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Help for People Living with HIV in Hanoi

Editor’s note: This post was written by Thang, a peer counselor/outreach worker for the Vietnam Red Cross. 

Vietnam Red Cross HIV support groupI was working in the counseling room in Dong Da hospital when the phone rang. I picked it up and heard, “Hi Thang, it is Dao from Chuong My district, Hanoi. Do you remember me?”

I envisioned Dao, a skinny and tired man. I asked: “Do you need a health check for yourself or a family member?” After some slight hesitation, he replied, “myself.”

Dao called me because I work for the HIV Prevention, Care & Support Project, run by the Red Cross. We ensure that people living with HIV know about which resources are available and we connect them to those services, so they can stay healthy. We also provide counseling, home-based care and job programs that help people living with HIV, their partners and family members to find economic stability.

After some small talk, Dao revealed his situation. “I was born in Chuong My district and moved to Saigon to work as a construction worker in 2006. In 2010, I went for a health check-up after feeling sick. My test revealed me to be HIV positive. I was shocked and worried. I returned home seeking family support, but when they learned about my HIV positive status, they kicked me out of the house. I’ve been homeless for 20 days now. Three days ago, I got a fever but I had no money to go to hospital. As I was lying on a stone chair in Ha Dong Park, someone told me that Dong Da hospital provides treatment for HIV positive people. That’s why I came here”.

After a long chat, I was able to connect Dao to a hospital for people living with HIV who have been abandoned by family members. Care and treatment for people like Dao is free of charge. Throughout the next year, I contacted Dao frequently to follow up on his health situation—glad for the updates that his health was improving.

Time flies. Dao called me back after one year of treatment, informing me of his good health. His friend found him a job as a construction worker and he isn’t homeless anymore—he rents a house and is happy there.

I’m so glad that the Red Cross was able to help Dao find treatment, but I still have mixed feelings. I’m sad for the discrimination and stigma he and other people living with HIV face in their daily lives. I hope Dao’s family will change their minds someday and welcome him back home.

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