, BBB – Big Bootoo Brigade. (Laughter). BRAYAN Anyway, leh we geh serious, diss ting over hard to understan we. Well if I hav HIV an I feelin so good an strong, den diss HIV ting muss be a good ting to have. TOOLSIE Wait-wait fellas, you all not gehin wot I sayin. Yuh see wen yuh ketch de virus it daz start to kill out de ting in yuh body way make to fight sickness. Like leh we say you eat ah mango boh yuh din wash it good an some germs geh in yuh mouth – yuh mouth hav ting in it way go try to kill out dem germs an dem. Boh leh we say de germs an dem over strong oh ye hav over too much, den wen dey reach in yuh belly de acid from yuh food bag go try to kill dem out. Boh leh we say dat somehow some ah de germs an dem gehway an reach in yuh blood, den yuh hav ah ting in yuh blood way go still try to kill out de ress ah de germs. Now de ting in yuh blood way da try to kill out de germs daz kyya make sometime, instead ah dem killin de germs, de germs da en up kill dem instead. Now wen a good bit ah de ting in yuh way da fight de germs an dem ded out, is den de AIDS daz start. So yuh see, de ting in yuh blood way make to fight sickness now reach so lill-bit dat de body kyya fight disease like befo – so is now de HIV reach de AIDS stage. Da is why de doctor an dem say dat you should take yuh tess about three months after yuh do the wrong ting, an do over 14


the tess again after three months pass, to make sure the result right. Wen yuh go by the doctor he go explain dat, an everyting else way yuh suppose to know. SUSAN Yea Toolsie, dey da call dem ting in de blood way da fight sickness ‘wite blood cell’ – an all de ting dem in de body way make to fight disease dey da call it de ‘immune sistam’. JOHN How ye go have wite blood cell in yuh blood an yuh blood red-red so. Like allyuh dotish oh woh. SUSAN Well look it have wite sugar in da cool-aid way yuh drinking dey, an how come ye red. JOHN Boh yuh good gyul TOOLSIE As you was saying Susan, da is why dey call it HIV, HIV mean ‘Human Immune Virus’ because it daz attack an destroy de ‘immune sistam’ how ah show allyuh jess now.

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BRAYAN So how long after yuh geh de HIV yuh go ha to wait for it to reach up to de stage ah de AIDS ting? TOOLSIE For some people it daz take as little as five years, an for some people it cud take for up to ten years oh moh. Is accordin to how yuh body make up, how strong an healthy yuh is, an how good yuh daz look after yuh-self, like eatin good food an exercising an always doing an keeping yuh-self in ah clean an good way. BRAYAN Toolsie, boh if I ha HIV, me eh bong to geh AIDS? TOOLSIE As far as we know so far, every single person who geh de HIV bong to geh de AIDS sooner oh later. BRAYAN So yuh feel I should go an geh ah tess. Boy yuh gehin me reel frighten we. An hear na, dem tess an ting morbe daz corse big money. TOOLSIE Yes, from wot yuh telling me, I feel yuh shudda take ah 16


tess one time. An de nex ting is dat de tess is for free. JOHN Allyuh doh tell Brayan dem tess an dem free na, de way he like freeness he go go an geh da AIDS ting jess to geh ah free tess. (Laughter). BRAYAN Boh wait na, if everybody who geh de HIV go bong to geh AIDS one day, wot sense ye make I go an take de tess. Da is only putting worries in my head for notten. SUSAN No-no-no, now dey hav plenty pills an ting dat yuh cud take to help yuh live longer an healthier dan befo. An if yuh geh yuh tess an yuh know dat yuh have it, yuh go know how to handle up yuh-self an how not to spred it to nex people. TOOLSIE If yuh want I cud carry yuh tomorrow for yuh tess. I know de doctor an dem, an all de nurses dem too, yuh eh go ha to stoddy noting. BRAYAN Ah go-go wid yuh, boh me eh woh nobody to know how I gone to geh da tess at all yuh know. An besides, I cock17


