“My Health, My Right”
Around 450,000 people of Thailand’s population were living with HIV in 2016, with 6,400 people dying of AIDS related illnesses. After sub-Saharan Africa, Asia Pacific is the region with the largest number of people living with HIV, with Thailand accounting for approximately 9%.
Today we join with our network of friends, organisations, communities and staff to acknowledge the tremendous progress made over the years to help end HIV/AIDS, with the goal to achieve the UNAIDS 90/90/90 target by 2020. Today in Thailand 91% of adults aged 15-59 are aware of their HIV status, of those 75% are on HIV treatment, of which 79% have attained viral suppression.
The theme for Worlds Aids Day 2017 is “My Health, My Right” promoting access to high-quality, safe, effective and affordable health care and wider set of rights, such as healthy working and living conditions, adequate sanitation and housing, access to nutritious food and justice.
“HIV means you’re more likely to live in poverty, more likely to have poor mental health, less likely to have access to adequate nutritional food, less likely to access medical care, and less likely to understand and assert your rights. We here at the Mercy Centre continue to fight but our fight is not just about the virus. Ignorance, discrimination and isolation limits opportunities to fully participate, preventing them from living full and happy lives. AIDS will only be overcome by our brothers and sisters who have it, they must lead the way, and we must listen and act. We all need to unite to help end the stigma, end discrimination, end HIV transmission and end the isolation felt by people living with HIV, for good. Each one of us can make a difference, so we must open our hearts and ears, as they say - a thousand candles can be lit from one single candle.” Father Joe, Director, HDF Mercy Centre
The Mercy Centre will continue to raise awareness of the role each individual and our communities play in preventing the spread of HIV. We will continue to distribute free condoms, promote free HIV testing and encourage people and their partners to know their status. We will continue to strive to educate, support and care for those infected with the support of their families and community. We will continue to advocate on the behalf of the people living with HIV/AIDS for improved health, social and economic outcomes. We will strive to end the stigma, discrimination and isolation encountered by people living with HIV/AIDS. We all benefit from a healthier and safer community.
"The heroes and heroines, the little old lady from the village who fetched soup for the sick…there were no nurses, no doctors and no hospital treatment in years past…as Elton John’s song goes:
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to know you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did
On this day, we here at Mercy Centre remember all those whom have lost their lives to AIDS and honour those working together to stop the disease. We honour the caregivers, families, communities, staff and volunteers for their dedication, compassion and tireless effort over the years. We are all the better for it.” Usanee, HIV/AIDS Outreach, HDF Mercy Centre
By Shane Bunnag
Published in Nikkie Asian Review, Sept. 15, 2014,
Test and photos: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Thailand-s-little-loan-sharks-face-thinner-pickings
BANGKOK -- Eight years ago, when Thailand was embroiled in an earlier bout of political strife and I was trying to make a documentary in Bangkok's main slum, Klongtoey, an avuncular Catholic priest who worked there told me something I've carried with me since: "Whatever is going to happen in Thailand happens first in the slum. We've got the best and the worst of the country right here."
I do not always agree with Father Joe Maier, the priest, but I admire him. He has dedicated his life to helping the neediest people, and going about it in a no-nonsense style. "I'm a fat, bald priest," he is fond of saying. "If I can't tell the truth, then who are you going to hear it from?" Originally from the U.S. state of Washington, he has been a resident of Klongtoey for decades. For much of this time, he lived in a hovel built over raw sewage and compacted garbage.
The Bangkok slums range from thin strips of lost road to beleaguered hamlets and, in the case of Klongtoey, entire shantytowns. They corrode the mottled veneer of the modern city like traces of a forgotten undercoat. Over 100,000 people live in Klongtoey alone. The slums are more than ghettos for the urban poor; they encapsulate the larger story of the marginalized among Thailand's 66.7 million people, and their floundering ways of life. They are populated by those who cannot survive in dignity like their ancestors -- as farmers, fishermen and day laborers -- and cannot find a place in a transforming society.
by Charles McKenney
Published in Catalysta: http://catalysta.org/Interchange/Reaching-Out-Thailand
“Standing together with the poor” is the mission of the Human Development Foundation (HDF) Mercy Centre, a community outreach organization based in Bangkok’s largest slum district, Klong Toey. The community center/shelter founded by Catholic priest Father Joseph Maier, intimately known as Fr. Joe, and Sister Maria Chantavarodom (Sister Maria) 40 years ago welcomes abandoned children and teens, those affected with HIV, and older women who have trouble remaining employed. Its outreach also extends to the sea gypsies (situated throughout the surrounding islands of Thailand) who lack education, resources and the life skills to become self-sufficient.
1973 was the year that the HDF was started by its pioneers who saw a need in the community and strove to meet it. Fr. Joe's vision to establish the Mercy Centre commenced at the threshold of his 25-year tenure as the Catholic community Parish Priest in the slaughterhouse neighborhood of Klong Toey.
Published July 10, The Guardian - Global Development Professsionals Network. Complete article and text here. Usanee Janngeon writes about the evolution of the Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre's HIV/AIDS Program - from a "dumping ground for the dying" to offering all-inclusive home-based care. Photo above: Mercy Centre staff training Mae Tao clinic staff in community-based homecare.
For over 10 years, the Human Development Foundation – Mercy Centre's Aids hospice was the first, largest and only free Aids hospice in Bangkok, Thailand. At first, Mercy was known as a dumping ground for dying people. Then we changed our general policy and, apart from the truly indigent, only accepted patients with their relatives' involvement. Over the years as the treatments improved, our hospice became a place of hope for the future where people could recover and go back to the community and their family.
We learned that HIV is not about one person, it's about the whole family. We created three-way partnerships between our hospice staff, patients and their families. We asked the families to share in the hospice care of their family members, and in return, we provided counselling to the families and taught them home-care skills. The patients also agreed that they would contribute to the maintenance of the hospice as much as they were able to.
It often took several months of counselling, sometimes even years, to unite families and patients and bring them home. It was rarely easy. As our home-care programme expanded, we were able to close our hospice in 2012 and now all our Aids care is done in the community.
Narisaraporn Asipong builds a sense of belonging for Saphan Phut street kids
This article, focusing on one of our street social workers, was published in the Bangkok Post, Life Section, May 21, 2013
by Napamon Roongwitoo
The first thing that greets an outsider who steps into the small patch of garden under Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) is a strong stench of urine. Male underwear is strewn carelessly on the ground, while a toddler plays by himself - not in a crib, but in a battered foam box. There is no roof. There is no toilet. There is no furniture except for a few floor mats.
This is what 60 lives call home, and it is the only home they know.
Narisaraporn Asipong, known affectionately by her students as Khru Nang, has spent the majority of her time with these "homeless kids" for 12 years. With a determination to make a difference to society, she left her home in Si Sa Ket and travelled to Bangkok to join the Mercy Center, working as a volunteer teacher for street children around Saphan Phut.
Shortly after the 2004 tsunami, we began serving a destitute ethnic Moken community living on Koh Lao, an island just off the coast of Ranong. When we first encountered this sea gypsy community, Fr. Joe notes, “They were literally starving to death. There was nothing to eat. One in five women died in childbirth. The children had no energy to run or play. They didn't even recognize basic foods such as bananas. There was no concept of how they should live on dry land.."
We wish to share an article written by Irish journalist Patrick Butler about his recent vist to Koh Lao. The Nov. 26 article, published in the Irish newspaper, The Daily Business Post, appears on this link.