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Vulnerable populations in Thailand: giving voice to women living with HIV/AIDS.

  • Author(s): Nyamathi, A
  • Covington, C
  • Mutere, M
  • et al.

Thailand was the first Asian country hit by the AIDS epidemic, and in the 1990s reported the fastest spread of HIV/AIDS in the world. According to Thailand's Ministry of Public Health, women, primarily between the child-bearing ages of 15 and 49, are increasingly becoming infected with HIV. A number of factors contribute to the increasing AIDS epidemic, including the rise of the commercial sex industry in Thailand; social disparities that have existed between men and women throughout Thailand's history; and the gender-expectations faced by Thai women toward family and society. Thailand enjoys one of the oldest, reputedly successful primary health care delivery systems in the world; one that relies on community health workers to reach the most rural of populations. In the mid-1990s, day care centers were established at district hospitals by the Thai government to provide medical, psychological, and social care to people living with HIV/AIDS (PWA). Buddhist temples also provide a source of alternative care for PWAs. However, the AIDS policy of the Thai government relies on families to care for the country's sick. Although poor women are a vulnerable population in Thailand, they are changing the paradigm of AIDS stigma while providing a significant cost-savings to the Thai government in their caregiving activities. Based on existing nursing studies on Thailand, this chapter gives voice to poor Thai women living with HIV/AIDS, and examines how they make sense of their gendered contract with society and religion while being HIV/AIDS caregivers, patients, or both.

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