By Adrienne Blomberg - Siam-Care Foundation Director
With the generous support of donors, and the green light from the prison authorities, Siam-Care staff go to visit several prison every week. One of these prisons has quite a number of HIV positive prisoners and monthly group meetings are held with them. These groups are attended by up to 50 women at a time, and various topics are discussed. Last week a nurse from HIV-NAT (HIV-Netherlands-Australia-Thailand) Research Institute came along to give some more in-depth background on HIV medication. The morning just flew by as there was so much to discuss, so many questions to be answered and also since this is a kind of social time-out for the prisoners who get the day off work, they enjoy just talking with the staff about the 'out-side world'. To help with adherence the HIV-NAT nurse had brought some alarm clocks to give out as prizes, but sadly these were not allowed by the prison authorities (too many little pieces that could potentially be dismantled and used for other purposes?) The extra nutrition and sweets that were brought in were very much welcomed and gladly accepted!
In the afternoon there was time for individual counseling and talks and reports on relatives and children that had been followed up at home during the past month. Many of the women in prison are from a very poor background and their children will not be able to visit them as it would cost too much for transportation. Also a day’s leave would have to be taken, which for school going kids or working relatives is not always possible. Therefore they rely on getting news from home by letter or from reports from the Siam-Care team.
Some women only learn about being HIV positive when they are inside and are hungry for information for their own health care and that of their children at home.
Another very encouraging story of the prison work undertaken comes from Siam-Care's links with other NGOs worldwide. Recently a sick man finished his long prison term in Thailand, and was due to go to his home country. After almost 20 years here he had lost contact with his relatives in his home country and because his health was so poorly we were very worried how he would do once back home. Through networking with others in this particular African country the man was received at the airport in his home country, given a place to stay for the first couple of days and he was helped to find his relatives once again. He is now reunited with his family and his health has improved dramatically, which is no surprise.
There is a lot of loneliness, hopelessness and desperation behind prison walls. Being able to go in and take some news of loved ones, give a human touch, or personal attention, and generally just be a breath of fresh air can make a difference between someone willing to go on, or giving up. Thank you for helping Siam-Care care for the many behind the walls!
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