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2007.04.25
* Asset Name : UNICEF: Outreach efforts address the double stigma of HIV and drug use in Malaysia * Shoot Date: 18 Apr 2007 A family struggling with HIV tries to cope with tragedy. It’s only been a few weeks since Ina, an HIV-infected mother, died of cancer. Suhaimi now finds himself the sole parent to his own son and his late wife’s three children, including one with HIV. SOUNDBITE (Bahasa Malay )Suhaimi, HIV-infected father: “I am the father. I am the mother. It’s not easy to do this. In the morning, I need to prepare their breakfast, then I need to go to work.” Suhaimi also has HIV. Ina was his second wife – a woman he met while working for an HIV/AIDS support group. Suhaimi’s first wife died in 2002. It was then he learned she’d been HIV-positive, and that he was also infected. At the time, he was hooked on heroin and didn’t even know he’d picked up the virus from shared needles. SOUNDBITE (Bahasa Malay) Suhaimi, HIV-infected father: “When I was taking drugs, we were a family but it was incomplete. The love wasn’t there. I shirked my responsibilities. I didn’t carry out my responsibilities for my child’s basic needs. Can you imagine, my son is sitting in front of me and in front of my son I’m shooting drugs?” Injecting drug users are overwhelmingly the largest contributor to the spread of HIV and AIDS in Malaysia, accounting for three quarters of all cases in the country. They bear a double stigma. Not only dismissed as addicts or criminals, they and their children are shunned by society, and often their own families. With few options for assistance, they are left to fight their illness alone. Shah believes it’s time for this to change. He was once a drug addict. Now he volunteers at a drop-in centre in Kuala Lumpur, offering support for homeless drug users. He is worried that the more society abandons infected addicts, the heavier a toll it will take on children. SOUNBITE (Bhasa Malay) Shah, Outreach Coordinator for drug users: “I feel that children suffer the most in the equation of HIV/AIDS and drugs. Children lose their parents. They cry, they are depressed. They see their parents suffer and then die. It is important for us to support the children by supporting their parents, so that children can grow up in the presence of their mothers and fathers and have a normal childhood.” Suhaimi hopes his difficult experience can help others stuck in similar circumstances. He now works for Positive Living, a network devoted to assisting HIV-positive people. He feels his mission is to make sure his children can enjoy a normal life. A simple hope in a family for whom what others take for granted seems like a dream. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this is Steve Nettleton reporting for UNICEF television. Unite for children.
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