By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA
The special broadcast via Facebook.com/1663telephonecsg/ also aims to lessen social stigma, which has resulted in tens of thousands of working-age people in Thailand living with HIV being rejected from work and facing dead-end life situations, according to Somwong Uraiwatana, deputy director of the AIDS ACCESS Foundation and hotline 1663 project head.
Each day, talks on various topics such as sex, condom use and access to HIV/Aids treatments will be presented to boost the public’s understanding about HIV/Aids in relation to daily life. The talks are meant to inspire a review of efforts to prevent and deal with HIV/Aids issues so all parties can move forward together, Somwong said.
“We did a Facebook Live broadcast under the theme ‘teenage pregnancy, an issue schools should not aggravate’, and many people viewed it and shared it, so instead of a one-day march to campaign for World Aids Day, which might be less effective, we will create forums in various related aspects. We hope people will understand that people living with HIV are normal persons who can work and live along side them in society,” he added.
On the first day, safe sex will be discussed with parents invited to explain sex to their teenage children so they can protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, Somwong said. The second day will see a discussion of access to treatment, he added. “We will talk about the fight of people living with HIV to gain access to free treatment. The previous situation in which those living with HIV had no access to costly antiretroviral drugs led to hundreds of thousands of deaths over the years.
“We will talk about their [HIV-positive people’s] responsibility in taking care of themselves while on antiretroviral drugs and encourage at-risk people to submit for blood tests so they will be aware of their status, promptly be medicated and stop transmitting the virus,” he said, adding that 400,000 people living with HIV were being treated.
The third day will focus on access to condoms and use. “Why do youths still not have access to condoms? Why aren’t they a price-controlled product? The state agency that hands out free condoms is the Public Health Ministry, which distributes them via tambon health promotion hospitals during office hours. Do you think people need to use condoms only during the office hours? If you are in a village or in school, you need to travel to the hospitals to get it, is that convenient?” he asked.
The last day will involve a discussion of coexistence and lessening social stigma, he said. “We will discuss how to go on after you find out that you are living with HIV. And we will discuss what has happened to many in the same condition whose jobs were adversely impacted.
“There are 20,000 people living with HIV who got the virus from their parents, many of whom graduated with bachelor’s degrees but faced dead-ends because job applications required a blood test. One 30-year-old HIV-positive man couldn’t get normal work so he works for the campaign about HIV/Aids. We want to make people understand that those living with HIV can coexist and work alongside others, while a blood test should not be a condition for a job application or a reason to be fired. We have seen people testing HIV-positive and lose their jobs,” he said.
The foundation has also invited a young woman who brought a case to the Administrative Court after her blood test results for her nursing school application led to her being expelled, he added.
“We will also have a meal with HIV-positive people who will cook the food to emphasise the point that we can live together,” Sompong said.
The Disease Control Department in 2016 reported that 430,000 people were living with HIV in Thailand with an annual new infection rate of 7,700 and annual fatality rate of 15,000 people.