Tuesday, December 16, 2008

World AIDS Day December 1st, 2008

The estimated population of Thailand is 65,493,000 people of which approximately 614,000 are living with HIV/AIDS. These number can be further broken down to Adults 15 years and older comprise 600,000 cases. Women aged 15 years and older make up 250,000 of the total adults. Children from birth to 15 years old account for 14,000 cases of HIV/AIDS. The estimated adult HIV prevalence rate in Thailand is 1.4%. Total number of AIDS related deaths in 2007 is 31,000 (UNAIDS).

December 1st commemorates World AIDS Day unfortunately due to Thailand’s unstable political circumstances the World AIDS Day celebration was quite subdued. The original plan was to have a march of WAD participants from each corner of the moat to the center of town. The central part of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat. Speeches were supposed to be given and lots of networking between HIV/AIDS organizations. This was curtailed by the government’s fear of large groups of people gathering due to the recent protestor activity.

Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS Ministry(CAM) along with 6-7 other HIV/AIDS NGO’s and FBO’s organized a WAD celebration in the sub district of Saraphi located in the southern part of Chiang Mai. The celebration was a gathering of approximately 150-200 people with a stage and several HIV/AIDS information booths surrounding the perimeter of the facility. CAM manned an information booth and also constructed a “tree of love” which was made from branches of a real tree. CAM provided heart shaped paper cutouts and people were then encouraged to write a note of love and compassion for people suffering from HIV/AIDS. These heart shaped notes were then hung on the tree branches like leaves on the tree. It was to symbolize that we are all connected even though we may feel like we are way out on a limb it still leads back to the center of the tree. We are all a part of one big tree and that we are all affected by each other.

Ajan Sanan Wutti the Director of CAM who is also a reverend participated in preaching church sermons devoted especially to HIV/AIDS in Phrao and in Saraphi. We were surprised during his sermon to the Phrao congregation on the directness of his speech regarding the church’s responsibility to acknowledge and address HIV/AIDS in their community. This is not the typical Thai way of sending a message across. The Thai’s tend to be very indirect and issues especially ones that are sensitive in nature like HIV/AIDS are often talked about in a round about way. The response from the congregation was positive and we will monitor if it will have a lasting effect.

This morning I attended a prayer service held at one of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) conference rooms. The service was attended by several church members who are under the CCT and also several community members outside of the CCT. The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS (AINA) were among the groups represented at the service. There was an advent service with the lighting of 3 candles. One young HIV positive girl was brought up to light a candle and was prayed for by an Elder in the community. The young girl and her younger sister acquired HIV after being raped and both are now living in a place called “House of Love”. “House of Love” takes in children that have been abandoned, orphaned and HIV positive. The children are primarily from Hill tribes and are more at risk since non Thais have difficult access to health care and services. At the end of the service we all wrote a note of love and
compassion on our heart cutouts and tied them to the tree branch.

Please pray for the people of Thailand and their continued efforts to care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Family dilemma

Recently this writer had the opportunity to visit a family that has been affected by HIV. The mother is seriously ill, unable to care for herself and her two daughters aged 1 and 8 years old. The mother is unable to obtain ARV treatment since her disease has progressed too far. According to the doctor's diagnosis the mother might not have much longer to live. At this point he can only treat the symptoms which is caused by opportunistic infections, not the disease itself.

The burden of caring for the family falls on the 8 year old daughter. She is not only the mother's caretaker but must also care for herself as well as her hyperactive one year old sister. The eldest daughter has been unable to attend school for the last three weeks due to her overwhelming home responsibilities. The family depends on her for the shopping and laundry. Despite the well intentions of the 8 year old child, due to her young age, she unintentionally made her younger sister sick with diarrhea by mixing pasteurized milk with tap water. The younger child had to be taken to the hospital.

Currently the family resides with a cousin in a rental house in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, the cousin wants the family to move out as soon as possible. This family is facing all kinds of problems, in addition to health issues there are also issues with living accommodations. There are no options which allow this family to stay together. Though there are many organizations that open a resting house to help people with HIV/AIDS, their restrictions make it difficult for this family to obtain the assistance they need. Some houses don't allow children, others only admit children who are HIV positive, while still others only accept children whom don't have any parents. The mother wants to live her life with her 2 children as long as she is on this earth. Sadly, her hope at this time is almost impossible to fulfill.

In Chiang Mai Thailand, even though people are provided with an opportunity to obtain ARVs for free, there is still discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. Many people choose to hide their status and keep it a secret for as long as possible. Unfortunately these people wait until their illness is so bad that medications won't be of any help. This is the cause of many deaths. The writer found out that the reason the mother did not disclose her HIV status was due to this fear. She feared discrimination and of being ostracized from the people around her. She was very sick when she decided to see the doctor.

The case of this family is quite complicated. A possible solution could be the following:
1) The mother lives in a house for those women affected with HIV.
2) The oldest daughter lives with her father in the south of the country.
3) The youngest daughter stays in a home for children suffering from the effects of HIV/AIDS.

Perhaps this is the best solution at this time. But it is disappointing that the last desired wish of the mother will never come true!

This writer would like to ask, why do some people who are infected with the virus give up the fight for their lives
instead of facing the discrimination and ostracization from society? Many of us who are working in this field also have to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough and in the most beneficial way by giving and distributing information to the public about HIV/AIDS.

New Volunteer at CAM

A Tribute to the CAM Staff

I am a volunteer that has been sent by the American Jewish World Service Organization (AJWS) to work with CAM on English skills and funding reports. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, USA. I have been retired from social work for almost two years.

I've had the honor of working with CAM for two months. I'll never forget the kindness and support they have shown towards me. On the first day of my arrival, they took time from their busy schedule and personally delivered various household items to the apartment I was staying in. I was even taken shopping for things I might need. That kindness has extended for the duration of my visit. They've included me in various activities, always making sure I was warm, comfortable and even got to experience their delicious food and treats. They also patiently tried to teach me Thai.

I also had the privilege of seeing the dedication to their patients first hands. I was invited to attend one of their workshops. There I witnessed the interactive teaching of the participants. In addition, I also took a trip with one of the staff to visit a Lahu village, a community and government hospital and also a nursery school. Even though I am not able to speak the Thai language, the kindness and caring was clearly evident bu the tone and body language, not to mention the distance itself that we had to travel. One of the worships held to commemorate World Aids Day almost brought tears of hopefulness to my eyes as the participants held hands and sang in support of all those who suffered

I just want to say thank you CAM staff. I only hope can show the same kindness an caring to others as you have shown to me.

Frannie Hoff

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Na uu Jalee's story from Chiang Dao

(This picture was taken prior to her hospital visit when she was very sick)

Miss Na uu Jalee is a 30 year old Lahu woman who is a villager in the Jiajun village in Chiang Dao which is a sub district north of Chiang Mai. The first time she got married was more than 10 years ago to Mr Jaka Babu. Together they have a daughter named Nicha Babu and she is now 10 years old. She is in 3rd grade and is studying at the "Baan Muang Na" village school.

Na uu Jalee's first husband died when her daughter was 2 months old. After some time she met a new boyfriend and they lived together, his name is Jasee Jalaw. Unfortunately her boyfriend Jasee passed away in 2006. They had 2 sons together which are Yahe and Jasaw. Currently, they don't have land or a house to call their own. They are now living at their cousin's house of her latest husband. The house is very crowded with 9-10 people living in a very confined space.

Her family is in a very difficult situation after her husband became sick and died. She is forced to take care of her family on her own and do the best she can with what she has. She got very sick and had many problems like bloating/gas, tightening of the chest, difficulty breathing and a very poor appetite. Since she is unable to work due to her illness, she doesn't have any money for food or medicine for herself and her 3 children.

