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2007.05.22
* UNICEF: Cambodian children with HIV meet and play at ‘Friends Helping Friends’ * 01 May 2007 At the Referral Hospital in Svay Rieng Cambodia more than 70 children living with HIV have come for the monthly Friends Helping Friends session. Among them is 11 year old Bantun (not his real name). Both of Bantun's parents died of AIDS. His twin brother and elder sister are HIV negative. Together they live with their aunt Neang. During the session, staff gives hygiene and nutrition advice. Neang receives Bantun's next course of anti-retro viral drugs and Bantun also undergoes a medical check up. But Friends Helping Friends is more than just about seeing doctors and receiving HIV treatment. Children living with HIV meet and play together. And like Bantun and Neang everyone has the opportunity to socialize over lunch. SOUNDBITE (English) Haritiana Rakotomamonjy, UNICEF Cambodia Head of Section HIV/AIDS "When they come to a group like Friends Helping Friends, they can find and meet with other families that share the same problems with themselves and who also share the same everyday challenges. So it's really important for them to see that they're not alone and they have a support network - not only at the health facility but also in their communities." There are an estimated 12-thousand children in Cambodia living with HIV. As a guardian, Bantun's Aunt Neang says she greatly values the support she receives from other people affected by HIV/AIDS. SOUNDBITE (Khmer) Neang, Aunt "It's good because children can meet children, guardians and parents can meet each other and there's the chance to talk about our lives, health and living conditions." More than 100 children participate in Svay Rieng's Friends Helping Friends programme. Transport costs to and from the clinic are provided by UNICEF. This has encouraged more HIV positive mothers to bring their children in for an HIV test - a vital step to prevent further infection. For Bantun living with HIV has meant dealing with regular bouts of diarrhoea and skin rashes. Bantun says he doesn't mind so much taking the anti-retroviral drugs everyday and he'd like to become a teacher in the future. Together with a caring family, programmes such as Friends Helping Friends will see orphans like Bantun living with HIV...and yet fulfilling their dreams.
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