By: UCAN Thomas Ora, Dili – Timor (SSpS sisters)
The National Commission of HIV/ AIDS, in Timor-Leste began to emerge even before independence, starting with only a few cases. The number, however, has increased every year. As the commission reported last year, in the past 13 years more than 600 cases were discovered, of which 29% were young people aged 15-24, 59% were people aged 25-44 and 9 % were people aged 45 years and older. The remaining percentages are children aged 14 years and younger. However, these numbers are limited to data from hospitals and clinics. The HIV in Timor-Leste is like the tip of an iceberg, which will be a huge problem later if it’s not handled properly.
The government continues to fight the spread of HIV and every year it allocates about US $600,000 to clinics and groups dealing with treatment. The people living with HIV face discrimination in the family and society. The manager of Dili Rest Home (a house for people with HIV/AIDS), Sister Prisca dos Santos, SSpS said “since 2011, the center has not only provided service for patients but also counseling for the families. We only allow one person in the family to know about the sickness of our patients and she/ he will continuously monitor our patient. “Because if many people know, they will be ousted from the community,” said Sister Dos Santos. Some female patients helped by the center have been living with HIV for many years and are actively working in shops, restaurants, and are housewives, while male patients work as drivers and labourers.
Since its establishment six years ago, Dili Rest Home has helped more than 500 people, not only giving them medicines but also teaching them basic skills such as sewing, making herbal medicines and baking cakes. The result of their labour is sold to the public and the money is given to them to pay for transport to clinics or to buy daily needs at home.” With this kind of help we try to restore their self- esteem,” Sister Dos Santos said.