Tender, Loving Care
November 20, 2006, —
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a bustling, cosmopolitan place where it's easy to forget you're in a developing nation. But a short drive to a CRS-sponsored AIDS treatment center provides a quick return to reality. In Vietnamese society, stigma is still high against people with HIV and AIDS. Many patients are abandoned by their families simply because they are HIV-positive.
However, as I toured the facility with my colleagues from CRS headquarters, I saw a mother spoon-feeding her son porridge, in the hopes that it would strengthen him a bit. She waved us over so she could share her story. Through her tears, and with the help of an interpreter, she explained that she is very poor, and has health problems of her own. And although this makes traveling to the center very difficult, she does it as often as she can. After all, she is a mother, and he is her only son.
Before CRS involvement with this program, the center functioned as an isolation ward for AIDS patients. According to doctors there, it was dirty and ill-kept, and there was little regard for patients' dignity. Today, the hospital has clean beds, linens and rooms. Patients receive appropriate care and medication, and are treated with dignity and respect. In an effort to educate people about HIV and AIDS, this program is also reaching out to the community through meetings and group activities.
During our visit, one doctor explained: "It's hard to express why I work with HIV and AIDS patients. But they are people too, just like any other patients."
He and a nurse at the center also said that because of CRS' involvement in the clinic, they no longer feel isolated. They explained that they are grateful to have someone else who understands the issues and supports their efforts in helping people with HIV.
"I know they [the patients] come from difficult situations, and I am glad to be able to help them," the doctor said, adding that he wishes more people were aware of the work they were doing, and could see that the patients are human beings just like everyone else.