Four new self-care books published by Family Health International were unveiled Friday as part of a campaign to teach people living with HIV/AIDS not to treat the diagnosis as a death sentence.
Through its work with HIV/ AIDS victims, the group identified a serious lack of materials on how to take a proactive approach to living with the disease.
The “Self Care Series” aims to fill this void by educating people living with AIDS about how to take an active part in their own care and remain productive, said Mark White of the US Agency for International Development, which funded the project.
“When they know they are HIV-positive, they feel their life is finished. They stop working, they sell their land, they just stop living,” said Family Health International’s Behavior Change Communication officer Bou Savy. She added that few of the estimated 157,000 Cambodians with HIV or AIDS realize that someone can live up to 10 or more years after contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
A decade ago, at the early stages of Cambodia’s AIDS epidemic, misinformation and fear inspired widespread discrimination against people living with the virus, said Ly Po, assistant vice chairman at the National AIDS Authority. He said the government initially focused strictly on preventing the spread of AIDS instead of addressing the conditions and treatment of people living with the disease.
The latest book project and its subsequent outreach programs could help curb discrimination against people living with AIDS and the abusive behavior that follows, Ly Po said.
The four-book series is illustrated with color drawings of traditional Cambodian scenes. Book One is called “What Should I Do if I Think I Am HIV?” while Book Two addresses “Living with Hope and Staying Healthy.” The third publication is titled “Living Peacefully with AIDS,” and the fourth is called “Staying Healthy: For Mothers Living with HIV.”
Book subjects were drawn from field assessments of issues facing AIDS survivors, Bou Savy said, adding that this is one of the first times that people living with HIV/AIDS have contributed to the conception and development of health care books.
Family Health International has printed 10,000 copies of the books to be distributed free of charge to community health centers and shareholders throughout the country.