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Successful Loy Krathong Celebration

This is a letter of appreciation to members of the
Club Chiang Mai who donated money to support volunteer
participants who walked in the Loy Krathong parade.

November 14, 1998
Dear CC Members.

As manager of the Sangha Metta Project, I would, on behalf of all the HIV+ people who took part in the Loy Krathong parade, like to thank you for your kind contribution which was greatly instrumental to the success of our participation.

The Loy Krathong Parade has now passed and the reception given by the spectators made all the time and effort more than worthwhile. The entire route was lined on both sides with thousands of people. A recorded message announced that the passing float represented the Chiang Mai Network of People Living with HIV+ that all the participants were HIV+, as was the beauty queen who looked absolutely stunning. Applause erupted spontaneously at spots along the way and cameras flashed nonstop. One of the most moving moments occurred when a man stepped out of the crowd, declared that he was HIV+, and asked if he could join the procession. Participants broke their ranks, mingled with the spectators, handed out condoms and gave information on living with HIV was well as addresses for further information. At the end, the participants received a special commendation award from the judges. Spirits were raised higher than the heavens on that night, and years of prejudice and discrimination were washed away by the sea of enthusiasm, More was achieved in the space of 3-4 hours than has been achieved in years. You all have just reason to feel proud of the contribution you made. Thank you.

May I take this opportunity to bring you up to date on the HIV/AIDS situation in Thailand. Sentinel surveillance documented in the hardest hit areas throughout Thailand reveal that the number of people living with HIV could be as high as 1.5 million, perhaps even more. Of that figure, about 10% have developed full blown AIDS. Since the epidemic first hit Thailand in the early 80s, an estimated 270,000 people have already died of AIDS- related illnesses. There are approximately 50,000 children orphaned by AIDS and the number threatens to increase. Statistics in northern Thailand show a decline in the number of new infections, but an increase in the number of people becoming symptomatic . In other regions of the country, particularly the northeast and the central regions, the number of new infections is increasing. In those areas, the victims are housewives and new born babies. AZT trials on HIV+ pregnant women have shown that the rate of mother-child transmission can be reduced from around 33% to around 13%. Clinical care is very costly, though. Stigma and discrimination still remain a very serious factor in handling the socioeconomic impacts of the epidemic. This stigma still causes schools (in some areas) to close their doors on innocent children, employers to stamp rejected on applications by HIV+ people, and some people to choose suicide as a way out. Efforts are being made to educate the public on acceptance and living with HIV. A lot of work still needs to be done, though, I have been invited to give a talk on "The Role of Buddhist Monks in HIV/AIDS Management: at the non-Formal Northern Thai Group on Tuesday, December 8, 1998 at the Alliance Francaise at 7.30 pm. Please feel welcome to come along and I will be happy to answer any questions you might like to ask on that night.

Once again thank you for all your kind help and I hope we have a chance to work together again in the future, for the benefit of all those who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS - and for the benefit of their children.

Laurie Maund
Project Manager
Sangha Metta Project

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