Centre offers hope to HIV/AIDS victims

Published: 23/10/2008 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge In bringing together people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, a community-based social organisation called Tre Xanh (Green Bamboo) is hoping to offer these people a new chance at life.

A member of the Thanh Xuan District’s Women’s Union hands out documents to help women with HIV/AIDS in the club learn more about the disease.

The volunteers are no strangers to the struggles of living with HIV/AIDS, as they’ve all come from families with histories of the disease. With this background, they relate to the patients, trying to reassure them that an optimistic future still lies ahead.

Nguyen Tan Long (not his real name), a 28-year-old man infected with the virus who now lives at Ha Dinh Ward, Thanh Xuan District, contracted the disease as a heroin addict.

When he found out he was infected with HIV, Long could only think about his impending death.

While doctors provided him with ARV (anti-retroviral) drugs prescription, he could only think of his tragic fate. He decided to let this fate run its course and not take the medications.

His health quickly deteriorated as he lost 10kg in just a short period.

He decided one day to visit the Green Bamboo centre, and met with young volunteers who encouraged him not only to deal with the disease, but to overcome it.

As the volunteers told their tales of standing beside their loved ones, Long became convinced that this was a fight he could win as they guided him on how to use the ARV.

“Talking with them, I get a better understanding about the sorrows of families which have members die or infected with the virus,” he said.

Long has changed his life direction since that first meeting. Instead of allowing the virus to take over, he now takes his medication regularly and lives his life as any healthy person would do.

Long’s decision to change his life wasn’t just because of the medical advice he received. The volunteers see their mission as helping people living with HIV/AIDS refresh their souls, and ensure that people without the disease stay that way.

The staff provide information on the transmission of HIV/AIDS to people of high-risk groups including long-distance drivers, workers of massage services, immigrant labourers and drug addicts.

The project started in October 2007, and is now being implementing in two districts of Thanh Xuan and Tay Ho, according to Do Huong Giang, an official from the Green Bamboo group.

The project is being jointly managed by the Thanh Xuan District’s Women Union and Tay Ho District’s Health Centre.

“We guided them on why they had to use separate needles, and encouraged families to take drug addicts to HIV testing centres, and instruct detoxification at home,” Giang said.

The project also supplies free condoms to people in high-risk groups.

The voluntary group has sent 111 patients to undergo treatment in hospitals, and taken care of another 334 infected people in their homes.

Reaching out

One volunteer Nguyen Thi Hai explains that it’s difficult to approach HIV patients, so they often make appointments with them at their homes, coffee shops and on the roads as they go to office or the market.

The staff receive barely enough money to cover their transportation fees, Hai says, adding that the families of volunteers themselves live in difficult conditions.

Another young volunteer Nguyen Thanh Trung says she finds HIV patients in places where drug addicts and traffickers gather. With many volunteers themselves as ex-drug addicts, they have been approached several times by local police.

“We are asking that the project grant us a card. It will make it easier for us to do our work,” he said.

The challenges of working with HIV/AIDS patients go beyond association by police, but also in getting too close to patients approaching death.

Sixty-year-old volunteer Bui Thi Dong bicycles around carrying two water-cooked-herbal medicine tanks to bathe people infected with HIV. Once, she bathed an AIDS patient in Gia Lam District and found out he died one hour later.

“Tending to HIV patients is a hard job. Only if we consider them as family members we can do it,” she said.

On top of providing physical care, the group has also established a support team for addicts and HIV patients. Two such teams were set up at Nhan Chinh and Ha Dinh wards.

Patients like Long show that the efforts of the Green Bamboo centre do pay off and as HIV/AIDS continues to spread throughout the country, the fight against the disease must continue.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Update from: http://english.vietnamnet.vn//profiles/2008/10/809942/

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