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Notes from the Field

Training cum Forum session with 4 HIV+ personals- 18/04/2011

Training cum Forum session with 4 HIV+ personals- 18/04/2011

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Date: 18/04/2011
Location; MangShi CDC Health activity centre
Personals: 4 HIV+ personal

We have come to the forth years of our Aids prevention programme at MangShi, as time progresses, we do achieve significant results though without any statistical data support. But by empirical observation from the streets at MangShi, the CDC officers do observe that there is a significant decrease in number of sex workers coming from the poor villages. I believe that this is the efforts that we have done for the past few years, going villages to villages advocating the prevention and harm of Aids. The main factors that caused such changes are that the young girls at the villages have:

1) More knowledge of Aids prevention and its harms than before.

2) By the society pressures within the community in the villages, they are refraining from being sex workers, as they become more aware of Aids prevention knowledge.

We also started home visit for Aids patients last year, selecting the group that are living below the poverty line. We have befriended them and hoped that they can help us to propagate the knowledge of Aids prevention within their own peers. We also help them by giving rice and cooking oil to them, easing their burdens in life of their basic needs.

We continue working with the peers this year, having forum with them sometimes. We begin this year with a forum session on 18th April, 2011, inviting guests of honor from Singapore to join us.

During the session, we introduced the guests from Singapore to the group; they are Mr.Yee, a Government officer working in the Ministry of Health at Singapore, and Simon, a volunteer helping the church at Ho Chin Min city.

Ms Lee, CDC officer, briefed the guests the Aids situation at MangShi, introducing on the topics of the CDC roles of Aids prevention, how Aids are spread at MangShi, the present situation of the Government policies in helping the Aids patient, and what Aron and I have done for the past few years. They show much appreciation to us.

We also have Ah Chen inviting 4 Aids peers to our forum session, they are, Ah Rong, Ah Hai, Ah Xia, and Ah Dong, 3 males and 1 female (Ah Xia). All are HIV+ mainly due to drug needles injection while Ah Xia contacted Aids thru’ her boyfriend. They are shy in the beginning with our guests around, but as I tried to let them be at ease and more casual, they began to speak up.

We therefore casually talked about:

1) How they felt when they first know that they contacting Aids, what a dark days for them at that time, knowing life is hopeless and in despairs. They then also shared with us how they slowly accepted the truth knowing life still have to go on. We encouraged them and advised them to make full use of their life to help others within their means, making life more meaningful.

2) The despair that they still face is the prejudices against them in the main stream society, causing them difficult to find jobs. I advise them that the view of society cannot be changed overnight, I cited example of myself that I slowly changed my perception after knowing them, and also after acquiring more knowledge of Aids prevention, before that I don’t even dare to shake their hands.

3) Mr.Yee also encouraged them to be more positive in life, knowing that Aron is trying to set up a micro fund to help them to set up an Advertising company, which is a great help. The CDC staffs also support the ideas.

We talked and exchanged ideas till 5PM, and then we have our guest of honor, Mr.Yee, to give presents to them, a 25KG of rice and a bottle of cooking oil. After the session, Mr.Yee and Simon felt that it is an eye-opening experience for them, knowing the ground work of what we have done with the CDC. It is really a good concept and idea.

Notes From the Field October 2010

Training cum Forum session with 7 HIV+ personals- 10/12/2010

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In order for the peers to be more independent in training on their own peers. Ah Chen, who has been helping us on the previous sessions, planned and arranged for this particular session himself under the supervision of CDC and I.

Date: 10/12/2010
Location: MangShi CDC Health activity centre
Personals: 4 families HIV+ personals

Ah Chen invited 4 families HIV+ victims for his training session held at the CDC Health Activity Centre. Ah Chen’s mission is to help and care for the HIV+ peers, teaching and encouraging them to have positive altitudes toward relationship with others in the society, have courage to face their own diseases and walk out of the dark shadows that held in their hearts.

Among the HIV+ peers, Ah Yan was invited for this training session. Ah Yan is an orphan who both of his parents’ lives was taken away by AIDS 20 years ago. Without his parents, he was cared by his relatives. He is now 24 years old, and because of his unfortunate events in life. He chooses to keep to himself, he talks less and unsociable. Ah Chen understands how Ah Yan feels, as he has gone through the same experience himself. So, Ah Chen has patience with him, give him encouragements, and try to help him gain confidence in life.

Besides Ah Yan, a couple both with HIV+ were also invited for this training session. Training and lesson about Aids were taught to them, mainly comprised about what precautions married couples should aware of, the Government incentives for HIV+ victims and medication.

