HIV Support & Treatment: Healthy Living Helping Society
HLHS is a drop-in and outreach centre supporting HIV-positive patients in the northern suburbs of Yangon, operating out of rooms in the Marga Monastery of North Okalappa. Its patients include members of the gay and transgender communities, widows who contracted HIV from their husbands, and young children. Run by Dr Myint Maw (pictured, third from the right) the well-known counselling and treatment service has run for some years but is in need of sustained funding and investment to enable it to deliver its services more consistently.
It urgently requires access to medicines to treat OIDs (opportunistic infectious diseases) and financial support to enhance its community outreach work. In 2015 we donated funds to rebuild its vocational training wing, and we match-fund its operational costs with fellow charity Community Partners International. HLHS is a highly effective, replicable model with the ability to reach hundreds of patients in a densely populated part of Yangon. With your support, we'd like to trial its structure in other regions of Myanmar. Our blogpost about the programme can be read here.
UPDATE - AUGUST 2015
In June 2015, Healthy Living Helping Society completed the reconstruction of their vocational training centre which lay in ruin following the devastating Cyclone Nargis which hit Yangon in 2008. Thanks to our generous donors and our fundraising initiatives, we were able to provide financial backing for the project.
Constructed with an iron frame and plasterboard walls, the new centre has been built to withstand torrential monsoon downpours. It provides a dry, airy, multi-purpose space that can be used to hold training sessions, administer OID medicines to HIV sufferers, and conduct education sessions to prevent the further spread of HIV.
Before the reconstruction HLHS were unable to find a space to host their vocational training programmes, relying on a dingy and damp classroom within the monastery which was often unavailable. Now they hold regular classes three times a week during their six week vocational hair and make-up programme.
Dr Myint Maw will take ten new trainees affected by HIV for each course rotation, after which they can work in local beauty parlours or establish their own. With a sustainable income, Dr Myint Maw hopes that they will be less dependent on HLHS to provide nutritional support and medicines, and can help others in need.
Trainer - KO ZAW
Ko Zaw cuts an imposing figure inside the new HLHS vocational training facility, sitting in front of her ten trainees as they gather around a central table. Her sharp eyes watch intently as they rush to apply make-up on their peers. Occasionally she leans in and gives a helping hand, guiding her students gently as they apply mascara or eye shadow.
Ko has over 15 years experience teaching hair-dressing and make-up application. She learned her trade in Thailand, where she lived for 10 years before returning to Myanmar five years ago. Upon her arrival back in Yangon she began to work with Dr Myint Maw whom she first met in Thailand at an MSM conference.
Trainee - NI NI WAI
Ni Ni Wai has just begun the basic hair-dressing and make-up course at HLHS under the experienced tutelage of Ko Zaw. When The Angus McDonald Trust visited HLHS in August, Ni was practicing her skills on another trainee, Aung Aung. The trainees were racing to see who could finish applying make-up the fastest. Clearly wanting to impress Ko, Ni worked at a frantic pace, smiling in her work but often shooting competitive glances across the table to her peers.
After completing the six-week course Ni hopes to open her own beauty parlour in a neighbouring township. The money she makes will go towards caring for her 5-year-old child, also afflicted by HIV. As a former sex worker and HIV sufferer Ni faces significant community stigma but Dr Myint Maw and the vocational centre have provided her with both a safe space to learn, and the means to earn a sustainable income.
Healthy Living Helping Society urgently needs your support! You can donate, and find out more about the project costs, here: