In a sudden, unprecedented HIV/AIDS outbreak in Roka Commune, 156 people have been diagnosed with HIV in two weeks. More than 10% of those tested have been positive for the virus. Officials have charged an unlicensed healthcare provider with intentionally infecting villagers with the disease, and public health officials are conducting campaigns to test all who may have been exposed.
With little time for pre- and post-test counseling, people in Roka have been left feeling confused, scared, and hopeless. Many adults say they feel unable to leave their houses to seek medical treatment or tend to their rice, which is spoiling in the fields. Some newly diagnosed children have stopped going to school and others are isolating themselves from their loved ones for fear of infecting them as well. Already, other communities have started rejecting people from Roka as “from the AIDS Village.” To stem the health, economic, societal, and psychological damages from the outbreak, immediate action is needed.
As an NGO with extensive experience in assisting communities in distress, Buddhism for Development (BFD) is ready to respond. It has provided counseling and direct support to communities impacted by HIV/AIDS for over 10 years, linking people to free treatment, helping them understand the disease, improving daily life, and spreading messages of hope. It also provides neighborhood education to minimize discrimination and improve relationships within communities.
In close collaboration with the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology, and STD Control (NCHADS), the Roka Health Center, and the Battambang Referral Hospital, BFD is preparing an emergency response for the next six months. It will:
1. Provide emergency family-based counseling, material support, and transportation to treatment while working to integrate new patients into the government system.
2. Inform all in Roka about the facts of the situation, the impact of having HIV present in the community, and the rights due to all people regardless of their medical status.
3. Mobilize local education authorities, monks and nuns (donchees), Buddhist radio stations, and other media to minimize stigma.
Donations to support these activities are urgently needed, as funding for BFD’s HIV programs ended earlier in December.
After the emergency state has subsided, BFD will work with the government health system, people living with HIV in Roka, and community authorities to create a strategic plan for the area, including long-term access to education, income generation, and treatment.
BFD welcomes any assistance, collaboration, or financial support to create the best outcomes for those who are being impacted by these events.
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