sure dat me eh ha da dyam ting, da is de reason why me eh fraid to go an take de tess. JOHN Ah like how yuh say yuh ‘cock-sure’, ah hope yuh lehin yuh head wid brains rule yuh brainless head. Anyway boys, if anyone ah allyuh know allyuh do de wrong ting, an allyuh feel allyuh might hav de ting, allyuh better go an take de tess jess to mek sure. I say dat (1) Go an geh yuh tess (2) Get people way know bout de disease to talk wid allyuh (3) An if any ah allyuh hav it, take allyuh pills an ting an do way de doctor an dem tell allyuh to do (4) Doh spread de ting to no body else an (5) Doh scorn nobody way hav it, instead try to help dem as much as allyuh cud. PRAKKY Boh wait na, Dennis boy, yuh cud remember wen we de gone in da beach lime boxin day an we de smoke up some hard collie (Marijuana) an den we hit some good puncheon rum. Den da nice Spanish ting come by we camp to lime, an she eat an ting an decide to spen de night wid we. DENNIS Yea maan, how I go forget dat. She de spenin de weekend in ah beach house an we get so drunk dat de nex morning is she way de ha to come an tell we, dat de two ah we de sleep wid she.

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PRAKKY Yea boy Dennis, dat was about three months now. Boy if da gyul have da HIV/AIDS ting is like crappo smoke we pipe. DENNIS Na maan Prakky, I doubt she cud have HIV/AIDS. You eh see how pretty da ooman is an she controlling good paper (money). To rent da beach house alone is over 3,000 for da week way she spen dey. An you eh see de big time rent car she de driving rong wid oh woh. PRAKKY Boy allyuh know dat I din have no ooman befo I marrid, an since I marrid I never gone wid ah nex ooman except for da one time. Toolsie, you feel in one shot we cud get the HIV boy. TOOLSIE Of course, all it takes is one time without using ah rubba wid somebody who is HIV positive. If what you are sayin is true, yuh better use a condom wen yuh havin sex wid yuh gyul from now on, until yuh geh tested we. DENNIS Well if Prakky in trouble, wot about me. I sleep arrong wid so much ah ooman ah cyar count. Some ah dem make meh uze rubba boh plenty ah dem run it jess so. 19


Boy I feel I going an take da tess tomorrow bright an early. Boy if I gee my innocent gyul da AIDS ting, da go be ah reel disgrace we. Boh anyway, since we de throw dong da ting on de beach I never sleep wid no ooman bisside meh gyul an now woss, meh eh want no outside ooman again not for hell. TOOLSIE From what yuh saying if you eh have the virus yuh cud consider yuhself reel lucky we. But I tink you an Prakky should take da tess right away an make sure one way oh de odda. PRAKKY Toolsie boy, Ah go take de tess, boh till I geh da result I eh know how I cud sleep wid meh gyul an uze rubba. We never uze rubba in we life yet. She bong to suspect something. Boy I in more trouble dan trouble ye-self. (Prakky thinking, ‘Dennis de have sex wid da beach ting fuss an den me, because wen I wake up she was in the bunk nex to me. So me eh going for no tess. Leh he go an take de tess an if he eh have the virus ah sure me eh go have it too) *********

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SCENE 2 (Thomas enters the block) THOMAS Way allyuh talking about dey so boy, how allyuh face lookin like fret so. Like someboby ded oh woh. SUSAN Na man, Toolsie telling we all about da HIV/AIDS ting. THOMAS Boy da is ah waise ah good time we, if yuh is to geh it yuh bong to geh it no matter way yuh try to do. I playin meh-self we, is one day to ded, an something go ha to take de blame. BRAYAN Da is de dyam ting self, now yuh talking, Toolsie da is de man foh you, see how yuh cud deel up wid Thomas. TOOLSIE Look ah hav diss book hyya bout HIV/AIDS, allyuh cud check it out for allyuh-self an see if wot ah sayin is not true.

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THOMAS Boy I done know all way da chuppid book hav. Yuh cud do way yuh want, if yuh is to geh it yuh bong to geh it. Wot is to happen bong to happen! SUSAN Boh if ah man eh jump dong from no high bildin he kyya ded from da fall. If ah man eh ha no coco in de sun, he eh have to studdy bout no rain. THOMAS If ah man is to ded ah sutten way, is jess so he bong to ded. If ye have to ded from fallin off ah high bildin, somebody go shob im off ah de bildin, oh ye go fall off by miskate. Ah obeah man de tell ah fella how ye go ded from drongin, da po man never take ah swim in ye whole life, boh yuh know he drong in ye own vomit. If yuh is to ded by poison somebody go gee yuh it oh yuh go take it by miskate. If yuh is to ded by HIV/AIDS yuh bong to geh it some how. BRAYAN Yea, it hav ah little chance dat yuh might geh it by mistake. Bot if yuh eh takin no chippid chance an yuh not doing de rong ting it go be reel hard to geh it. SUSAN Look Toolsie is ah man way know all about de HIV/ 22


