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NGOs rescue flood victims with HIV in Thailand

11-30-2011 13:44 BJT Special Report:World AIDS Day 2011 |

by Yang Dingdu

AYUTTHAYA, Thailand, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Apiwat Wangkeaw and his friends, standing in line on the roof of a building submerged by water, is relaying medicines and drinking water from a small boat to an AIDS patient living on the second floor of an inundated house.

As the worst flood in nearly 70 years hit Thailand, many people living with HIV in flooded areas found themselves blocked from treatment and medicine by water.

To help flood victims with HIV, Apiwat and other volunteers of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) row boats to deliver medicines home by home every day in central Thailand provinces of Ayutthaya, Nakorn Sawan, Ang Thong and Sing Buri, where flood water is 3 to 4 meters deep.

"Because we also have HIV, we knew exactly what kind of help people living with HIV need, what kind of trouble they are in and where to find them. We are in the same community, it's like family, " said Apiwat, head of TNP+.

In addition to delivering medicines to flood victims living with HIV, volunteers at TNP+ also send them water, food and help transport people for medical checks and send patients to unaffected hospitals.

People living with HIV need regular medical checks and medication. Stranded in inundated houses or shelters, they could not access necessary medical service, which might lead to various symptoms and worsen the disease, said Michael Hahn, coordinator of UNAIDS in Thailand. UNAIDS is the UN program on HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, many hospitals were also inundated with medical staff relocated, making it even more difficult for flood victims living with HIV to find help, he added. Thailand has 500,000 people with HIV, and the number is increasing by 25 each day, or more than 10, 000 every year.

It is a good example of how governments and civil society can work together, Hahn said. Government and insurance were quick to provide access to resources and treatment. NGOs help them reach out to flood victims living with HIV one by one, house by house.

"It shows the civil society can play a major role and deliver results in a very effective way, which the government alone would have a lot more difficulties because there are a lot of other people who need help in this flood crisis," he added.

The flood has killed at least 615 people nationwide and inundated major industrial parks, devastating the country's economy. The World Bank estimates 756 billion baht (24 billion U.S. dollars) is needed for Thailand to recover from floods.

"No government in the world can do everything for its people. Whatever you do, you must have the community in mind. To succeed is to work with the people, not just for the people," said Mechai Viravaidya, chairman of Population and Development International (PDI), Thailand's largest NGO, which also works on preventing deaths from HIV/AIDS.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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