Besides the sickness, she has other problems as well regarding her citizenship status due to the fact that herself and her 2 sons do not have any of the documents needed for Thai citizenship. Except for her daughter Nicha from the first husband who has a birth certificate. Even though she does have the certificate she does not yet have the Thai citizenship. So, the whole family is without Thai citizenship which prevents them from accessing social services, such as the right to receive free medical treatment. They are expected to pay from their own pocket. She is also restricted from traveling outside the village without written permission, which causes her family problems especially now that she is very sick.

On Aug 22nd, 2008 CAM staff took her to the Chiang Dao Hospital to receive treatment and she stayed in the hospital until the 26th. After she left the hospital she was still very worried about her situation at home with no food, no money and living from hand to mouth. It was getting so bad that she asked her sons to ask the monks for food when they came for alms.

Even the cousins that helped them out before couldn't help now because they were also struggling and living hand to mouth. She told us if there any organizations that would like to adopt her sons she would let them go because it is impossible for her to take care of them. She is sick and her kids are suffering and she thinks this would be their best chance at a better future. She feels very upset that her life has been a continous struggle, but she does feel hopeful when she talks to the Church leader Anon Jabu who is also a volunteer at CAM. After Anon's visit with Na uu Jalee he met with CAM staff to discuss her situation. CAM continues to help Na uu Jalee and her family but they need more help, especially from the community.

(This picture was taken after her hospital visit and she feels much better)

CAM was able to help by paying for Na uu Jalee's hospital visit, transportation and meals.
Totalling 4,948 baht

Please pray for Na uu Jalee and her family.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Friends of AIDS Ministry"

On July 19, 2008 CAM arranged a monthly meeting for a group of 30 participants of HIV infected people at the CAM office. The meeting's topic was "Healthy Nutrition". Cam invited guest speaker Ajarn Ganokwan Utkosagit and her team to teach and encourage HIV+ people to take care of themselves with proper nutrition.
Emphasis on a proper diet especially for HIV+ people is crucial for sustaining good health along with other preventative measures. They concluded the meeting with a nutritious lunch and joined together in fellowship. Everybody benefited from all the information and mutual support.

Australian Educational Team Site Visit

On July 8-10th Scott Litchfield together with his family lead the team of 8 members of Coromandel Church from the Uniting Church of South Australia to Thailand. The Church group traveled to Thailand to visit the HIV+ group called "Sai Wai Rak" (Stream of Love). They included an educational site visit to the Church of Christ in Thailand (CAM) and various organizations such as the Pastoral Dept and McGilvary Seminary, Payap University and the 1st District Church in Chiang Mai. The main goal for the visit is to work together with God's love to build and strengthen the relationship between the Coromandel Church and the various Thai organizations visited. During the site visit the Team from Coromandel Church had an opportunity to work in the field with the HIV+ group "Sai Wai Rak". Half of members of the Coromandel Church were given the opportunity to stay with "Sai Wai Rak" in their village for about 2 nights and the other half stayed with Ajarn Sanan Wutti at the Orphanage "Huan Nam Jai" (House of Giving),which is supported by the Chang Cam church. These were both excellent opportunities to see and experience the lives of the Thai people.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Life Skills Workshop"

On July 2,9,11,15, 2008 The Prince Royal College arranged a camp called "Jai Sai Wai Na Rak" (Stream of Love). 495 students from the 6th grade were divided up into 4 groups for a period of 4 days. The Prince Royal College invited CAM staff as a guest speakers and a resource for trainers in the topic of life skills, AIDS education and understanding sexuality and prevention measures for oneself. This training was conducted at the Army Camp facility in the sub district of Mae Rim in Chiang Mai. From this activity we can see all the students were very interested and having lots of fun. The team from PRC organized these activities by emphasizing the participation of the kids.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interfaith Pre-Conference 2008 "Reclaiming the Rights of Children Affected and Living with HIV/AIDS" in Asia

Prior to the 17th International AIDS Conference due to be held in Mexico in August 2008, the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) together with Asian Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS (AINA), the Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS Ministry (CAM)and other NGO's organized an inclusive 5 day Pre-Conference addressing the concerns of children's rights.
The Pre-Conference was attended by 78 religious leaders representing 11 countries within Asia. As the title states this was an interfaith conference with Buddhist, Christians, Muslims and Hindus sharing experiences and resources to achieve a common goal of reclaiming rights of children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Children are a vulnerable part of society with very little input in their own lives. Religous leaders are at the forefront to make a serious impact with the lives of children. Everyday there are approximately 1,800 children infected with HIV/AIDS who are under age 15.