AIDS ting, an he say dat yuh cud do de right ting an protect yuh-self. THOMAS Doh worry wid he, ask im how long de AIDS virus cud live outside de human body. Tell im answer dat? BRAYAN Yea, Toolsie. Answer de bredda? TOOLSIE De AIDS virus cud only survive outside de human body for a very short time. Ting like any hot liquid, soap, bleach, alcohol and de acid in yoh belly cud kill it, and it cud only spread from body to body through bodily fluids. THOMAS So if alcohol cud kill it, if we hit some good grug we safe den. Oh if da eh wok we cud always drink somting hot, oh ah lill bleach oh eat ah piece ah soap. (Laughter). SUSAN Thomas stop talking dotishness and makin fun an try to be ah lill serious na man. Diss HIV/AIDS ting is notten to mek joke wid yoh know.

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THOMAS Well allyuh ask im na, in da same book way ye hav dey it say dat de virus cud live for up to six days in dry blood outside de human body. TOOLSIE Yes, Boh it also say dat dem tess was done under laboratory conditions and it does not apply generally. Boh anyway wot dat hav to do wid de advice I givin de breddas. You only splittin hairs, dat eh hav nothing to do wid trying to prevent de spread ah HIV/AIDS. BRAYAN A-A, boh Toolsie yuh start to tork big English all of ah sudden, yoh start to uze big wod like ‘laboratory conditions’ an ting. TOOLSIE Wen yuh meet-up wid force ripe bright man like Thomas an dem so, yuh da ha to talk so, because dem daz feel dey know everyting. THOMAS So I playin I know everyting, well Leh we say ah gyul hav AIDS an she wokin in ah food-place, she mekin fresh salad. Now leh we say she hav ah cut in she han an 24


some ah she blood geh in de salad. Now po me go an eat dey an I hav ah lill cut in meh mout, so way happen dey now? TOOLSIE There are millions who hav HIV/AIDS an nobody never geh it so yet. Anyway a person who handling food must wear gloves. You jess tryin to play games wid people life. Yuh have to understand that it have to have nuff ah de virus, an nuff have to geh in you blood foh yuh to geh it. Da is why they eh fine out bout nobody way ever geh it so yet. THOMAS Allyuh see me boy, I have to go an geh meh lill smoke we, so we go continue diss ting some odda time. An allyuh doh leh Toolsie chase allyuh head an frighten allyuh wid he big talk, he eh want allyuh to geh ah piece ah de action, he want all for ye-self. I gone. SUSAN Boh really Toolsie, Leh we say ah travelin in ah taxi an we geh in ah accident, an me an ah passenger geh wounded an we blood geh mix up wid one another. Now if de nex possen hav de HIV/AIDS ent I hav an chance to geh it in da way. TOOLSIE De possibility of dat happenin is very very unlikely. 25


Again there are no reported cases of anyone getin it dat way. I cannot understand why you all are going off on those wild fantasies an missin the simple facts of the issue. There are certainly ways that you can get it through no fault of your own. For example, you may be faithful to your wife and she may be unfaithful to you with some one who has AIDS, and you may get it that way, or you may get it by accident or through the negligence of some one else. Ah person cud even geh it if somebody who have it rape dem. But that is not no reason for you to put your own life and the lives of your family at risk by taking unnecessary chances. TOMMY Toolsie, well now yuh start to put dong some real classical English boy, Boh doh worry I gehin yoh message loud an clear. Fellas diss is way de bredda really sayin, allyuh hear meh out: (1) Havin sex witout ah rubba wid ah possen who hav de HIV/AIDS ting is de highest risk (2) Uzing injection needle to chook you, way somebody else uze witout boilin it fuss, is de second highest risk (3) Ah modda who hav de HIV/AIDS an leh she chile nuss from she bress, is de third highest risk. (4) Failin to observe de rules de doctor an dem give for wen we seeing about people way sick wid HIV/AIDS is de fourth highest risk. (5) Ah lill chile in ye mumma belly cud geh it if de chile mudda have it, da is de fifth highest risk. But now it have pills way de mudda cud take to stop dat. Gehin it from kissin way yuh exchange fluid from each other mout, an if two ah allyuh ha cut in allyuh mout, carries some risk. It only have one case way they know bout way somebody geh it so. An one moh ting yuh kyya geh it from insect bite, using de same toilet oh wash room, livin in de same house, huggin an kissin on de face an lips an such casual contact. 26


