Yet again, we arrived at our first destination, the United Nations, extremely early. The bus drove us to the Grand Palace area just down the road and we had time to have a look around and take a few photos. Since 1792, the palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government.
Upon entry we were required to go through security, have our bags x-rayed and hand over our passports in exchange for a name and security pass. We made our way to a small board room within the UNAIDS department and had the pleasure of meeting Steve Kraus. Yes, Steve Kraus, the Director of the Regional Support Team for Asia and Pacific, a pretty big deal! We were all buzzing and in that moment I felt so privileged to have such an opportunity. He also gave praise to Australia’s financial and technical involvement and support of UNAIDS, outlining that many interventions have so far proven successful, e.g. safe injection sites and opiate substitution therapy.
*there is an abundance of information about HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific and regarding strategies to decrease new infections, reduce stigma and increase education, but I will just outline some basic information that I learnt during my visit*
HIV and AIDS estimates in Thailand in 2011:
· Number of people living with HIV – 490,000
· Adults aged 15 to 49 prevalence rate – 1.20%
· Adults aged 15 and up living with HIV – 480,000
· Women aged 15 and up living with HIV – 200,000
· Deaths due to AIDS – 23,000
· Orphans due to AIDS aged 0 to 17 – 250,000
· 70% of new HIV infections happen in 27 provinces
I found this presentation extremely interesting and educational and I will take a lot of this knowledge with me. I believe that my role as a Registered Nurse when caring for patients infected allows me to be supportive and reduce stigma and discrimination, thus aiming to reduce barriers to accessing and adhering to treatment. Despite developing countries having a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS, Australia has seen a notable rise in HIV infections in the last year, reiterating the worldwide need for increased awareness and education, access to holistic care and treatments, and well-equipped health professionals free from stigma.
“Don’t be afraid to be a change agent.”
Steve Kraus, at the meeting with 20 University of Technology Sydney students, 11th July 2013.
Karina, Health for Wealth 2013, Thailand
This is an excerpt from Karina’s blog Prime the Line. Check it out to read more about her experience in Thailand on the Health for Wealth Program.