World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
Mercy as the leading HIV/AIDS community organization in the poorest Bangkok communities, we are still battling issues of awareness and prevention. The general populations in the poorest communities are still unaware of their rights to receive access to health care relating to AIDS. These rights include access to health checkups, blood tests, consultations, medicine, and follow-up care. Their ignorance of their rights is due mainly to the stigmatization of people living with AIDS within Thai culture and society.
This project will battle community ignorance and encourage people to learn about their HIV status. In concert with government health care centres, we will promote the VCCT program (Voluntary Counseling, Confidential Testing) – a program that will encourage every member of our communities, especially young women and teenagers, to be tested for HIV.
Our role in the VCCT program:
1. To educate our target groups about the benefits of early HIV testing. We will educate individuals on the advantages of testing, both for their personal health care (early detection will prevent infections leading to long term disabilities) and for the care of their loved ones.
2. To provide pre-testing advice and counsel
3. To provide post-test counseling and education on AIDS prevention, including condom usage for all.
Government health centres are ready to implement their part of the program – that is, to provide blood tests to individuals, but the government does not have the resources to fight ignorance and stigmatization, to promote the program house by house and street by street, or to provide enougj counsel before and after testing.
Our foundation will fill in the gaps where the government is unable to move forward: We will battle against prejudice, promote the VCCT program, encourage 100% participation among targeted groups, and provide counsel.
4. Our role in VCCT
4.1 To support individuals and groups in poor communities and educate them about HIV
4.2 To encourage individuals to become a part of the VCCT program and receive a blood test.
4.3 To help individuals accept their blood-test results whether positive or negative and to take necessary next steps