SUSAN Tommy, boh I din know dat you cud talk good English so too boy, boh look how yuh uzing words like ‘casual contact’ an ting. TOOLSIE Tommy I cud not put that better myself; this shows that you have been paying attention to the discussions and you have understood the subject clearly. And what doubting Thomas trying to put in allyuh head is waste. The nex thing you will hear him say is that some body wid AIDS fall out of ah plane on top ah we right hyya an somehow he blood geh in we blood an we end up wid HIV. You see, is lunatics like Thomas dem so way moh dangerous dan de HIV/AIDS virus itself – dey spreadin lies an doubt an in de end only de virus wins. Today I find out that it have two kind of HIV/AIDS virus.... The HIV and people like Thomas an dem. Anyway people I gone, but before I go, I want to tell you all something, I am not going to keep it a secret anymore. I want you all to look at channel 4 tomorrow at ah quarter pass nine in the night. Allyuh go see me talking ... you see I have the HIV virus! SUSAN Oh God, an look how nice you lookin. Wait-wait-wait Toolsie, I want to go an geh de tess boy, some ah de tings yuh say I should not do, I do dem. I need to know if I have this ting so I cud geh help. An Toolsie, I want you to know that no matter what happens I will always be your friend, I will stand by your side till de end.

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BRAYAN Toolsie, I want to go an get de tess too we boy. You see way I dey hyya right now, I over frighten. Toolsie boy, after I hear dem ting you say jess now, I realize de kineah dotishness I de doing all ah diss time. TOOLSIE Susan, you an Brayan cud come an meet me by the hospital at half pass nine tomorrow morning. All tests are strictly confidential. I want to assure you that you all are making the right move. We have too many people out there walking around carrying the HIV virus unaware that they have it. A lot of work will have to be done to make all our people aware of this HIV/AIDS epidemic. Everyone has an important part to play, and each of us must shoulder some responsibility to educate, liberate and to provide hope and healing. Another thing I forgot to mention, there are plenty moh diseases way you cud geh easier wen you doh protect yuh-self oh when yuh have the HIV/AIDS. Diseases like toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, chancroid, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea – way we daz call ‘runnings’, chlamydia an ting. An some ah dem disease daz take up to twenty years befo it make you sick enough for you to know dat yoh have it. I will get a book on HIV/AIDS and other sickness yuh cud geh when yuh doh protect yuh-self. In fact I feel every individual and house-hold should have a book on HIV/AIDS and other diseases and one on how to keep yuh-self healthy and good.

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SCENE 3 SAM Aye, allyuh know we forget all about Dharam. He wife have AIDS too. Boy Dharam is ah reel nice, honest, kind an quiet fella we. Allyuh cud remember wen Rambo de tief he cattle an sell it for the butcher, an wen de police come how Dharam tell dem dat he din know was Rambo wey de take ye cattle, an how ye de tell Rambo ye cudda take a cattle an sell if ye de need de money, an Rambo get off scotch free. TOMMY Yea, an wen dey de lock me up for ganga (Marijuana) an de magistrate de charge meh, is Dharam way pay de fine foh meh. Yuh know I de gone by he after an offer to wok in ye gyarden to pay im back. Well I gone an wokin for he an every Friday he geein me meh full pay. So one day ah ask im how he eh takin out ye money wey ah owing im. Well hear wey he tell me, he say dat yuh kyya give wid one hand an take it back wid de odda hand. Den ye tell meh to consider dat as ah gift an me eh bong to wok for he unless I want too. Well boy I en up wokin for he up till now, an dem people daz treat me like dey own chile. Daram wife geh da AIDS from somebody else, Dharam is ah man go never go wid ah nex ooman. SAM An remember wen Poosungee house de bun dong is Dharam wey bill up back a place for she. After de ress ah people start to come out an help. I sure it eh have nobody 29


in diss whole village way Dharam eh help out in some kine-ah way. Boy da man Dharam like ah saint, an look how ah man like dat wife come an geh AIDS. Boy dis place really ah fair na man. An yuh know Uncle Dharam daz still take real good care ah she. JOHN Boy, Uncle Dharam is ah man who da wok from cud-see to kya see - sun up to sun dong in ye gyarden. Ye wife an de driver uze to go in de market to wholesale he produce. I feel she geh da from somebody in de market. Boh wait na, yuh know she morbe geh it from de driver because long time he leave de village ah gone an we never hear nothing bout he after dat. SAM Toolsie boy, I feel yuh better talk wid Uncle Dharam, he really taking da ting good. Yuh never see he face looking like fret no time. He always is smiling an treating people nice-nice as usual. Allyuh look ye coming dey wid ye van. (Uncle Dharam stops at the block, hails out to the blockers and offers them some fruits. Toolsie then invites him on the block) TOOLSIE Uncle Dharam, I want to tell you something, it is extremely important to me. You see I have contracted HIV and I would like to do some work to sensitize the community about this dreaded disease. I know that you are a 30


