The Laos’ Network of People Living with HIV/Aids (LNP+) has launched an information campaign across the country to help stop the rise in the number of people with HIV and raise people’s awareness of the disease and its treatment.
Kinoy Phongdeth, head of the (LNP+) and himself HIV positive, said that there has been no such campaign in Laos. “I contacted partners and organised groups to bring in medication and to offer support to other HIV positive individuals like me,” he said.
Phongdeth was the second person to be treated for HIV/Aids in Laos. His experience led him to organise the network in order to help other people.
“After I discovered I was positive, I had a terrible shock and didn’t know what to do. It dashed all plans and hopes for my future. I actually thought of committing suicide,” Phongdeth said.
The incidence of HIV/Aids in Laos is rising, but is still less compared to that of surrounding countries.
At present, there are an estimated 9,000 individuals with HIV/ Aids in Laos with some 1,000 new cases discovered last year. The total population of Laos is around 6.4 million.
LNP+, a peer-based non-profit association established in 2003, received official recognition by the Lao government this year.
Phongdeth, in collaboration with other HIV positive individuals, built the network from scratch with donations from various agencies.
According to Phongdeth, the network’s main goals are to assist HIV positive individuals in seeking treatment with government help and to raise awareness of the risks and how it is transmitted.
Phongdeth, who has attended the Washington International Aids Conference held July 22-27, said he would share his experiences in establishing LNP+ with other people working in the same field worldwide and to learn from the work of others.
Phongdeth’s LNP+ is working hard to remove the stigma associated with being HIV positive.
“We ask HIV positive people to share their stories, which will help people understand them as well as the risks and the symptoms. It is very important that we educate people about HIV and that it can now be treated,” Phongdeth said.
Both Phongdeth and UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Laos Pascal Stenier said that they would like to see a greater domestic funding for HIV/Aids programmes.
Stenier said he welcomed the Laos government’s willingness to shoulder over 20 percent of the funding for HIV/Aids programme in the country.
UNAIDS considers sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and intravenous drug users to be the most at risk groups of contracting and spreading HIV in Laos.