By PHYU PHYU THIN
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Some people have asked me what kinds of difficulty I have encountered while working on the prevention and eradication of HIV/AIDS. I said every job I do is full of hardships.
I and a few young people helping me have been thinking about HIV/AIDS awareness programs and how to approach HIV-infected people in order to provide them with medicine and proper treatment, and to reintegrate them into the society so they can continue their social lives. You can imagine how much trouble we will have to shoulder in implementing our work.
The most essential thing that we always have to talk about is financial problems. The less funding we receive, the more difficult it is to carry out our programs. Some of my friends have lent some assistance to us. I now rent a place from the local municipality in New Dagon Township where I am running a rehabilitation program for HIV patients. It includes vocational training such as spangling and sewing. Recently, I could open a nan-bread shop for four patients with contributions from a donor. One of the difficulties I have faced is that I still cannot work for many patients.
Amid these hardships, I have met with some people who still cannot change their behavior. Perhaps this is the most difficult thing to alter.
I also have experience with other young people who have gone back to their old ways—being naughty and drinking—after being infected with HIV. Treating such careless patients costs us more money and makes us more physically and mentally exhausted. However, this is not so bad. I have faced worse situations.
Most of my patients are not from urban areas. They don't have much knowledge about HIV/AIDS. They are farmers, drivers, truck attendants and others. Among them, there were five girls who were sex workers. They came from different backgrounds, but they use their bodies in the same way.
In my opinion, one of the girls is someone who cannot stand to be without a man. She made money and spent it with other men she liked. She earned money by using her body and used it again when she looked for happiness with other men. I don't even want to think about how much she has distributed HIV to others. Whenever I had a chance, I brought her home and tried to help her change her ways, but she always ran away and went back to her original life, living on the street.
Another girl is a singer from a restaurant. She has another story. She always told me that she only sang songs. But one day she made an unexpected visit to my house when I was away. The reason she came to my house was to tell my family that she would move to Sittwe for a better job since she could not survive in Rangoon. She also said that she had unprotected sex with a man who used to take care of her just to give him the disease, because he did not support her anymore. My family became furious.
My family treats HIV patients as if they were our close relatives. Almost every patient has eaten at my house. Perhaps the girl's familiarity with my family made her speak out very openly. Nevertheless, the act of deliberately spreading the disease is not something a human being should do.
Another girl works at a massage place. She is very beautiful. Her skin is so smooth that you would never think that she has been infected with HIV. She said she did not mean to do it, but for her future she had to approach a rich man who visited her place. That man took her to a karaoke room and they had sex without a condom. Even though she said she did not intend to do it, I think she should have prevented herself from spreading the disease. I came to know about it just because she told me.
Whenever I think about how many similar incidents like this have already taken place, I cannot sleep anymore. Sometimes I suddenly wake up at night, fearing the consequences of the spread.
I really am not very happy when I think about this. And I am very concerned about how to change the bad behavior and attitude of some HIV patients who I have come across.
Phyu Phyu Thin has cared for HIV and AIDS patients since 2002, providing counseling and education, sending them to clinics and providing accommodation in Rangoon to those coming for treatment from outlying areas.