person who would want to assist. I will greatly appreciate your assistance and guidance. DHARAM Well you all can use that large shed which I recently built next to my home, it has proper toilet facilities and I can always buy you all some chairs and other furniture that you all might need. One more thing, it is no secret anymore, everyone is aware that my wife has AIDS. I think that this program might help her to more effectively deal with her problem. I love her very dearly and I want to do all in my power to ensure that she gets the best possible care. JOHN But Uncle Dharam, yuh eh fraid that yuh geh dat ting from she somehow. Uncle like she geh dat by some kineah miskate in de hospital oh woh. Den again, she morbe horn you wid somebody way have it. TOOLSIE (Scolding John) John are you mad boy, how can you invade a person’s privacy like that? It is very unkind to pry into another person’s private life like that, making such wild accusations, you should be ashamed of yourself. DHARAM Do not mind him; there is an old adage which says that we must not be too quick to ascribe to malice what can 31


easily be ascribed to stupidity. A person can only think and act in accordance with his own capacity, capability and discretion. About my wife, what can I say? Who am I to judge her? I have done some terrible things in my time as well, things that make me sick to my stomach when I think of them. Anyway, my wife no longer wants to keep her illness a secret; she wants to speak out in the hope of helping others. In a moment of indiscretion, an unguarded moment, a brief moment of insanity when the negative forces both within and without overwhelm us, we unwittingly commit a breach of our own moral standards. Every day I have to be alert to the forces that threaten my own peace and serenity – hate, envy, lust, deception, greed, anger, sloth and all their many attendant negatives. Just a minute age I responded to John in an abusive manner, when I said that we must not be too quick to ascribe to malice what can easily be ascribed to stupidity. I was wrong. John, I am indeed sorry, please forgive me. In an attempt to ‘manage’ my own psychological/character flaws/defects I have written this prayer, it helps to keep me focused on my larger duty and purpose as a human being. It transports my mind to a higher reality, one that encompasses faith, hope and healing; a place of profound peace and serenity – contentment, fulfillment and over-all well-being. It is titled ‘THE HUIMAN QUEST’, this is how it goes... ‘The human quest’ The will to be kind yet firm and just, with self, fellowman and all Resolve to listen but to take action when this voice of conscience call Wisdom- my own-and empathy, others limitations to understand, Aversion from faultfinding or blame fixing; neither to censor nor to reprimand. 32


Serenity to admit, but courage, promptly to make amends when wrong, Oneness with duty and purpose, in unison with the cosmic song. Fortitude to pursue; with quiet ease; my psycho-spiritual evolution, Character to honor my responsibility, with a serene determination. Active awareness of Nature’s Ultimate Law ... justice absolute, To think and act, toward a positive outcome, ever resolute. Strength to follow my own truths, to the extent of my ability, Open-mindedness, the right of others, to their truths, whatever they be. THOU COSMIC ABSOLUTENESS G ENERATOR / O PERATOR / D ISOLVER – GOD IN ALL-AS ONE-AS ALL ETERNAL SEED, FLOWER, FRUIT AND BUD THOU MOTIVE POWER THAT CRADLES THIS COSMIC INFINITY, I CALL TO THINK AND SAY ... BUT TO LIVE THIS PRAYER TAKEST THOU MY HAND, WHEN I FALL Therefore, you see, if you get the meaning of this prayer you will no doubt understand why I can harbor no animosity or antagonism against my wife or anyone else for that matter. I cannot in good conscience turn my back on her now that she needs me most ... I am not without sin; I cannot be called upon to cast the first or any stone. If it were possible to weigh immorality on a scale, who is to 33


say that my own aberration from the part of virtue would not outweigh that of my wife a thousand fold. I love my wife no less now than I did before, and because I love myself too, it would be utterly foolish of me to do otherwise. Today my life is full; it has become a fascinating adventure. The active pursuit of my own self-evolution, maintaining my own sanity, resisting the many negatives that seek to engage me from moment to moment – my own self-improvement taxes my every faculty to the limit. So how can I find any justification in blaming or in passing judgment on others? To know and to be a little more, to strive with a comforting ease to be the best I can be and become, to find a greater unison with I-self and I-all has become a beautiful and fulfilling experience. Let me share with you too, a poem I have written. I wrote this poem in an effort to further liberate myself from those negatives that forever seek to chain me to the past, to lure me within the embrace of that inner beast, realm of the carnal self. However, before I do so Toolsie, let me tell you that no one appointed me judge over you. I have no opinion on your present predicament. Whatsoever I can do to help you, rest assured that I would. Now for the poem, it is titled, ‘PEACE WITH THE PAST’... I hope it inspires some positive thought and action in your own lives. CONCLUSION

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PEACE WITH THE PAST One day as I sat to meditate, My past flashed before my mind. Virtues and vices, my state and fate; Both good and evil combined. Time out to reflect, Myself now to perfect; Now to live and let live, How to give and forgive. As I honestly reviewed my past, Knew I must set myself free and fast; And so was compelled to write, Of all the deeds of my life, As some indomitable force within me, Seemed resolved to set me free. Thus in this book of life, Of my past I did write; Virtuous thought, word and deed, But of a more gruesome creed, Then so sorry ashamed was I, That my very spirit did cry, Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, This ghastly book of blame, As in turmoil my intellect churned, I tore in bits and burned. Yet my mind’s eye continued to see, Past virtues but past vices too, Evils that came back to haunt me, This predicament to think through. Spent much time in deep thinking, In self-pity, that hollow feeling, With no where else to turn, As this hellfire within did burn, 35


Many nights awake I stayed, As with all I am I prayed, Until, said a voice from deep within, Which seemed to perfection akin, “I cannot relive that moment gone, For I-self died in it, Nor can I live the moment to come, Being situated in this present”. In this realization my spirit was put aright, True perspective on life, a new enlightened sight, The pains of my evil past all lost to the night, From all sins now, I know, first myself I must forgive, When my evils I would have come to resent, Henceforth a better life, to know I would live, Righteousness to represent. Now I must close the door on yesterday and tomorrow, Shutting out doubt, fear, insecurity and sorrow, Opening the door on life this day, To pray, and work and play, For tomorrow, I shall have no anxiety, Striving to live righteously a life of piety, For there’s no greater feeling, of faith, hope and wellbeing, Peace with the past, Myself free at last, Now each day to I-self I say, Live thy fullest ... just for today. (Everyone praised and applauded Uncle Dharam for his intellectually stimulating and soulfully edifying presentation. Uncle Dharam invites all on the block to visit his home to look at the shed he promised to be used as the village HIV/AIDS awareness center. All the ‘blockers’ embrace each other as they leave with Mr. Dharam)

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EPILOGUE (FIVE YEARS LATER) Dennis took the HIV test, and strange as it would seem, in spite of his many escapades of unprotected sex. His results came back negative. However, he remained faithful to his partner thereafter. Prakky who was unfaithful just one single time with the girl from the reference beach lime did not take the test. He felt assured that if Dennis did not have HIV it was impossible that he could have it. His crazy reasoning was that Dennis had sex with the said girl just before him, and so, if Dennis did not contract the virus, he could not have contracted it himself. However, he later became very ill and was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. He lost his will to live, was always full of remorse and soon died. His wife Sheilla too, was diagnosed with AIDS, she and Prakky were soon separated. Fortunately, they had no children. Sheila was abandoned by her immediate family and presently resides at a home for abandoned HIV/AIDS patients. She is in quite good health though she has been living with Aids for over seven years. She is attending school on a part-time basis where she is perusing training as a nursing assistant. Uncle Dharam’s wife died shortly after, on her deathbed she wrote a letter to Dharam saying that he Dharam, was the most saintly person she had ever known. She implored him to remarry after she was gone. Uncle Dharam, now in his early forties married a village widower in her late thirties; she has two children from her former marriage. She and Dharam have decided to have no more children. All the other members of the block tested negative. They are presently assisting Mr. Toolsie with his outreach programme educating the public about HIV/AIDS. Toolsie recently married a nurse who is also a voluntary social 37


