Khoa, aged 17
When I was very small, I went on a train to Hue with my parents because my mother was sick. I was very young, so I knew nothing about HIV or death. The doctors and the nuns at the Hue National Hospital took very good care of my mother, but after a short time, my mother died.
When I was 5, my father wanted me to go to kindergarten. At first, they said no, because I have HIV, but my father did a very good job and convinced everybody to let me go. It was my biggest joy, because I was able to learn and play with my friends.
When I started primary school, this happened again and I could no longer go to school. I cried a lot and kept my notebook, and went home and told my father. Once again, my father went to the school to talk to everybody and two days later, they said I could go to school. This time we had support from the Street Children’s Centre in Da Nang, they spoke to the teachers and the people in my village and taught them about my disease. Although I was very scared and sad, I was determined to go to school.
VNHIP and the Street Children’s Centre also did similar training for everyone when I started secondary school and high school. Now everyone accepts me and are happy for me to be friends with their children. People say that I am brave because I have chosen to be open about my disease; my father has always been very supportive and tells me I have nothing to be ashamed of.
In 2008, when I was in grade 6, I was very sick. My father took me to the pediatric hospital in Quang Nam and was sent home after a few days to rest and wait for death. Lucky for me, my father found VNHIP and went to Hoi An to see a doctor. Dr Josh examined me and arranged for me to go to the Pediatric 2 Hospital (P2H) in Saigon. Again, I was on a train, but this time I was the sick one, going to Saigon with just my father.
When we arrived at P2H, I did not even have the strength to walk. My father gave me a piggyback ride into the emergency room. I stayed at the hospital for a month, where they gave me a blood transfusion and fluids and my health improved. I am healthy now and still go to Saigon once a month for follow up and medication.
I am very grateful to VNHIP to be alive today and to the Street Children’s Centre for their support. I am now in the third stage of treatment, so I do not know what the future holds, a feeling that is very difficult to describe. I hope that in the future they will find a cure and that there will be a time when no one will have HIV. I am now in grade 11 and doing well at school, I am optimistic about the future and hope to one day be a doctor.