Three women: Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of the US POZ magazine, Bui Thi Hanh, project volunteer of UNAIDS in collaboration with the Vietnam Women’s Union and someone from the Tra Ly Xanh group in Thai Binh answered HIV/AIDS-related questions raised by readers during the online dialogue held by Tien Phong Online newspaper on July 19 in Hanoi.
At opening of the dialogue, deputy editor-in-chief of Tien Phong Online newspaper, Le Xuan Son, thanked the three guests for actively participating in the online dialogue. He also said that Vietnam over the past years has achieved success in fighting the lethal disease, especially in communication channels. Many people now have the correct knowledge about the ways the disease is transmitted and how to prevent it. However, a section of people do not have full knowledge about the disease and discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS. The dialogue aimed to provide more HIV/AIDS-related information. Mr. Son expressed his admiration of Regan Hofmann and Bui Thi Hanh for their bravery in facing the disease and actively participating in communicating and helping HIV/AIDS carriers.
Ms Regan Hofmann: First of all I express my gratitude to Tien Phong Online newspaper for holding this important dialogue. I think that people’s awareness of HIV has changed and Vietnam has favosrable conditions for communication.
The US also has such organizations to communicate facts on HIV prevention, like the MTV channel.
Communication about HIV/AIDS prevention in the US meets various difficulties because young Americans never believe that they will be infected with the disease. Thus communication is very important and necessary. I was infected with HIV ten years ago because of unsafe sex.
Anyone can be infected with HIV/AIDS if they are not protected. Therefore, improving young people’s awareness of HIV/AIDS is very essential. HIV/AIDS prevention work will not achieve more efficiency in the future unless communication is improved.
I myself took ten years to announce my disease status because I was aware that many young women infected with the disease just want an ordinary life without discrimination; people need to have positive attitudes to HIV/AIDS sufferers.
The question of a reader from Ho Chi Minh City: Ms Regan Hofmann, what did you think when you knew your HIV status? What do you do to overcome the fear and discrimination of your relatives and friends? What experiences do you have in preventing HIV infection?
When I came home, I felt I was another person, not me. And then I recognized that I was able to gain a victory over the disease if I was always optimistic.
I was afraid to tell the truth with my family, my parents and young sisters. I also recognized that they would be more disappointed in me if I did not tell the truth so that they had chances to care and help me.
When I told my problem to family, they were very sad and found a better doctor for me. After getting a test result from the doctor, they became calmer and believed I had chance to have an ordinary life.
My dearest friend is my young sister. She has been always close to me and played a crucial role in my treatment process and has increased my thirst for living.
I shared with my young sister from the beginning. She embraced me and usually played with me.
Ms Bui Thi Hanh: At the first, my relatives were afraid, although they loved me very much, because my family had no knowledge as to how to prevent the disease.
However, my family is also my great moral support. I went to consultancy centres to get information about the disease and then share it with my family – that helped me overcome discrimination in my family. I now live with my relatives like other people.
A question from Tran Anh Tuan in Buon Me Thuot city: How long do we go to test and how long do we extend the life?
Represent from the Tra ly xanh group: After three months doing high-risk behavior, you can go to doctor to check whether you are infected with HIV or not. However, in some cases, it takes six months to get the exact result.
How long people infected with HIV live depends on when the disease was detected and the positive, cooperative attitude of patients with doctors during the treatment process.
Spirit is one of crucial factors. You can live with HIV if you have a healthy lifestyle, reasonable nutrition and working and effective support of health services.
I am an example. I had the danger of infection with HIV since 1999 but until 2003 I was diagnosed as having positive HIV status. In 2005 I had to be treated with Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. I presently live healthily and work as ordinary people do because I strictly follow the therapy and have a healthy lifestyle.
Question from Nguyen Van Khanh in Thanh Hoa: what is the most difficulty you met when you communicate HIV/AIDS prevention?
Ms Bui Thi Hanh: The most difficulty is that discrimination and self-discrimination of people living with HIV because not all people infected with HIV aware and ready to announce their HIV status. Besides, the community still discriminate, stigmatize and unsympathize with people living with the disease.
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