worker attached to an HIV/AIDS testing, treatment and counseling center. His wife Theresa is not HIV positive. However, both her parents had died from AIDS. Many Villagers are of the opinion that Theresa ought to have known better than to marry Toolsie. What they did not know is that she in fact knew better. She and Toolsie share a wonderful life together. Theirs is an example of a sublime love that is unconditional and that transcends all boundries. Toolsie is still in very good health though he has been living with HIV for over nine years. Thomas did not take the test. A couple years later, both he and his wife Samanta who was faithful to him, were diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. Thomas has since passed on. Their daughter Nefretti, only twelve years old was also diagnosed with HIV. She topped the Island in the recent SEA examinations. Samanta, all things considered, is still in reasonably good health. This play ‘NOT ME’ which she wrote, produced and directed has been staged throughout Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean. She conducts lectures across the nation on HIV/AIDS. Wherever she speaks, she brings tears to those in attendance. Toolsie, Shella, as well as the other block members are all now part and parcel of Miss. Samanta’s crusade against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. THE BEGINNING!

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CHARACTERS (In order of appearance) BRYAN JOANNE JOHN TOMMYSUSAN BOODLAL SUSAN SAM TOOSIE TOMMY PRAKKY DENNIS THOMAS DHARAM

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AIDSLINE The National AIDS Hotline of Trinidad and Tobago Where can I get general information on HIV/AIDS? - National AIDS Hotline for information, counselling and referral. Mon-Sat, 8am-8pm, tel 800 4448 or 625 2437 - National AIDS Programme, 43-45 Frederick St, POS, tel 623 8322 - Queen’s Park Counselling Centre & Clinic, 5 Queen’s Park East, POS, 8am-noon, tel 625 3944 - CARe, 25 Norfolk St, Belmont, tel 625 0632, 623 7443 - RAPPORT (mainly for young persons): 43-45 Frederick St, POS, tel 623 8322 16 Pro Queen, Arima, tel 667 5774 1st Floor Biljah Bldg, 77-81 Independence Ave, S/F`do, tel 657 7236 - South AIDS Support, 25 Victoria West, Paradise Pasture, S/F`do tel 652 2437 Is there a cure for AIDS? To date, there is no cure and no vaccination for HIV. However, due to improved medication and knowledge, HIV is now considered a manageable disease. With medication and proper health care, barring other diseases like cancer, one can live many years without anyone knowing that you have HIV. How safe are condoms? Do condoms have “pores” that the HIV virus can penetrate? There are three types of condoms: natural or lambskin; latex and polyurethane. Latex condoms are the most popular and with correct storage and usage will prevent transmission of HIV. 40


The most recent is the PVC or vinyl condom, even more impermeable than latex. Used properly, a latex or vinyl condom will protect you from contracting HIV. Condoms should properly be stored in a cool place like a backpack or purse (a wallet is the worst place) and checked for the expiry date. Never use expired condoms. Never use your teeth or nails to open a condom. Follow the directions and carefully remove the condom from the package with your fingers. Can I get infected through kissing? The virus is found in saliva but not in sufficient quantity to infect anyone. No one has ever been infected through kissing according to research to date. My co-worker is HIV +. Should we avoid him/ her? It is safe to hug and shake hands. You can safely share cups, chairs, toilet seats, telephones and washing machines. Do not share toothbrushes, razor blades, combs or drug needles. Do I need to get tested for HIV? If you have had unprotected sex (without a condom) or were raped and got someone’s blood, sperm or vaginal secretions into your body, you should consider getting tested for HIV. What are the signs and symptoms of AIDS? Symptoms of AIDS normally appear 8-10 years after infection and may not always be related to AIDS. Some symptoms of AIDS may be: - Oral thrush, a white coating in the mouth and on the tongue 41


- Swollen lymph glands on the sides of the neck, in the armpits and groin - Severe weight loss, greater than 10% of your normal weight - Heavy sweat at night - Dark skin blotches or Kaposi Sarcoma, a form of skin cancer How do they test for HIV? When a virus invades your body, your immune system manufactures antibodies in your white blood cells to combat the HIV virus. This can take between 6 weeks to 3 months. If you take the test before you can develop HIV antibodies you will get a false reading and will need to test again. The ELISA test is 99.9% accurate and takes 1-3 weeks for a result. The Rapid Result Test, which delivers results within an hour, is now being introduced in Trinidad at certain health centres. What if I get a negative result? A negative result means that the test could not detect any HIV antibodies in your blood. It could mean that you were not infected with HIV. It could also mean that you have not yet developed antibodies because you went too soon after infection and should take another test 3 months after infection. What if I get a positive result? It means that HIV antibodies were found in your blood and that you may be infected with HIV. Bear in mind that HIV is now a manageable disease and no longer a death sentence. HIV takes a long time after infection to reach the AIDS stage. 42


