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.