people living with HIV

 {Photo credit: Charles Fred via flickr}HIV poster in Vietnam.Photo credit: Charles Fred via flickr

This post includes portions of the introduction, questions, and answers from the English edition of "Transition Forward, Issue 1, June 2013" (PDF). 

Vietnam has made significant progress in re­cent years responding to the country’s HIV & AIDS epidemic. Under the ongoing leadership of the Government of Vietnam (also known as Viet Nam), the interna­tional community has provided significant technical and financial support to the HIV & AIDS program. As country leadership and ca­pacity to address the HIV epidemic has been strengthened, and as Vietnam’s economy grows stronger, increasing emphasis is being placed on transitioning to a sustained country-led response.

This includes strengthening the health system and civil society, particularly to reach those most at risk.

Jessica, David, and Matuet are members of the community, HIV-positive clients, and a key to HIV care and treatment at Masafu Hospital. {Photo credit: M. Hartley/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Hartley/MSH.

I visited Masafu Hospital in eastern Uganda on a busy Tuesday morning. Tuesdays are antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic days at this Ugandan facility. Patients come on their designated date for a checkup and to pick up their prescription refill. (Clients get a one month supply of medicines; ideally health workers see the HIV-positive clients once a month to check their health status.)

Three volunteer expert clients --- Jessica, David, and Matuet --- assist the trained health workers on clinic and non-clinic days.

On ART-clinic days, Jessica, David and Matuet organize files, greet patients, inform patients about side effects, educate on prevention methods, support CD4 collection, and communicate with relatives. On non-clinic days, the expert clients reach out to the communities to reduce stigma, inform people about the services available at health centers, and encourage others to know their status.

David explains that he chose to become an expert client because, “I have the challenge too; I want to help others understand HIV better.”

Matuet said, “Other community members don’t want to know their status. I had to stand up.”

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