Wednesday, May 6, 2015

AIDS Work In Korea

A Columban Sister tells her readers in her Peace Weekly column how she got involved in the work with HIV/AIDS patients. She was approached by an HIV positive individual who crying: "Sister, I have no place to go, I have AIDS  you are the only one I can approach."

She listened to his story and was greatly moved. She had no funds so went to Cardinal Kim of Seoul and received help and that is the start of the first shelter for those with AIDS. She continued to receive help for her work.

She writes that more than having the disease the worst is being shunned and stigmatized which gives more pain than than the body affliction. We have to do all we can, she says, to alleviate this loneliness and alienation. They do not  have a positive view of the world. They are feared by many of the citizens which destroys the quality of life of those diagnosed as HIV positive. HIV is not spread by day-to-day contact with those with the virus-- a well know fact.

One of the patients: "Even those who I trusted and believed, have this feeling towards me  and because of me when I think of the pain of my family all I  want to do is hide and have nothing to do with the world."

In Korea when you have a disease make it known, is a proverb, not true with AIDS. All you can do is keep silence, you become a displaced person.The prejudice is still strong in Korea which makes the work of the Columban Sister difficult, and this can be seen by not wanting her picture accompanying her column, but only a blurred drawing.

On this blog in 2009, mention was made of an editorial in the Peace Weekly  which said ignorance and misunderstanding, causes a deep rooted prejudice in Korean society, making it impossible even for a person diagnosed as HIV (a person with the virus but not AIDS) to function in society. This means that it remains hidden and does not get the care that will prevent more cases. The facts are a person with the disease, with periodic check ups, and treatment can function in society; that is not the case today in Korea.

For ten years now the Church has with little publicity been involved in the care of AIDS patients. It started when there was a great deal of fear with anything to do with AIDS. There is still a great deal of misunderstanding about AIDS. This is the reason that the Church had difficulty publicizing the work with the sick. It is estimated that there are about 6000 people infected with the disease in Korea. Today it would be higher.

The Church will now take a more active part in trying to change the climate that surrounds the word AIDS. Someone has been put in charge of the Red Ribbon Movement which will incorporate the present works of the Church and look for government help in the future. 

Korea has a great deal to overcome for the proper understanding of what AIDS is all about but has made big changes in its approach. The Church also will be more involved in educational programs, publicity and helping those who have the virus, to function in society. The number of those committing suicide on knowledge of having the virus is extremely high and the reason is that they are treated like those with leprosy in the time of Jesus. There is a hope that the efforts of the Church will be successful.The above words were  written in 2009 and there has been some change but with the absence of the picture of the sister, shows she still has to be circumspect about her work within society.