‘I felt lonely and afraid. I worried how I would provide for my children,’ explains Hkawn Raw on testing positive for HIV.
Not knowing where to turn - a widow with four children to support - the Positive Living Centre project supported by Christian Aid partner Metta, was a blessing.
Hkawn Raw, a volunteer at the Positive Living Centre / Photo credit: Kaung Thet
Living with HIV
The Positive Living Centre in Kachin state, is a safe place for people living with HIV to build their confidence and take control of their own futures so they can lead a healthy and positive life.
‘I receive a lot of support from this centre,’ says Hkawn Raw. She received counselling and education about HIV/AIDS. She also received crucial financial support – a loan of £120.
‘I bought four pigs and reared them to sell. Every six months I sell about eight pigs.’
The income she receives provides stability and much needed assurance that she can provide for her children's food, education and healthcare.
Encouraged and empowered, Hkawn Raw now gives her time to help others. She volunteers at the centre, supporting women just like her.
‘I run a widows self-help group. We talk about the challenges and difficulties we face and give each other emotional support. If one person is sick, the others in the group visit her at home.
‘I want to help in the prevention of transmission and to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.'
The centre is run and managed by people living with HIV and provides counselling and health education, alongside advice on nutrition and support to make a living.
It provides referrals for testing and treatment, home based care and training for members of the community, like Hkawn Raw to share health information among their peers. It also runs a three day annual summer camp for children.
HIV/AIDS in Myanmar
Around 200,000 people in Myanmar are living with HIV.
The HIV epidemic is largely concentrated on female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs – the groups most at risk.
‘All humans will die one day. Before we die though, we have to survive in a positive way.'
Hkawn Raw’s husband died in 2004. ‘He was a drug user and used sex workers,’ she explains. ‘He tested positive for HIV.’
‘Slowly I became more aware of my situation. I thought - all humans will die one day. Before we die though, we have to survive in a positive way. I have children. I have to take care of them. I don’t want to die, it’s not my time. I want to live for my family.’
Education, stigma and discrimination
Education is crucial, not only to raise awareness, and reduce stigma and discrimination but to encourage testing, ensure treatment and ultimately prevent transmission.
Volunteers play a vital role in educating their communities.
And it’s thanks to people just like Hkawn Raw who, in spite of her own struggle, remains keen and committed as ever to sharing her knowledge and time for the benefit of others.
How you can help
Could you volunteer with us in the UK or Ireland? People volunteer with us for many different reasons, but they've all got one thing in common: by giving their time they're helping transform lives.
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Volunteering opportunities in your local area
Eyewitness story: surviving to thriving in Myanmar
Our work on HIV and AIDS