Woman helps former drug addicts find new life

November 14, 2023 - 08:46
Lim Thị Tường, the Party Secretary of Kẻ Nính Village reached out to those affected by HIV/AIDS, sharing and assisting them in regaining the confidence to fight against illness and poverty.
Lim Thị Tường, the Party Secretary of Kẻ Nính Village in Châu Hạnh Commune, Quỳ Châu District in central Nghệ An Province, supports those affected by HIV/AIDS to fight illness and poverty. — Photo suckhoedoisong.vn

HÀ NỘI — Kẻ Nính Village, in central Nghệ An Province, was once a daunting destination in the early decades of the 21st century, deterring those considering visiting.

The village was deeply impacted by the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug addiction, with around half of the households battling addiction or suffering from HIV/AIDS. The disease's presence profoundly affected numerous families, often touching both partners.

In recent times, Kẻ Nính Village has seen an extraordinary shift. The village landscape is now dotted with forests, sugarcane fields, and vegetable gardens. Beyond farming, many of the younger villagers are choosing to work abroad or find employment in nearby companies.

While the average income remains modest at VNĐ24 million (US$984) per person per year, the improvement is substantial.

The achievements of the present day can be attributed to pioneers who stood up against the community's afflictions, such as Lim Thị Tường, the Party Secretary of Kẻ Nính Village in Châu Hạnh Commune, Quỳ Châu District.

With her wholehearted dedication, Tường reached out to those affected by HIV/AIDS, sharing and assisting them in regaining the confidence to fight illness and poverty.

At the age of 66, with a slightly thin stature, yet remarkably agile and lively, Tường is revered by local people.

Flipping through a thick, old notebook on the table, Tường recalled a story from nearly 20 years ago when there was widespread ignorance about HIV/AIDS, accompanied by severe stigma and discrimination. At that time, she was an elementary school teacher in Châu Hạnh Commune in Quỳ Châu District.

In 2009, she retired, and was elected to the village’s Party Committee.

“I was entrusted and elected as the Party Secretary of Kẻ Nính Village. Also in 2009, there was a training class on HIV/AIDS prevention, and I volunteered to attend," she told Sức khoẻ Đời sống (Health&Life) online newspaper.

As the Party Secretary of Kẻ Nính Village, Tường witnessed numerous unfortunate lives of those who, due to the misfortune of contracting HIV, were shunned and abandoned by their families. They were cast aside and marginalised by their community.

According to Tường, in the years 2008, 2009, and 2010, every two to three days, someone would die from a drug overdose or HIV-related illness. During those times, the entire village was mournful, anxious, and bewildered.

"I thought those who were ill were already in the worst situation. If they die, they should find peace and receive encouragement and closeness from their community. So, I was determined to do something for the sick," she said.

Joining the training, Tường equipped herself with basic knowledge and then delved deeper into understanding addicts and those infected with HIV. Being a teacher, she spoke and advised in a gentle and flexible manner to reach as many HIV-positive individuals in the village as possible.

"At that time, most of the HIV-positive people in my village faced extremely difficult lives, making it challenging to approach and connect with them. The more challenging it was, the harder I had to try. Negligence would make people sink deeper into vice," she said.

Tường shared that many people were reluctant to go to medical facilities because they feared others knowing about their illness. Therefore, when approaching those suspected of being infected, she had a unique approach. The most crucial aspect was gaining the trust of these individuals.

She recalled there was a man named Hà Văn Q., who vehemently denied being infected when encouraged to get a health check-up and loudly chased her out of his house. Through her sincere care and attention, Q. eventually agreed to undergo health examination and receive proper treatment.

Tường has been supporting people infected with HIV/AIDS to regain confidence in life. This helps reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission in the community, create a healthy environment, and combat discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS. Particularly, most individuals with HIV in the village have been assisted in accessing funding for economic development to improve their lives.

Lim Van V., 48, said he got involved in drug use when working as a hired woodcutter in 2003. When he found himself infected with HIV, he felt devastated and wanted to give up.

Tường gave him encouragement and motivation to quit drug addiction and undergo treatment. He now has stable health and can work to help his family.

Vi Van T., 41, who unfortunately contracted HIV over ten years ago, shared his story that after kicking the habit of drug use, he has received financial support to raise ten cows and cultivate over ten hectares of sugarcane to improve his life.

He has received a loan to build a new house worth VNĐ90 million ($3,692), he said.

Tường stated that many families that previously had members suffering from illness or addiction have now escaped poverty. The village was now guiding the younger generation to focus on vocational education to seek opportunities to work overseas.

Kẻ Nính has entered a new chapter, but the lives of its people still face many challenges. Tường said that there were still many poor households, and the health condition of those infected significantly affected efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce poverty. The drug-addicted young individuals were also another problem in the village.

“Families, schools, and society need to intervene more strongly to combat drug use among young people,” she said. — VNS