In Myanmar, HIV /AIDS is the number one disease of concern. The country has one of the highest HIV rates in Asia and a scarcity of free medicine (ART) means that this continues to be a very real problem in the country. Due to the poverty, most of the patients cannot afford proper treatment.
In response to the plight of the patients, we started the Care and Support program in 2009. We accompany our patients in voluntary blood testing, seeing the doctor in clinics and in hospitals.
Through our regular visit to the HIV/AIDS hospital, we came to realize that the family members of many patients are having great financial difficulty as they can’t pay for all the expenses demand by the hospital. Many of the patients are poor and cannot afford the treatment, medicines, nutrition. In reality, they do not even have enough money to buy daily meals. There are also patients completely neglected by their families, let alone in the hospital. For them, we arrange caregivers and make sure that they have everything they needed.
As our program is home based, we do regular home visit to those who are discharged from the hospital providing them moral and spiritual support, and material needs. The program also includes funeral support for poor families and for those abandoned by their families.
The photo above shows one of the regular monthly patients’ gatherings/meetings. These provide an opportunity for the people to share with and listen to one another within a peer group. The activities during the meeting seem to energize the participants psychologically and spiritually.
The program is directly under the administration of the Good Shepherd Sisters. The team includes two Sisters, three lay paid staff (nurses), one volunteer retired head-nurse and 4 candidates part time volunteers.
Poor people, especially women and children, who are living with HIV/AIDS.
People living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
The patients receive:
ARTs for emergency needs.
Multivitamins and minerals.
Medical assistance for HIV related opportunistic diseases.
Food and nutrition.
Hospitalization needs and expenses.
Referral service for ARTs and for those who need a temporary shelter.
Home visit and psycho-spiritual support to the patients and their families.
Family members are assisted when their patient has died and for those abandoned patients, we take the responsibility for arranging appropriate funeral service and burial.
40 patients (8 men, 20 women/widows, 12 babies/children) and their family members.
Total about 150 people.
‘One person is of more value than a whole world’ is our programme’s motto. Each patient is valued and cared for regardless of race or religion, past life background, or the dire prognosis of their disease. Anyone who suffers HIV/AIDS is received and welcomed lovingly and treated according to his/her due dignity and respect. Each individual is accompanied compassionately in their struggle to live life to the fullest.
Through our regular support, almost all our patients are getting stronger and look healthy. More than half of them are living like normal persons, get a suitable job and regular income for their living. Some are now able to support their families.
By our accompaniment and psycho-spiritual support, we can see our patients slowly building up their self esteem, reclaiming their dignity as the children of God and becoming hopeful people.
The regular monthly patients’ gatherings/meetings provide the opportunity for the people to share with and listen to one another within a peer group. The activities during the meeting seem to energize them psychologically and spiritually.
All the patients
receive the medicines they need (ARTs, medicines for HIV related opportunistic diseases)
take multivitamins and helpful nutrition regularly
have enough money to buy daily meals
receive psycho-spiritual support as needed, depending on individual needs
are cared for whether they are hospitalized or at home.
Goal 1 – No Poverty.
Goal 2 - Zero Hunger.
Goal 3 – Good Health & Well-being.
Goal 5 – Gender Equality.
As our program is becoming known, the number of patients seeking our help is increasing. Our limited budget does not allow us to help more than 40 patients a time.
Our program is home based, so we don’t have a shelter for HIV/AIDS patients. Some of our patients live in the provinces and they have to come to Yangon City regularly for treatment and medicines. It is a challenge for us to look for available HIV/AIDS shelters in Yangon because there are only a few places available and these are often packed with patients.
Although we have a limited budget, we are able meet the needs of the patients because of the constant support of our local and international friends and donors.
Networking/collaboration with government, non-government, interfaith organizations who are involved in the same project is a great help. We are a founding member and EC member of Myanmar Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS (MINA). We are able to reach out to more people (of all faiths) through participation in MINA’s activities.
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