World AIDS Day 2012
Cologne. Treatment, food security, income and community: combined, they allow people with HIV to lead a self-sufficient life, states Malteser International, the humanitarian relief organisation of the Order of Malta, on World AIDS Day.
In Myanmar, where almost a quarter million people are infected and nearly 20,000 die from the disease each year, many HIV-positive people fall through the social safety net. That was the case with Khin Aung Win, a 52-year-old former miner and soldier who was diagnosed with HIV five years ago. After he was forced to resign from the army, he became depressed and suicidal. “When I first started to take care of him, he was almost dying, and his mental health was very poor”, says Lar Nu, a social worker for Malteser International in eastern Shan State. In this area near the border with China, drug trafficking and sex trade – activities associated with a high risk for HIV – are prevalent.
Khin Aung Win’s life changed when he joined the „Survivors“ self-help group – an initiative by Malteser International which helps HIV-positive people lead an independent life through sustainable living spaces, food production, including a vegetable garden and small livestock farms, and income generation. The project provides a home for 200 people – HIV-infected and their families – in a compound in Nam Naw Par Kote village, a small settlement in Kengtung Township. Many in the village are female-led families in which the main breadwinner, usually the husband, died from HIV, leaving the family without the means to provide for themselves.
Since he moved to the “survivor village”, Khin Aung Win has received antiretroviral treatment (ART) and taken care of the poultry and vegetable garden together with other residents. The social support from the community also contributed to his healing process. “I now have the will to live”, he says.
The “survivor village”, which is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), is a component of a broader effort to battle the AIDS epidemic in the region. Since 2004, Malteser International has led a comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme, with measures such as confidential and voluntary counseling, diagnosis, ART, prophylaxis against opportunistic infections and home-based care, as well as health education and awareness-raising to reduce the existing stigma in communities and discriminatory practices. Currently, the organisation is building two treatment centres for HIV patients in Shan State.
Attention editors: Birke Herzbruch, country representative for Malteser International, is available for interviews. Contact through Malteser International’s headquarters at +49 221-9822-169 or +49 151-146-29623.
Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in about 100 projects in more than 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For further information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int