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.


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