The majority of these children are infected via mother to child transmission. This crucial situation in terms of well-being for children put many questions in front of faith communities and families and need to be addressed adequately.

HIV/AIDS is a critical challenge for religious communities and demands their concern and commitment now more than ever before. It is not only a health crisis, but a dilemma that affects basic human dignity and rights, including the right to live, be healthy and access public services.

The keynote speaker Ms.Win Sie Cheng from "UNICEF" addressed the conference with some key points. She stated that the primary mode of transmission of HIV/AIDS in Asia is sexual contact, ie, men having sex with men (MSM)and female sex workers (FSW) with clients transmitting the virus onto their spouses and their children. Ms Cheng also pointed out that Faith Based Organizations are in a key position to provide family centered/home based care and mobilize community based responses.

One of the conference's participants was a HIV positive man from India who shared his experiences of living with HIV/AIDS and he stated how crucial it is that Faith Based Organizations actively participate in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS especially children.
On the 2nd day of the conference we were all divided into 4 groups to visit sites in the community that are addressing HIV/AIDS and kids. These kids in the picture are from a place called "House of Love" which has children that have been abandoned or orphaned by parents that have died from AIDS related illness'. The "House of Love" has 27 kids of which 25-30% of them have HIV/AIDS. However, they are all affected by HIV/AIDS if not infected.
Each faith was able to address the conference with their perspective on the HIV/AIDS crisis in respect to children and what their objective and plan was to collaborate with the other faiths.

I felt the conference was a success, but I also know that talking about a problem is different than taking action against it. We all need to take action if there is going to be a difference made.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Life skills camp for Children, "World Vision"

On April 28-30th, 2008 the World Vision Foundation in the Lampun district organized the "Life skills camp" for 55 children who are supported by "World Vision".

"World Vision" invited 4 staff members from CAM to be resources for the training. The 4 CAM staff consisted of Jaruwan Wutti, Supaluk Nammuang, Somdet Pornimitsakul and Siriluk Gowan

The objective of the training was to increase capacity building and to teach them how to take care of their own health.

The trainers helped incorporate the concepts learned in the camp to teach a way of living and being self sufficient within the economy. After receiving this training the participants will be able to utilize all the things they learned in their daily lives. The camp was held at the economic sufficiency learning center in the Mae Rim sub district of Chiang Mai.


The 22nd UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board Meeting convened from the 23-25 of April, 2008. Over 500 people from UNESCO attended this conference which was held at the Holiday Inn in Chiang Mai. The objective of this meeting was to follow up on the evaluation reports and to formulate a strategy plan for working together in regards to AIDS programs in several regions of the world.

Rev. Sanan Wutti was invited to this conference on behalf of the CCT(Church of Christ in Thailand)

"Rot nam dam hua"

On April 17, 2008 the group (PHA) People with HIV/AIDS and their families gathered together along with private networking and development organizations for AIDS. These people came to greet and show respect for the network of people working with AIDS at the ceremony "Rot nam dam hua". This ceremony coincided with the Songkran festival and the Lanna New Year.

The AIDS Mission project arranged the food for lunch and joined in the fellowship of the 60 people that were participating.

