HIV patients: ‘Not afraid of death, only afraid of stigma’

Sitting on the last row of seats in the response session World HIV / AIDS prevention, On December 1 at Bach Mai Hospital, Ms. Minh attentively received new information about her illness.

16 years ago, when she got HIV (H) from her husband, Minh never knew about this disease. Thanks to the encouragement of doctors and self-researching knowledge, now she finds that H is no longer scary, but the most fearful thing that each person carrying H suffers: stigma.

“In 2006, my husband passed away. The funeral was only 3 of my mother and daughter, no one came to visit,” recalled Minh.

Soon after, her parents and children were kicked out of the house. This 32-year-old woman once thought to give up this life so that her two daughters would not be at odds because her mother had AIDS. In her miserable time, she learned of the group of Sunflowers – a group of mothers who also carry H from her husband. She was reborn because she found herself shared.

“We approach ARV together, learn about the treatment regimens together. Now talking about which regimen, I can talk about it,” Ms. Minh said.

Hometown Ha Nam, but Minh did not choose to return, but with two children living in Hanoi. Everyday, she runs a motorbike taxi to raise two children. Over the past 10 years, she has lived a healthy life thanks to the aid provided by the Tropical Diseases Center, Bach Mai Hospital.

“I do not dare to return for fear of discrimination”, Ms. Minh said. “In the countryside, when they know they carry H, they will not have sex, die or come. I hide from everyone because thinking of their two daughters, they cannot live in stigma because parents carry HIV / AIDS. “.

Ms. Minh said that in March the Center for Tropical Diseases had to be closed due to Covid-19, doctors advised her to return home to take medicine at the correct route. However, afraid of stigma, she did not return. She asked the doctors to contact other centers in Hanoi to take medicine.

“If I have to go back to my hometown to receive ARV, I am afraid that I will be stigmatized and die. I will quit treatment”, Ms. Minh expressed her wish to facilitate the delivery of drugs anywhere in Hanoi.

Ms. Minh brought HIV, did not dare to return to her hometown. Image: Le Nga.

Ms. Minh is one of 1,600 HIV patients being managed and dispensed by the Center for Tropical Diseases, Bach Mai Hospital.

Mr. Do Duy Cuong, Director of Center for Tropical Diseases, said Bach Mai Hospital is an HIV treatment center with the proportion of people on ARV with the highest viral load below the inhibitory threshold in the country, up to more than 98%. . New drugs and innovative treatment regimens help patients with H minimize their health effects and prevent infection.

According to Mr. Cuong, in order to eliminate the stigma, it is necessary to join hands of the whole community. On the side of the patient, it is necessary to adhere to the treatment well, to have a healthy lifestyle and safe behavior not to pass HIV to others.

Mr. Duong Duc Hung, Deputy Director of Bach Mai Hospital, said that from a disease that seemed like a “death sentence”, the confused patient no longer has faith in life, now HIV / AIDS is a chronic disease. maintenance treatment like other chronic diseases. He admits that the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV / AIDS is still but gradually improved. People infected with H have integrated better with life.

According to the Department of HIV / AIDS Prevention and Control, the number of HIV-infected people in the community is about 250,000, of which more than 213,000 people living with HIV have known their HIV status. More than 150,000 people have received ARV treatment and the proportion of people on ARV with a viral load below the inhibitory threshold (less than 1000 copies / ml of blood) accounts for 96%.

An HIV infected person who is treated early with ARV drugs, with good adherence to treatment, usually after 6 months of ART, the viral load below the level of detection (200 copies / ml of blood) will not transmit HIV to sex partners, reducing mother-to-child transmission.

Vietnam is one of the top four countries with top quality HIV / AIDS treatment in the world, along with the UK, Germany and Switzerland. With 30 years of experience in HIV / AIDS prevention and control together with the achieved results, Vietnam is moving towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

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