Today our Marist team working with people who are HIV+ or who have full-blown AIDS spent their time visiting the mountainous areas around Ranong. Here, ten patients have been referred to us by the local Thai government health clinics. We try to assist them in any way we can. We bring them some food, transport them to hospital when they have an appointment and follow up on their medication.
Unlike our work in the township of Ranong where almost all our patients are from Burma/Myanmar, the patients in the mountains around Ranong are almost all Thai. After all, they are referred to us by the Thai government clinics.
What struck us yesterday was the crucial role played by grandparents, especially grandmothers.
Many of the people referred to us are children whose parents have already died of the dreaded HIV virus. Sometimes they may be HIV+ themselves, sometimes they are free of the virus but do not have anyone to care for them. Grandparents so often fill in as care-givers. Yesterday we met with several grandparents who have taken over full responsibility for their grandchildren. The impression they give is that they have had the responsibility thrust on them. They have already suffered the death of one of their children – the parent of the grandchild – and now they want to rest. Instead, they have to become parents once again at such a late stage in their lives. They also carry the stigma of having a child who has died of a disease that is so feared and despised.
Still, these grandparents have taken on the challenge and continue to struggle to make ends meet and provide the best opportunities they can to their orphaned grandchildren.