A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Growing Hope on the Thailand Myanmar Border

“When you have your health you have everything …”

Marist Asia Foundation began HIV Health work in the Migrant Town of Ranong in 2007. Migrants living with HIV AIDS are among the most abandoned in the community. Often abandoned by family, discriminated against at work and in the community, they tend to live in very difficult conditions.

We found a very sick lonely man in hospital. Thiha is his name. We approached him and introduced our organisation and our service to him. We visited him in his place where he lived alone in a very old small hut near the sea. It was an awful place to live. There was lots of rubbish and plastic bottles around. His little hut was broken and the roof needed replacement. We supported and fed him and we followed up his medication closely. We helped prepare his food for he had no strength to do so by himself.

In the very beginning, there was nobody who wanted to go near him. He did not have any family or relatives around. Through our support and care, he was getting better. He gained strength and was able to work again. People in his neighbourhood became aware of his health issues and accepted his HIV status.

He was also able accept himself as HIV positive and was able to live with it. He looked after himself, attended his medical appointments in the hospital and took his medication regularly. He was very grateful to the health team for the patience to assist him and support him from the beginning. It took some time for him to gain back his health and his self-confidence.

The health team journeyed with him for quite a long time through education on HIV and encouraged him to participate in the self-help group. In the long run, he responded well to the advice and assistance of the team. He was able to relate well with neighbours. He was able to communicate with his children and invited his elder son to come to Ranong to visit him. He became an active member in the self-help group and shared his successful experience with new patients, inspiring and encouraging them.

He is currently working as labourer at a saw mill company in Ranong. He lives a balanced and healthy life. He became an independent patient who can sustain and support himself and he is now able to send money back to Myanmar to support the education of his daughter.

As he shared with the health team, one thing that he has learnt is that “when you have your health, you have everything”. The work of the health team helped restore his health, which enabled him to reintegrate with his neighbours, his friends and especially with his family. He became whole again.

Ranong has the highest density of Burmese Migrants in Thailand. Marist Asia Foundation is committed to making a difference and bringing hope to Burmese migrant families, by providing education, health services and migrant support.

During 2019, in its health programme, Marist Asia Foundation:

  • Supported 100 HIV Burmese Migrant Patients with over 400 family members
  • Undertook 889 Home visits, providing counselling, education, medication and support
  • Provided over 700 translation appointments in Ranong Hospital to ensure HIV Burmese Patients have quality care
  • Provided more than 400 food packages for the poorest HIV families

This article is adapted from the Annual Report of the Marist Asia Foundation,
and is used with permission.

You can find more stories at www.maristasiafoundation.org

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