Unusual Community Campaign Fights AIDS in Rural Thailand
Monks, students, ex-prostitutes, doctors and patients are among the members of a rural community in Thailand that is waging a "unique war" against AIDS through a local support program that the Mae Chan community hospital began in 1991, the Associated Press reports. Program volunteers increase disease awareness, promote condom use, care for patients in their homes and give spiritual guidance through the use of projects such as village puppet shows and herbal medicine-steam saunas for HIV-positive people. U.N. officials noted that it is "rare for so many sectors of a community to come together to share their expertise and knowledge in a concerted campaign" against HIV/AIDS, and the U.N. Development Program this year hailed the hospital project as a "good practice" that can serve as an example to other communities. Mae Chan is located in the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai, which is called "the AIDS capital" of Thailand because 10% of the country's AIDS population lives there. The program started when "desperate" officials at overcrowded hospitals in the region turned to monks for patient care; the monks began distributing traditional herbal medicines to help relieve symptoms and providing spiritual counseling to HIV/AIDS patients. Since then, community involvement has gradually expanded (Joshi, Associated Press, 8/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.