Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vietnam - The border land of HIV

VietNamNet Bridge – The mountainous area of the central province of Thanh Hoa used to be called “the capital of opium.” Since then the storm of HIV has ravaged this region.

"HIV" is everywhere

According to the statistics of the Muong Lat district medical center, Thanh Hoa province, since 2001 the district has had 401 people living with HIV/AIDS, of which 181 people have developed to AIDS and 59 died. Currently, ARV treatment is provided for 155 people.

Just in 2012, the district has discovered 594 drug addicts, mainly in the communes of Pu Nhi, Tam Chung and Muong Chanh.

About 7 kilometers from Muong Lat town, Pu Nhi Commune was previously considered the valley for transit of drugs from Laos to Vietnam. Therefore, a lot of young people in the commune are drug addicted.

Mr. Luong Van Xich, Chairman of Pu Nhi Commune People's Committee, said in recent years, thanks to the implementation of the program calling for local people to eliminate poppy cultivation and detoxification, so far the commune has only 26 drug addicts.

However, this is only the statistic on paper, Xich said. The actual number of addicts in the area is difficult to define accurately. Therefore, the commune is still a “black spot” of Muong Lat district for drug addiction and HIV.

Na Tao village has more than 150 households, but this place is considered a hot spot of drug addiction and HIV.

The village’s chief told VietNamNet that according to official statistics, Na Tao has 157 households with 676 people, including 11 drug addicts, 40 HIV-infected people, including 26 who are on ART treatment.

But Tham admitted that the actual number is higher, because many people refuse to take HIV test or admit themselves as drug addicts. In the last 5 years, Na Tao had 8 people died of AIDS

Ms. Ngan Thi Long, 26, is an HIV carrier in Na Tao village. She married in 2009. Her family was very happy and they were waiting for the first baby when her husband was addicted to drugs.

Three years later, her husband's health went down seriously. He was very skinny. She urged her husband to go to hospital for examinations. She was numb because the HIV test was positive.

Leaving Long’s house, we visited Mr. Ha Van Luong’s home. Luong told us why he caught HIV: "When I was young I was a playboy so I caught HIV. Since I got the disease, my physical and mental health has reduced. Sometimes I thought of suicide but people have encouraged and shared with me so I have been revived."

The hurts

Living in Pu Nhi, we continued our journey to Tam Chung commune, which is also considered a hot spot of HIV/AIDS.

According to the latest report of the Tam Chung authorities, in the past 7 years, about 80 people died of HIV/AIDS, including over 40 people in Poong village. The consequence of these dead is orphans.

We went to Poong village. The first impression we caught at the first look is that this is a very quiet village. Several soiled kids were playing on the soil ground under a house on stilts. Seeing strangers, they ran away.

Mrs. Ha Thi Pun, who has two sons with HIV, sat on the threshold of the house seeing the kids with sad eyes. "They are orphans. I am their grandmother but I cannot properly take care of them. I do not know how they will be when I die," she said.

Brushing tears on the face, she told us that her son-in-law used to be a good man. In 2003, during the leisure time after harvest he joined a group of young men in the village to drink and then use drugs. He became a drug addict and then an HIV carrier.

He transmitted the disease to his wife. Soon after the couple died, leaving her with two grandchildren. After the death of the couple, their 5-year-old son named Thuong was tested for HIV but the result has not been released yet, said Mrs. Pun.

Perhaps the most miserable case in Poong village is the family of Ha Thi C, 10. Her father died of HIV two years ago. Her mother, Ha Thi PH also contracted HIV from her husband. The woman left home and her four children aging between 2 to 10. The four children are living with Mr. Lo Van May, a distant relative who is very poor.

We left Poong village at the nightfall. The mountainous cold made this place more and more deserted. Children's sad eyes, the sigh of old are people covered by the darkness.

Le Anh - Duy Quang

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