Two weeks ago volunteers found Ratana in her parental home. Her condition was very bad because she stopped taking her HIV medication some years ago. With the aid of Untenu, food and medical care were arranged. Last week, Ratana died of the effects of AIDS. Untenu and BC arranged a worthy funeral.
AIDS… and what about medication
Of course HIV inhibitors are available, also in Cambodia. But how is it possible that still people are dying of the consequences of AIDS in Cambodia? To understand that, we tell Ratana’s story.
Ratana was a transgender woman. For most Cambodian transgender women this means living a life as a woman, without the operations and medical supervision. Because the transition to a woman is not payed for by health insurance or government. Cambodia is a developing country. A country where one third of the population are living under the poverty line, and one third are living just above that line. The poverty line is USD 2 per day. One has to stay alive on that amount. For some it might be slightly more, for others even less then USD 2 a day. And for some in Cambodia it is so low, that it can only be measured by the amount of meals one eats a day.
LGBTI are socially less accepted in Cambodia, that is why it is even more difficult for them to find a regular job. Discrimination, disruption and poverty often are things LGBTI experience.
It is not rare that sex work is the only option left. Ratana was 36 years old. She was lucky that her parents accepted her being a transgender.
When she still was young she left Battambang to go working in Thailand. She was a sex worker who offered her services to foreign tourists. Five years ago she tested HIV positive, but she kept it secret to her family. For a short period she took ARV (HIV medication). Back in Cambodia she moved in at the humble house of her parents in Bantey Mean Chey.
In Cambodia it is commonplace that people living with HIV collect their monthly quantity of medication at the nearest clinic. Not enough money for a living means also no money to pay for transportation to the clinic.
As Ratana became older, she earned less as a sex worker, money that her parents and she had to live from.
She stopped collecting her ARV and thus her condition worsened. Until the moment she got so sick and weakened and finally called Bandanh Chaktomok for help. Together with Untenu Foundation they managed to bring food, drinks and brought her to a clinic.
Unfortunately, Ratana was so weakened that help came out to late. A week later, she died from the consequences of AIDS.
Thus BC and Untenu Foundation arranged a worthy Buddhist funeral. The pictures shows that Ratana is remembered as she wanted to go through life: as a woman.
AIDS Candlelight Memorial
Ratana died a few days ahead of AIDS Candlelight Memorial. For Untenu Foundations chairman Ron van Zeeland it was reason to commemorate Ratana by lighting a candle for her. For Ratana, and all those other people who died of the consequences of AIDS- despite the the existence off of ARV. Just because of the simple fact that people lack the money to collect them. Of course we really want to help people, but unfortunately these situations occur more often. It is with pain in our hearts that we offer assistance with funerals. Death due to inaccessibility of free HIV inhibitors is unfair. There is a world to win, in Cambodia.
Besides emergency aid, Untenu Foundation wants to offer education programs and working experience places in future as a more sustainable form of aid. Please support our work for the poor LGBTI living with HIV in Cambodia by donating via iDeal, PayPal or credit card, click here to donate