Haiphong, which in Vietnamese means “coastal defense” has been for the last centuries a primary port city and one of the major business centers in Vietnam.
A city of trades and transit, buzzing life and possibilities.
It was probably the unstable and various nature of the town that drove its most vulnerable and unprepared citizens through disruptive transgression, drug addiction and prostitution which then led to HIV spreading.
This is Vietnam, where healthcare is fully funded by the State, for all citizen since their birth, covering 100% of the costs for both assistance and medicine.
What is the problem then?
Surely it’s not fun being infected with HIV, but beyond all doubt it would be worse in Zimbabwe, Uganda, etc. where health care is inadequate and extremely expensive.
But in Vietnam deviance itself is punished!
In a country ruled by an ever-presented State with a strict set of rules, those who live beyond the limit can only become outcasts.
Here, identified as drug addicts are removed from their families with or without consent and “sent” to rehabilitation camps (that nearly never rehabilitate)
What happens to those who are innocent victims of this deviance?
What happens to the wives or the children of these “patients” or to those families (a small percentage) that found themselves infected after the husbands had intercourses with prostitutes?
The families hide their state of health, they do not want to show their shame and weakness to their neighbors, relatives, friends or to the authorities, thus making it impossible to get medical help.
I visited these houses, the houses “of shame”.
Now that the approach to HIV infection is finally changing, thanks to the help of CESVI, an Italian NGO, patients do not feel like burdens of society.
They are learning to forgive themselves and their relatives and are asking for a second chance.They have stopped hiding and have started identifying themselves as patients with state health care. Since then they have had free access to tests, medical examinations and medicines…The therapy works and their life expectation and wellbeing has increased significantly, but there’s more to it.
By now a community has been created, where people do not feel alone, deserted and marginalized by society any more.
Life has a different meaning and even those who are sick can regain possession of the right to hope and engage in building a better future, with a smile on their lips and the certainty of never being left alone again.
All pictures were taken inside the person’s home, trying to capture some of his own essence and of his life, through his environment and the objects that surround him.