Where can I get tested for HIV? There are three types of testing sites: doctors’ offices, medical laboratories and government health centres. Tests in laboratories are generally $90 or more. All government health centres in T&T are free. • Queen’s Park Counselling Centre & Clinic, 5 Queen’s Park East, 8am-noon; tel 625 3944 • The STD Division, Ward 17, San Fernando General Hospital, 8am-noon; tel: 652 8371 • George St Health Centre, POS, Mon-Fri, 8:30am 3pm; tel 623 5155; Rapid Result testing, free • Arima Health Centre, Wed 12:30pm; tel 667 4715 • Sangre Grande Health Centre, Mondays, 12:30pm; tel 668 2509 • Princes Town Health Centre, Wed noon; tel 655 8433, 655 6017 • Siparia Health Centre, every 1st and 3rd Thu 9am; tel 649 2484 • Chaguanas Health Centre, Endeavour Rd, Tue, noon; tel 665 8958 • Couva District Health Centre, Fri noon; tel 636 4024,636 4033 • Point Fortin Health Centre Tue 10am; tel 648 2329 • Health Promotional, Calder Hall, Tobago, Mon & Wed, 9-12pm; tel 660 7872 • Scarborough Health Centre, Scarborough, Tobago, Mon 1-4pm; tel 639 2298 • FPA at cor Oxford & Charlotte Sts will soon begin R/R testing at $70; tel 623 0004 I have been infected with HIV. Where can I get treatment? • Medical Research Centre, cor Jerningham Ave and Queen’s Park East, POS, by appointment only, Mon-Thu, 43


tel 623 5834 • Ward 2, San Fernando General Hospital, tel 652 3581 Ext 3249 • Health Promotional, Calder Hall, Tobago, Mon & Wed, 9-12pm; tel 660 7872 I have been infected with HIV. Where can I get counselling? • National AIDS Hotline - for anonymous tel counselling, info and support tel 800 4448, 625 2437 • Queen’s Park Counselling Centre & Clinic, 5 Queen’s Park East, 8am-noon; tel 625 3944; 625 2556 • Tobago AIDS Society, Tobago tel 635 1024 • Tobago Oasis Foundation, Tobago; tel 660 7547 • CARe - counselling and support; group meetings; Mon-Sat 8am-4pm tel 625 0632, 623 7443 • Friends for Life - for HIV+ men and women; tel 681 4150, 717 6413 • South AIDS Support; tel 652 2437 • CARITAS AIDS Ministries, home care services; tel 637 8689 • Living Water’s Mercy Home Hospice; apply through Medical Research Centre; tel 623 5834 What is Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART)? Anti-Retroviral Medication (ARV) are tablets which, when taken in the right combination, prevents the virus from replicating and further weakening the body. Although ART is not suitable for everyone, it is often possible to reduce the virus to very low levels which allows the person to return to normal life including going back to work. CARe has a Treatment Hotline for information on ART: tel 623 7443

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Isn’t Anti-Retroviral Therapy expensive? • Anti-Retroviral medication is free for registered clients from: • Medical Research Centre • Ward 2, San Fernando General Hospital • Health Promotional, Calder Hall, Tobago When can I begin Anti-Retroviral Therapy? Usually, ART is of no use before you approach the AIDS stages. Your doctor will take 2 tests: the Viral Load (which measures the virus in your blood) and your CD4 count (the amount of white blood cells). Your doctor will usually begin you on ART when your Viral Load is high and your CD4 count low. It is important that your health be monitored around this time. Related NGOs: • • • • • • • •

Domestic Violence Hotline tel : 800 7283 Childline, Mon-Sat, noon-8pm, tel 800 4321 Rape Crisis Society, tel: 622 7273; 657 5355 NACC Level 4, Victoria Park Suites, 14-17 Victoria Sq, tel: 623 9661, 624 4014 NADAP - Abercromby St Tel: 627 3506 Social Services, EWMSC, Mt Hope Tel: 663 2700 Cyril Ross Nursery, El Dorado Rd, Tel 662 8975 FPA, cor Charlotte & Oxford Sts; tel 623 0004

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A block X poster reads:

HIV/AIDS PROTECT YOURSELF IF YOU HAVE BEEN AT RISK - GET TESTED ‘think-safe’

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© Copyright Arjune Teeluck – Jan. 1, 2001. E-mail leaguetandt@yahoo.com Phone 1(868)355-8920 29 Realize Junction Road, Via. Princes Town, Trinidad, WI.

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