"You've got AIDS? Go to hell!"
and pictures - Nivi Narang, October 2002
“Please can you come and see me. You don’t have to look after me, just
see me.” If Jeed could get a message through to his parents, this is
what he would want to tell them.
is 28 years old and is HIV-positive. He last spoke to his parents three
years ago, when he told them he had the virus.
told me I could go to hell for all they care. I tried to phone them so
many times, and each time they would hang up on me.” Unfortunately, this
is a common story in Thailand. On top of the trauma of having to come to
terms with having HIV and the scarcity of affordable treatment,
sufferers often face abandonment by their families. It’s estimated that
a million or so Thais are HIV positive.
and shame are the main reasons for families not wanting anything to do
with AIDS. Ignorant of the facts of the disease, they fear becoming
infected themselves. They worry about shame brought on the family and
rejection by the community - from the association of AIDS with drug use,
promiscuity and prostitution.
was born in Pisanuklod on the outskirts of Bangkok. He used to be a
dressmaker and made a living from selling clothes. After he discovered
he was HIV positive 4 years ago, the little money he made went towards
year his health started to deteriorate and he was unable to continue
working. Very soon his funds ran dry and he had nobody to turn to. Even
his friends didn’t want to know him. “Some friends knew, but they didn’t
accept me. They were scared I would trouble them and ask for money.”
was sent to the
Human Development Foundation
by a social worker. This hospice in Bangkok's Klongtoey slum (it's much
better known as "Father Joe'"s after the priest who set it up 31 years
ago) cares for terminally ill, poor people who have been rejected by
their families. Usanee Janngeon who runs the hospice in Klongtoey,
Bangkok, explains: “We act like a bridge between patients and their
families. AIDS is not about just one person, it’s about the whole
family. They all need to come together to give help and encouragement.
We try to explain this to the families and get them to visit their
relatives in our care. Some help by giving massage, others just offer
company. We hope they will change their minds and allow the patients to
return home to live and die among their families.” They succeed in
around 60% of cases
knows he will not be leaving HDF. But he no longer feels alone: he has
something like a new family. “It has taken many years to heal the wounds
and the pain in my heart, and learn to deal with the disease. But the
atmosphere and the people are so warm and friendly here – it’s OK now.”
provides 35 patients with food and accommodation, but above all love and
now spends him time helping other HIV/AIDS patients. “In the old days
there were plenty of clothes to cut and dresses to be made. Now I want
to give my life to patients who are less fortunate than me and aren’t
able to help themselves. If I wasn’t infected, I wouldn’t understand
what heaven is and what giving is. Looking at it that way makes me