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International News

Thailand: Women With HIV Break Silence, Confront Stigma

March 22, 2010

A joint initiative by the non-governmental organization Raks Thai Foundation (RTF) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) seeks to secure the rights of women living with HIV in Thailand. Key program objectives include developing peer-based community outreach that will support HIV-affected women in the Trat and Chang Mai provinces and conducting awareness campaigns with health experts in these areas.

"In most communities, HIV-positive women are often seen as being promiscuous," said Dararat Boonpak, a psychologist at the state hospital in Trat. "They are often verbally abused and sexually harassed if their status is known."

"Women are often blamed for getting infected," said Wantong Rattanasongkram of RTF, who is working on the project. "Our task is to build confidence and to deal with quality-of-life issues."

Since 1984, Thailand has recorded more than 1.1 million HIV/AIDS cases. Over a third of those infected -- nearly 400,000 -- have been women. While the country has enjoyed success in promoting condom use, "the main mode of [HIV] transmission is among married couples," according to UNAIDS.

The RTF-UNIFEM program has enrolled some 250 women in Trat over the past two years. For participant Veena Panudej, it has been a life-changing journey. She has gone from being quiet and shy to asserting herself as a confident leader confronting HIV/AIDS stigma.

"I go to the local hospital and stay there 'til three in the afternoon to help in the counseling service offered to HIV-positive women," said Veena. "I have to be brave to speak out and to express my concerns and those of other women. Our role is to help positive women who face discrimination at home, in their communities or even in the hospital."

Back to other news for March 2010

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
02.20.2010; Marwaan Macan-markar

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Thailand and HIV/AIDS