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World AIDS Day: Letter from Nualchan

No one wants to have HIV. It is a no-choice situation of an adolescent like Nualchan*, a 19-year-old teenager who has lived with the virus since she was born.

Despite the fact that all Thais can enjoy their rights to health and access to anti-retroviral medication for free, Nualchan remains facing with inevitable prejudice violating other basic rights of hers.Nualchan’s story is an evidence to justify that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV are existing in the Thai society, not even in academic institutions. She is asking for nothing more than merely basic rights that all human being legitimately and equally deserve.

On occasion of the World AIDS Day, Nualchan wants to send her message of prejudice concerns to the society and the policy makers demanding the government’s accountability to ensure that their basic rights, in particular right to education of people living with HIV, are protected and respected. And, here is her letter.Hopefully, one day her unheard voice will be listened and bring changes to her and her friends’ better quality of lives.

Letter from Nualchan* (translated from Thai language**) “I’m a teenager who has had HIV since I was young, and this is my story I want somebody to listen.”

I applied for an undergraduate programme at a public university in March this year. On the exam day, lots of people came from different provinces to compete along with me. The exam went well because I worked hard to prepare for it. This major is what I really want to study [the teenager does not want to mention to protect herself from adverse consequence that may happen to her] . It’s my dream and my hope, and I poured my heart into it. As a teenager with HIV, going to undergraduate study when discrimination still exist in the society is so hard, not to mention the worries and concerns that put the weight on our shoulders.

The result was announced in the afternoon. I passed the written exam! I was so happy but still worried. I went into the interview with a very proud and happy face. The interview also went well. But just before I was about to leave, the college teacher [who interviewed her] handed me a leaflet listing the required documents I have to bring with me on the admission day. As I was glancing through the list, one detail struck me and took my breath away: “HIV test result”. What! Why? Why this had to happen to me? My worst fear really happened.I asked the teacher if it meant that I couldn’t study this major if I were HIV positive. The answer ‘No, you couldn’t’ shocked me. My dream and my hope collapsed. How could I bring the HIV test result when it says ‘positive’?

This life is totally unfair! Growing up having HIV is hard enough, being looked at as ‘problems’, and now I can’t continue my study. I don’t understand what else the society wants from me when it’s already hurting and crushing me to the ground.I see many organisations trying to help children with HIV and their families, including their, education, health, and socio-psychology. I don’t know why they can’t help me with this?

I was born with HIV, but it doesn’t mean that I asked for it. Now I’m 19. People celebrate the World AIDS Days every year, but a teenager with HIV like me never get anything out of this day. It’s all about good ‘image’ and publicity for the adults. Can I ask for one thing this year? An opportunity to get full access to education, with no discrimination and double standard because of HIV, and I really hope I will get this opportunity in this life.I want to contribute to the society. I want to do good things to pay back to Thailand for giving me a place to stand. But now the society is hurting me, pushing problems to me and labelling them as ‘problems of kids with HIV’. That’s not true!! I was just born with HIV and tens of problems were already in front of me. I don’t understand why are they are drowning me when I can’t swim?

I just want to have an education opportunity, like everybody else. I want a future, and I want to help others. If you give me a chance to use my abilities, everyone would know that “kids with HIV are not a problem, but they are working to solve problems”. I just want every right that should belong to me and all my friends.

Now I am doing undergraduate study in another state university [where the HIV test paper is not required]. Don’t ask how I got in, it’s purely because of my ability. My parents passed away when I was a young so I have been working to support myself all along, fighting alone, and on top of it, having HIV. I am happy with my fight, and I don’t want my friends to face the same unfortunate fate.

Today, there are many more adolescents with HIV going towards undergraduate study, and they are going to have the same problem as I had. I’m standing by my friends to answer questions about undergraduate study. I don’t know what the adults are thinking about us. If the right to higher education depends on the virus known as HIV, I will give up my fight, because I wouldn’t be able to get it out of my body unless I die with it. I don’t regret if I have to die, but I would regret that I wouldn’t be able to help my family, friends, and society that I love.

*Name mentioned here is fictitious.

**The view expressed here is personal and not necessarily reflect the views of Oxfam

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