Family Camp "Warm Heart of Love"

The "Compassion Foundation" held a family camp called "The warm heart of love" on the 7-8th of April. The main target group was a group of about 40 kids and their caregivers that have been suffering the effects of HIV/AIDS. The objective of the camp was to facilitate building relationships within the family. For example, the relationship between the affected child and their Parents/ GrandParents/Aunts and Uncles often have gaps. Within these family dynamics there are fears of talking to one another and doing activities together. There is a significant amount of shame associated with HIV/AIDS. Thus, the camp organizers invited 3 AIDS Mission staff "A. Nawanat Kunasawat", "A. Sasitawn Tinwongyuan", and "Ms. Sirilak Gowan" to be guest speakers. The guest speakers were able to encourage the building of relationships within the families. These were done through dialog and role playing. The participants all agreed that these activities helped their families begin to form better relationships with each other and that there was a feeling of love and understanding amongst each other.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Group support for people living with HIV/AIDS

This is a group called "Sai Yai Rak" (stream of love and concern)which is based in the district Pua in the Nan province. Saturday June 7th 2008 they met with Rev. Sanan Wutti who provides practical, spiritual and emotional support. The meeting was about ARV drug resistance and how to help.

Two children at this community meeting just started their ARV treatment medications. One of the children "Nat" (in the dark blue shirt)who is 10 years old is currently living with his Aunt. Nats Mother and Father died of HIV/AIDS 5 years ago. The other boy "Pao" (in the light blue shirt)is 13 years old and when he started his ARV medications 3years ago his CD4 count was at 16. Now his CD4 count is currently at 60, however his viral load has risen as high as 200,000. Pao's Father passed away 10 years ago from HIV/AIDS. Pao's Mother on the other hand is still living with HIV/AIDS and appears strong and healthy despite not taking any ARV treatment. Pao's Mother is very worried about Pao's viral load being so high.

This community center you see in the picture helps provide income generating with training for sewing clothes and other items. The "Caromando Valley Church in Adelaide Australia" sponsored this project.

Srikom pictured at the center of the photo is the only Christian among this Buddhist community. Srikom is the chairperson for this community outreach center. Directly behind Srikom is Lumpun and she is the Chairperson of the people living with HIV/AIDS for the Nan Province.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

ARV treatment of pregnant women

HIV/AIDS consultant/advisers from all over the world met in Arlington Virginia, U.S.A from the 5-8th of April 2008. The main topic of discussion was the ongoing research of ARV's (Anti-Retro-Viral)treatments with pregnant women, babies and the youth who have contracted HIV. This meeting was attended by many representatives from several areas. Among the Thai community consultants were 2 staff members from the AIDS mission program who participated on behalf of the CCT (Church of Christ in Thailand). A. Sanan Wutti is the representative of RINES (The Health Science Research Institute at Chiang Mai University). Supalak Namuang is the representative from the prevention of mother to baby transmission program in Thailand (PHPT). Church leaders were also involved including a Pastor from Zambia and a Pastor from Washington, U.S.A. Along with representatives from the "House of Grace" and Prapokglao Hospital.

As you can see they are working with HIV/AIDS in every corner of the world. There will be a church leader involved with working seriously and continuously at every level of the AIDS pandemic in order to let the will of God appear in the middle of the AIDS crisis. In this meeting they were able to report the success and progress in preventing the transmission of HIV in babies and the youth. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of HIV/AIDS is that it causes these children to become orphans in the future. The world community and churches must work together to find a clear path and solutions to deal with these problems.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Training camp for youth leaders for empowerment and people living with HIV/AIDS

On May 17th, 2008 Reverend Sanan Wutti and Khun Somdet Pornnimitsakun conducted a training camp for 30 youths affected with HIV/AIDS. The groups consisted of youth that are HIV negative and another group that is HIV positive. This training camp was held at the Thummila House in the Chiang Rai province. World Vision organized/sponsored the event.
The program began at 9am with a prayer. The first activity included singing a song, and then the youth played a game to break the ice for everyone to get to know each other. The youth participated in a discussion on who they are and what they are doing in their lives. The second activity had each participant receive a paper with a drawing of various people in a tree and each person had to choose a person on the drawing that reflected them in their life. Some people in the drawing were swinging happily on the tree branches and others were just hanging on or actually falling off. Each person was allowed to discuss which person on the drawing that they chose and why.
After this activity Rev. Sanan read a passage from the bible that related to the previous activity. Then everyone watched a DVD produced by public health department of the government that taught about ways to prepare the youth and the people living with HIV/AIDS to work and live within the community. Rev Sanan conducted a ceremony with washing of hands and then annointing with oil. The day ended with all the youth talking together about all the new information and knowledge that they have gained from all the days activities. They all left with a better understanding of themselves and each other, and had a great time as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Mission Worker at CAM

