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NLD-run HIV centre ‘like my home’

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – HIV/Aids patients who junta officials recently threatened to evict from an NLD-backed Salvation Centre in a Rangoon suburb, consider it their second home, according to one resident yesterday.

hiv-aids-home2Officials in South Dagon Township a week ago reversed their eviction order from the hospice that National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited mid-last month. Officials had told the residents to either go to a government hospital or return to their homes after first denying them the registration permits required by Burmese law for citizens to stay anywhere other than your own home.

On the occasion of UN World Aids Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the Aids pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and to dispel prejudices against those living with the virus, Mizzima spoke to Win Win Naing, a resident at the centre.

“We have family-like relationship with the staff of this HIV/Aids ‘salvation centre’. So we want to live here. In hospitals and clinics, we have been treated like [ordinary] patients. But Ms. Phyu Phyu Thin and her staff look after us like they would their family. So we don’t want to move from here,” Win Win Naing, 31, who has lived at the centre since last year's end, said.

The centre, known as the 376 Family Home, has been run by the NLD. A day after Suu Kyi’s visit, the Township Peace and Development Council ordered Aids patients out of the centre and told them to either admit themselves to Tharketa Hospital or return to their family homes. That order worried the patients.

“I have received medical treatment in the Waibargi Hospital in North Okkalapa Township … I had to buy medicines with my own money and the hospital can’t support us, not even with hypodermic needles. We are poor, so we can’t buy them. In this salvation centre, any time we feel ill, we are examined by doctors free of charge,” Win Win Naing said.

About 80 people living with HIV stay at the 376 Family Home managed by NLD member Phyu Phyu Thin. It was able to provide sufficient antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines for the residents, and the patients were also encouraged to express their feelings, she said.

hiv-aids-home1Her husband died four years ago and her mother and father have been looking after her two children. “In government hospitals, we can’t tell the doctors frankly what we feel. When my husband was ill, he vomited frequently but the doctors said his condition would improve. He died soon afterwards, so we don’t want to go into a government hospital,” she said.

The patients said that they could enjoy freedom at the centre, where they could practise meditation, watch videos and chat freely. They also felt glad they could eat with Phyu Phyu Thin and Yarza, who also managed the centre on occasion.

Win Win Naing said that after her husband died, her relatives would refuse to let her touch kitchen utensils. “At that time, I had some abscesses, so my family did not want to eat at the same table with me. They didn’t even want to talk to me. They also didn’t let me to touch the plates.”

On November 17,  NLD general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi visited the centre and said: “People living with HIV are also human beings.” 

State-run mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar had reported before the official U-turn on letting the patients stay, that there were too many patients at the centre, living in limited space, claiming that such conditions could be conducive to drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), a common opportunistic infection experienced by Aids sufferers.

But the centre managers said it was run under instructions from specialists. 

Observers said the authorities seemed afraid of the respect Suu Kyi commanded and finally reversed their order and allowed residents to continue living at the centre.

“Here, all are patients like me so we have empathy for each other and look after each other. In the government hospitals, we can’t live like that, which is why we want to live here. I feel that this centre is like my home,” Win Win Naing said.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 December 2010 00:41 )  

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