We will not surrender to HIV/AIDS
Baphnom: On 24 November 2011, I and Dr. Koma, CEDAC President went to participate in a quarterly meeting of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) at CEDAC office in Baphnom district, Prey Veng province. 53 participants, including 32 women, who are infected by HIV/AIDS virus, came from three districts (Baphnom, Kampong Trabek and Preah Sdach) attended this forum. It was my first time to meet with so many PLHAs at one time. They are invited by CEDAC to share their successful stories after cooperating with us. The project has been supported by Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED,) Germany and Kasumisou foundation. It is estimated that in Baphnom district alone, there are 300 PLHAs. CEDAC works with 300 PLHAs from all the three districts.
Mr. Bun Savuth, 46, who lives in Svay Chek villiage, Prey Chhor commune, Kampong Trabek district, shared his experiences concerning vegetable home gardens, chicken and fish raising. He plants vegetable around his house and earns in average 8.000-10.000 Riel per day (2-2.5U$). He raises currently around 100 chickens and 500 fishes. He is also chairman of a thirteen members saving association. He lost hope to live after knowing that he has HIV/AIDS. He was about to die. People in his village distant themselves from him. But, after cooperating with the project his life has been changed completely. He has once again hope in life.
Mrs. Oeur Nang, 38, comes from Pornvath village, Prasath commune and Kampong Trabek district. She shared her success stories by stating that she is able to join the project and meet other people who have same disease and successfully combat it. She plants vegetable around her house to supply her needs and has small business that generates stable income for her family. She earns around 350.000 Riel or 85 U$ per month. Recently, she was able to rebuild her house spending 1.500 U$. Currently, she is a vice chairman of the saving association with 11 members and has the capital of 3.270.000 Riel (about 800 U$). The saving money is used among members to borrow with 2% monthly interest rate to do business and support each other in case of urgent needs.
The third presenter is Mrs. Chhit Sophors, 34, lives in Boeung Protep village, Cheang Dek commune, Kampong Trabek district. Her husband died in 2006 of AIDS. When getting to know that she is infected with the deadly virus, she thought about committing suicide. One bitter experience wss that one day, she went to neighbor to borrow just 5.000 Riel (1.25 U$). But, it was turned down. She was thin and hopeless. People looked down on her. She also was about to die. Additionally, she has two children to take care of. After cooperating with the project, it gives her back the hope and the strong determination to survive. She raises cattle (5), pigs (7-8), many chickens and has small business at home. Currently, she has own house, one new motorbike, one bio-digester plant, one toilet (only 29% of rural Cambodians own hygiene toilet) and rice fields to support her family.
I asked, what are the main factors to motivate them to continue living, instead of passively waiting to die? Some answers are as follows:
- strong will to turn hopeless situation into opportunities
- inner strength to survive and take care of children and family members
- morale and technical support from the project, from the local authorities, from the communities, from relatives
- interacting with other people who share similar living conditions
- has gained hope in life
- has group members who support each other
It was a very interesting morning for me to hear success stories from PLHAs. It is estimated that there are 52.118 PLHAs in Cambodia. The infection rate (prevalent) is about 0.8% among adults. Some years ago, it was around 3%. Cambodia is praised by the international community for combating AIDS successfully. CEDAC programs help to turn hopeless and dying PLHAs to become important human resources for the society.