After doing 3 training sessions on HIV+ victims, the same problem is that they are prejudiced by the main stream society. This phenomenon really has great impacts on them, casting dark shadows in their hearts. It cannot be changed within a short period of time, but need constant communications and educations within the society members. The task ahead is a heavy one; we need perseverance, care and love for the patients in order to achieve our purposes. Gifts were presented to the participants after the training.

AIDS Forum October 2010 Report

Forum meeting with 10 HIV+ personals- 28/10/2010

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After we made home visits with the HIV+ personals from the last session, I have met the CDC’s staffs twice. We discussed our future plans and also the feedbacks of our home visits.

They expressed:

  1. Home visit is a right approach, as the funds really go to the persons in need.
  2. We achieved personals contacts, making our presence known to the HIV+ personals.
  3. The HIV+ personals feel comforted and appreciated that we are caring about them.

Our futures plan will be:

  1. To know more of such HIV+ personals and understand more of their predicaments.
  2. Making them as agents to help us penetrate into their circles, to educate and prevent further spread of HIV living among their circles.
  3. Train them to be well equipped with HIV prevention knowledge, and let them be more independent.
  4. Set up a fund that helps them to be independent, giving them hope and helping them to find meaning in life, to be more self dependent.

So, the CDC arranged a forum and training discussion for me to meet 10 HIV+ on 28th OCT. The session was held at the CDC office, meeting room.

On the meeting session:

  1. At first, they introduced themselves, and all of them were former drug addicts, now turning into new leaves, but contacted HIV+.
  2. They are not employed due to prejudices against them from the main stream society.
  3. They are remorseful now, hating themselves for being ignorance while young and have no knowledge of Aids. They were all drugs addicted for more than 10 years, as it is easy to access drugs 15years ago, and the governments didn’t do much on such education then.
  4. I expressed that they should use their experiences and their stories to help and prevent any youths that follow their footpaths, and to prevent further spread of HIV among their circles.

Then, they came out with ideas and expressed their thoughts:

They hope that we can set up a start-up funds to help them set out their own business, and be more self reliable, like giving them fishing rods to fish, rather than give them fishes.

Ah Chen, who help us on the previous home visits is well educated and cultured. He has talents of doing works on advertising, such as banners design. So, he hopes to set up an advertising agency and CDC express that they will be his main customer if the agency set up. The CDC needs a lot of promotion banners each year.

Of course with some conditions attached:

  1. They can only employ staffs with HIV+.
  2. They are required to use the portion of their profits to help the HIV+ personals and educate Aids prevention among their circles.

I said that I need to report their requests to you, and seek your approval. They will like to know you too, saying “Thank you” to you in person. Hopefully we can arrange a barbeque party for you to meet them while you are here next time.

We completed the meetings after about 2 hrs, and as usual and promises, we gave them a packet 10KG of rice and a box of milk for each person. A token for their participation.

Yunnan Training Report, April 2010

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Yunnan province has been extremely hard hit by HIV, in comparison with other areas in China, accounting for over 25% of all reported cases of HIV in China. In 2007 the JAIDS reports that there were 57,325 cases of HIV in Yunnan province; injecting drug use (IDU) and unsafe sexual behaviour were listed as the 2 major causes of transmission. Risky behaviours are continuing and while there is a decrease in cases of HIV amongst injecting drug users (from 100% in ’89 to 42.5% in 2007), there is still a significant increase in sexually transmitted HIV, up to 47.4% in 2007.

Ethnic minority groups in China have, in the past, been the most affected by HIV, largely due to their lack of public health awareness and access to social services. In fact, they account for nearly half of all reported cases of HIV in Yunnan province. In addition, numbers have drastically increased amongst the Han majority population, which now accounts for over 60% of reported cases in Yunnan. “It (HIV) has begun to move from farmer minority groups in rural areas to worker Han majority urban settings. The high percentage are now due to sexual contact.” (GoKunming. M.)

Keeping this shift in mind, the Yunnan training group decided to focus on Han villages for our HIV prevention education workshops within our target area in Dehong, Yunnan. Our April 2010 training was in a Han village — the first time one of our trainings was given in an entirely Han ethnicity village.


De’Ang Village Training, April 2009

Photos from this training:

Buying supplies for the training.
Dinner planning session.
Setting up for the training.
Training Slideshow 1
Training Slideshow 2
Training Slideshow 3

Background on Santaishan Township

There are 3 villages in the Santaishan area. All three are farming villages:

  1. Han Chinese village
  2. Jinghpaw village
  3. De’ang village

The Jinghpaw and De’ang are ethnic minority groups. Populations of both of these ethnic groups also live in Myanmar (Burma), in larger numbers than the groups found in China.

