Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Thanks to the dedicated Women’s Union in Thanh Hoa Province, families,
particularly those affected by HIV, are being given opportunities to
turn their lives around and develop a lasting legacy. 

 

HIV, patient, women 

The Women’s Union in Quan Hoa District plays an important role in helping local women develop a family economy. 

When Le Thi Luan found out she had HIV, she felt her future had shattered into tiny pieces.

Thinking only of death, she confined herself to her house. Every time
the television or radio featured a programme related to HIV, she
clamped her hands over her ears.

But with the encouragement and assistance of the Women’s Union of
Quan Hoa District, Luan and many others in the central province of Thanh
Hoa have gradually overcome their difficulties and committed themselves
to improving society.

We visited Luan and her family in Xuan Phu Commune. In the house,
which the couple recently finished building, a child of about seven
years old was studying hard.

When she saw us, she invited us to wait, then ran up the hill to call her mother.

A moment later, Luan came down from the hill carrying a big bamboo on
her shoulder. Pointing at the child, she said: “That’s my daughter.
Fortunately she is not infected with HIV!”

Although she is only 30 years old, her face is austere, making her look older than her age.

She is thin, with sun-tanned skin, but her dark eyes are always lit up with her belief in life.

She’s also very open. As we spoke, she did not avoid questions about her illness, which many people still discriminate against.

Indeed, it took a long time to overcome the harsh opinions of the
community, she said. But now, she dares to confess the truth. She tells
people that although she suffers from the disease, she still strives to
be a useful member of society.

Born into a peasant family, Luan was 24 when she got married. Little
did she know that her husband was an intravenous drug user – or that he
was infected with HIV. When a test revealed that he had passed the
disease onto her, the news was such a shock that she fainted.

But when the commune Women’s Union found out that Luan and her
husband suffered from HIV, they pledged to help the couple overcome
their difficulties.

As the couple had no farming land, the Union asked local authorities
to allow the couple to rent one hectare of hilly land to plant bamboos.

The couple had no capital either, so the Union collaborated with the
Social Policy Bank to provide them with loans and helped Luan
participate in training courses.

In addition, the Union asked local enterprises manufacturing bamboo chopsticks to employ Luan for VND100,000 per day.

Grateful for the organisation’s help, Luan and her husband worked very hard.

After three years, they began to harvest the bamboos. Some of the
revenue was re-invested in production, while the rest went into the
couple’s savings. In early 2012, she and her husband were able to build
their spacious house, complete with a squash garden.

Luan next devoted herself to thinking of ways to help others in similar circumstances.

At first, many people told their children to avoid Luan, fearing that her disease was contagious.

Undeterred, every day she and her group of friends approached local
residents with HIV to provide them with access to health services.

She even walked around the village to deliver condoms and clean needles.

Although she had once not dared to talk about herself to the
community, she was now ready to address the public about HIV and even
persuaded her husband to participate in educational activities.

With help from his wife, the former addict has quit his drug habit.

“Without the Women’s Union’s help, I do not know how we would make a living,” she said.

Like Luan, dozens of women infected with HIV have found a second lease of life thanks to the Women’s Union’s assistance.

Nguyen Thi Cuc, also infected by her husband, was struggling before
the organisation came to her aid. Her family was very poor, with two
unruly children and parents-in-law who also needed to be looked after.

The Union provided the family with nearly 2ha of hill to plant
bamboo, 0.5ha of land to grow rice and generous loans for production.
Today, the family leads stable lives and the two children are
well-educated.

According to the district Women’s Union, the district had 101 women
infected with HIV, of which 14 have died. Most of these women were
infected by their husbands.

They also live in difficult conditions, with scant amounts of farming land – if any. Their children rarely go to school.

To help these families, the Union regularly sends staff to provide
encouragement and concrete assistance. They ask communal authorities to
allocate the families arable land for production and ask the Social
Policy Bank to provide them with preferential loans.

As a result, many families of HIV-positive individuals have overcome
their difficulties and gradually settled into a comfortable life.

“We try to help HIV-infected people realise the value of life and
find ways to help society,” said Pham Thi Lich, chairwoman of the
district Women’s Union.

VNS

By vivian