Sawat dii khrap,

My name is Brett Faucett and I am the new mission worker from the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA). I am the farang (foreigner) in the blue shirt in the left of the picture. My wife, Shelly, is diagonally across from me and Jan and Jeff Hudson are sitting at the table to my left. My family and I came to Thailand in August of last year. We have two little girls Acacia and Annapurna, ages 6 and 4 years old.
My job title is "HIV/AIDS regional consultant for Asia." I will be working in Thailand, India and China. I met A. Sanan at the airport when we first arrived and, unfortunately, was so bleary eyed that I don't remember much. However, I did remember that in the future I would be spending a lot of time with A. Sanan and the staff at CAM.
My wife and I immediately enrolled into language classes after settling into our new home. We are doing well with the language, but still struggle sometimes. I work now with CAM along side Judy Cook, another Mission worker from the Baptist Church. I am very impressed with all the good work CAM is doing with addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia. Asia currently has the highest rate of HIV transmission in the world.

I'll give you little background on myself. I am a registered nurse and worked in critical care at a hospital in Newport Beach, California for 6 1/2 years. My wife and I are certified HIV/AIDS instructors with the American Red Cross. We both served in the Peace Corps for 2 years in the Republic of Moldova (Former Soviet Union). I served as a health educator and Shelly served as a English teacher for the high school. We have travelled extensively and have visited 45 countries. We have a 3 year assignment here in Chiang Mai, but we hope to make it a lifetime commitment. I look forward to working with CAM for many years and the opportunity to serve God for whatever He has planned for my family and me.

I will update this blog on a regular basis, so stay tuned!

God Bless

Brett Faucett (Mission Worker)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Our Elderly Friends

On December 12, two of CAM staff, met by invitation with 50 elderly men and women parishioners, at a small church in Chiang Dao. Through activities such as games, art, and singing CAM encouraged the group members to share their feelings about their lives and HIV/AIDS.

Many in the group were experiencing the effects of HIV/AIDS within their families. CAM staff counseled them about quality of life, how to take care of themselves and renew their energy. Some people expressed loneliness and suggestions were made about how to engage in group activities, such as talking, praying, and singing together, and in this way form new relationships and feel less lonely..

The program went from 10AM to 3PM, with coffee and lunch included. At the end of the day the group said they were happy that CAM came to talk with them and invited the staff to return and talk with them again.

Picnic Day

Each month, on a Saturday, CAM holds a support group meeting, at the office, for PLWA. On November 12, as the rainy season was over, CAM held the meeting at the Sankhampang Hot Springs, and included a picnic.

It took place from 10AM until 3PM and a lot of delicious food was prepared and eaten. People relaxed, and soaked their feet and legs in the springs, boiled eggs which they snacked on, and bathed in the bath house.

After lunch the group gathered for a meeting. There were games and laughs before the talking began, and at the end people of the day people left feeling content and satisfied.

Welcome Marcia Klein

Also, in November CAM welcomed a new volunteer from the USA. Marcia Klein came to work with CAM for three months, under the auspices of American Jewish World Service, (AJWS). She is the second volunteer they have sent to CAM.

Marcia is a retired social worker, who has had several other volunteer assignments in Africa and India. She is here to work with CAM staff on grant writing and English language skills.

Her husband, Stanley is here also, volunteering at Community Forest Group, another NGO in Chiang Mai. When the couple is not volunteering, they are living in Mexico and New York City, or traveling the world.

Goodbye Jan and Jeff

In November 2007, after four months, working with CAM, Jan and Jeff Hudson returned to their home and family in Australia.

While, here they completed an excellent DVD depicting CAM’s overall work and spirit. Jan also taught English to the CAM staff.

CAM is very appreciative of Jan and Jeff’s compassionate effort on their behalf. We hope they will return soon.