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Hai Oanh and her journey against HIV/AIDS
Hai Oanh and her journey against HIV/AIDS

City Women's Newspaper - Simplicity in yellow dress, short hair, soft voice, she appeared in the ceremony announcing the cooperation of Center for Community Initiatives and Community Development (SCDI) HIV/AIDS (AIDS Alliance).

Khuat Thi Hai Oanh possesses a gentle and composed demeanor. Few would guess that this woman leads the Vietnam Cooperation Forum for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control (VCSPA), a network of over 200 groups spanning across Vietnam. In 2009, she became the sole Vietnamese representative honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Photo: Ms. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh (far left) with the research team on Women who inject drugs.

Hai Oanh's path, alongside SCDI, began in the 1990s, driven by a desire to support those living with HIV. Years of dedication and her dream of establishing an impactful organization culminated in receiving the Young Global Leaders award, granting her the confidence to take decisive action.

In non-profit sector, SCDI is as youthful as the colleagues who work there. Step inside, and you'll find the warmth of a family. Differences are respected, and their leader is affectionately addressed as "leader" with a playful twist – "Xì Trum" in Vietnamese. In one corner, international researchers analyze data, while partners express satisfaction with SCDI's work. Laughter fills the air as team members – drug users and HIV-positive individuals themselves – exude confidence and joy. They share not just technical support and information, but also anxieties they couldn't voice elsewhere, finding solace in the extended SCDI family.

SCDI's focus extends beyond physical well-being, prioritizing the mental health of drug users and HIV-positive individuals. From a handful of groups, they've established over 200 across 40 provinces, all built on voluntary participation. Hai Oanh herself remembers a visit to Quan Lan Island, where she met an HIV-positive couple. The husband began treatment thanks to affordable medication provided by SCDI's partner, the Bright Future Network. He might not have survived otherwise, the couple confided, unaware they were speaking to the network's director. Sharing in their relief exemplifies Hai Oanh's quiet fulfillment in supporting those in need.

However, the fight against HIV/AIDS transcends medical advancements. Stigma persists, a persistent shadow over the lives of affected individuals. This reality significantly shapes Hai Oanh's work.

Together with her team, she developed long-term psychological support programs for hospitalized patients. The "Living with HIV" magazine, launched in 2007, provided a platform for sharing experiences and hope. Its initial 2,000 copies distributed in 2007 had grown to 12,000 by 2012, demonstrating its impact on mental well-being. Today, radio broadcasts on New Sun Radio channel further expand their reach.

Though SCDI entered the field later, their excellence attracted the International HIV/AIDS Alliance for cooperation, selecting them as their sole Vietnamese partner. This two-year partnership requires meeting 365 additional criteria, marking a new chapter for Hai Oanh and SCDI.

Khuat Thi Hai Oanh's story is one of gentle strength, unwavering dedication, and the power of collaboration. With SCDI, she continues to pave the way for a future where every life affected by HIV/AIDS is valued and supported.

Hương An

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