The Han Chinese have the highest living standards of the three groups, so there are less cultural roadblocks to development for them.

De’ang Village #2 Statistics

The De’ang ethnic group in Yunnan province, near the Myanmar border, is the smallest of ethnic minority groups in this part of China. Large numbers of De’ang can be found in Myanmar (Burma) but only small numbers of them remain in China. They have not mixed with the local Han Chinese population and way of life in modern China as well as other ethnic minority groups have.

There are 70 households in this De’ang village, totaling roughly 180 people, of which there are around 40 children (age 0-12 years). There are 2 parts to the village and we met in the lower part of the village; the upper part being about 1 km up the mountain road. This De’ang village seemed more wealthy than the previous village where we had done a training in March 2009. This village was very close to the highway and thus was able to grow more crops than just the sugarcane that was the monocrop in the previous village. This advantage allowed the villagers to most likely earn more money through farming than the previous De’ang village could. The village appeared to have more substantial structures, more power lines than the last, and also had the home and office of the village health worker ( a De’ang man who helped organized our trainings in the Santaishan area over the past few months).

There is no reported HIV in this village though the health worker admitted that their consensus isn’t fully complete, because some do not participate. People are encouraged to be tested for HIV/AIDS, and if a couple is married and they want a marriage certificate now, they must be tested in order to receive the certificate. However, some villagers who do not care about participating in the system outside village life don’t bother with the test. This is particularly true for some who are marrying into the village from outside, particularly Myanmar. The De’ang ethnic group exists on both sides of the China-Myanmar border and now because of the booming economy in China and the ever-deepening crisis brewing in Myanmar, it is becoming more common to marry into villages inside China. While the villagers are concerned, as well as the CDC and other groups in China, that there is a high risk of infection coming from Myanmar, mandatory testing for HIV/AIDS in the villages doesn’t really exist, unless the couple wants to hold a marriage certificate.

The village health worker and some of the elders expressed concern over immigrants from Myanmar, and concern for some of their women working as sex workers in the city of Mangshi. However, these numbers are still low, they say. They also mentioned that migrant labor was not very common for men from their village (it is common in some villages for men to work seasonally in other areas of the region. Migrant labor populations stand a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

The Training

Along with our usual prizes for participation that we bought locally (mosquito coils, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, fruit and some candies), we were equipped with enough mosquito nets for each of the households that participated in this training. Our friends at PSI (Population Services Index) provided us with very high quality nets for a fraction of their price. These villagers were able to benefit from this particularly great gift!

As usual we drove to the village area as a group, stopping for dinner to plan the night’s activities at a roadside local restaurant with great food. What was unusual was that there were 3 friends of mine participating in the workshop. They had a very nice time eating interesting foods, drinking some local spirits, and acquainting themselves with our local group.

We arrived at 8 and began setting up. There were more hands than usual so we were able to set up a really nice zone for the training with lots of decorations. It had rained that day, and with the rainy seasoning threatening an early start we a bit worried that we wouldn’t get much a of a turnout. When the villagers arrived around 9 pm, we introduced our group, and gave an introduction of the night’s activities. We were happy to find that over 50 of the 70 households showed up for training. Only the families the furthest away in the upper part of the village didn’t show because of the wet road conditions. The weather continued to co-operate.

We divided the participants in groups (men, women, and children respectively) and started. First we ask some questions about the village, then we introduce basic HIV prevention information and continue with more advanced information depending on the level of the group. We finish with a sort of competition where the various groups can showcase what they have learnt and they receive prizes for participation, and answering correctly.

The level of understanding in the village about HIV prevention and related health and social awareness was particularly high, especially among the youth. There were a few incorrect answers coming from the older men but not too many, and everyone laughed and instructed those with incorrect answers before we even got a chance to.

The training finished with the households being called up one at a time to receive their mosquito nets. It was a very warm experience meeting these people individually and handing them the nets. They really seemed very happy with the gift. Instructions and details were provided in Chinese, since for many, this would be their first experience of using a mosquito net. With the rainy season about to start I think they will really enjoy them right away.

De’Ang Village Training, March 2009

Gearing with supplies for March 2009 De'Ang Village Training

Photos from this training:

Videos from this training:

As usual, our training staff bought our goods (mosquito coils, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, fruit and some candies) for the training in Mangshi city and then drove to the village area as a group, stopping for dinner to plan the night’s activities at a roadside local restaurant with great food. When we finished dinner, we got back in the trucks and tackled the grueling mountain road that leads to the De’ang village (not so nice!).


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