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Use of Buddy System in Thailand Helps HIV Patients Get Back on Feet


TV report transcript

This Wednesday marks World AIDS Day. According to the United Nations, a record 39.4 million people are now living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. That's an increase of almost one million people from a year ago. But Thailand has dramatically cut its number of new infections. It has also launched a program aimed at dispelling stereotypes and providing hope for those living with HIV and AIDS.

This framing business in Thailand has help saved the life of this woman named Narissarat.

She is a widow who was infected with HIV by her late husband. A year ago she was sick, penniless, and suicidal.

But today, she is thriving, thanks to a program called "Positive Partnership."

It gave Narissarat a 250-dollar loan to launch her business.

The one key requirement - she must partner with someone who is not infected with HIV.

Within months, her business took off.

She says many people who once shunned her are now her best customers.

Senator Mechai Viravaidya is Thailand's most prominent AIDS activist, and the program's founder.

SENATOR MECHAI VIRAVAIDYA, THAI LAWMAKER

"Now they have hope, they have a business, they can compete with ordinary people."

Now, the people Senator Mechai calls his "HIV Buddies" have become successful business partners across the country. In each case, one person is HIV positive, the other is not. Nearly all these businesses have been successful.

Even though AIDS patients in Thailand receive decent health care and free medicine, most still suffer in isolation, afraid of discrimination.

But this new business owner claims the program has already changed his life.

He says "I can now work, eat, and live, just like anyone else."

Those who have benefited from the program are trying to share their good fortune.

Narissarat and her partner have started teaching others with HIV how to launch their own businesses, to break down the barriers of fear and suspicion.

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