Perception of women living with HIV : Empowerment is necessary but not sufficient.
A case study from APSW
In communities where knowledge and understanding about HIV/AIDS is limited, living with HIV/AIDS is a real torture. The strong messages regarding HIV/AIDS particularly at the onset of the outbreak which were conveyed to the public in Thailand have unintentionally resulted in a stigma among the women and men living with HIV/AIDS that is too hard to erase and too harsh to live with.
The scenario is more severe for women who contract the infection from their husband. The common phenomenon for this group of women is a confrontation with a series of seemingly never-ending pain and humiliation, one after the other. The first blow is when they discover that the husband is HIV positive. Full doubt about herself sets in as time goes on, usually while taking care of the dying husband. The catastrophe is upfront when she finds that she too is HIV positive. Outright discrimination can all along be observed. “I can see it in their eyes” The most devastating experience is the rejection from family members, a situation which men with HIV/AIDS rarely experience as their wife is the caregiver. Where could they go?
The Association for the Promotion of the Status for Women (APSW), since its establishment over 25 years ago, has provided assistance to almost 50,000 women and children. On any single day, there are about 140 women and children sheltered at our Emergency Home, about 25 of whom are HIV positive women. The past 15 years since we have started taking care of HIV positive women, about 800 HIV/AIDS cases have been given assistance. The services provided include shelter, food, heath care, rehabilitation, counseling services as well as retroviral medication scheme. Through medical care and empowerment process, the HIV positive women have hopes and inspiration. However, although many feel empowered, they consider that empowerment is not enough. They voice the need to ensure that the public and the communities gain full and proper understanding and have right attitudes about HIV/AIDS to the extent that they could live with HIV positive family members. They want the whole society to have empathy towards HIV/AIDS cases and do not want the others to be rejected by their loved ones as they have experienced.