As 14-year-old Ester told her story, the tears rolled down her cheeks. Ester is living with HIV. So is her mother. Her father died some time ago.
Today 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV. More than 2 million are aged between 10 and 19.
1 December is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV. People like Ester.
Ester Jima lives in Mougang township, Kachin state. She attends a summer camp at the Positive Living Centre / Photo credit: Kaung Thet
Poor and marginalised most vulnerable
In Myanmar, where one in four people live below the poverty line, the struggle to make ends meet - to feed, clothe, house, educate and care for themselves and their families - is relentless.
Add to this the risk of ill health and the anxiety deepens.
As ever, it’s the poor and marginalised who are most at risk of suffering ill-health - and least able to face the costs and impacts.
It's vital that people living with HIV receive the support they so urgently need.
The Positive Living Centre
This is where the Positive Living Centre project, supported by our partner Metta, is making a difference.
The centre is run and managed by people living with HIV. It provides counselling and health education, refers people for testing and treatment, advises on nutrition and supports people to make a living.
It also runs a three-day summer camp for children.
Stigma and discrimination
For Ester, the camp is a chance to meet new people and make friends. ‘I enjoy coming here,’ she says. ‘We learn about HIV. It’s very important. HIV can affect anyone.’
Stigma discourages people from getting tested and stops people talking openly about the virus.
So education is crucial. It not only raises awareness, reducing stigma and discrimination, but also encourages testing, ensures people get treatment and ultimately prevents transmission.
Singing, dancing and playing games are just some of the ways children learn about HIV and AIDS.
With increased awareness and understanding, they're able to pass on their knowledge to family, friends and the wider community.
Ester explains, ‘I’ve shared what I’ve learnt. I say to others "don’t discriminate".'
By providing an opportunity for children to talk openly and share their own experiences, the summer camp helps to build self-confidence and a sense of togetherness and trust – solidarity in the struggle against HIV.
Living a positive life in Myanmar - find out how the Positive Living Centre helped widow and mother of four Hkawn Raw
Our work in focus - HIV, malaria and health