Child’s Play, short movie about living with HIV in Cambodia

Written by on February 9, 2010 in Video with 1 Comment

Last September I went to Cambodia with a group of Japanese volunteers, and during our time at Wat Opot I made this short movie. All the actors are kids, mostly orphaned by AIDS (having lost one or both parents).

It’s a movie about friendship and living with HIV. There is a worldwide fear of HIV, but that fear is intensified in cultures with relatively little formal education or medical awareness. When Cambodians were dying by the thousands of AIDS, their own families cast them out, hospitals wouldn’t receive them, and even crematoriums were afraid to burn their bodies for fear that workers might be infected by the smoke.

That was three years ago. Not surprisingly, people living with HIV are still stigmatized in Cambodia.

About 20 percent of the kids at Wat Opot are living with HIV. They have worked hard with the surrounding community to dispel their fears. All the kids at Wat Opot attend the nearby public schools, and they interact freely with kids in the community. That isn’t to say all the fears and stigmas have gone away, but the situation is much better than before. The director wrote the short story that this movie is based …

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A child living with HIV-AIDS gets treatment

Written by on September 29, 2009 in Photo Posts, Photos and Stories in Progress with 3 Comments

A child living with HIV-AIDS

Did you know more than 300,000 children will likely die of AIDS this year, and more than 2 million will be infected? Most of the deaths will be in Africa. The most important task ahead is to stop new infections, which is much more cheaply done than treating existing ones. Now some would argue that treatment is simply too expensive, relative to prevention which is still lacking (implying that we should let tens of millions of infected poor people die and spend the money on prevention instead). Although I get this in economic terms, I know too many specific children and adults who would probably die if that were the case. I also think the money spent on overhead (doctors, clinics, developing and delivering medicine, etc.) will have many lasting benefits that need to be taken into account.

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When babies die

Written by on February 21, 2009 in Photo Posts, Photos and Stories in Progress with 14 Comments

A baby girl died almost two weeks ago. She survived for two months longer than her mother. Now there are three sisters remaining, all healthy and confused, and a father who is HIV positive but doing well with medication. She was known affectionately as Baby Peak.

The day before she died I held her for awhile so her sister could have a break to play. An eleven year old girl who cared for her dying mother, caring for her dying sister, just wanted to cut and glue paper with the other kids. I did ask her to stop and bring a bottle, which she did, and then I fed Baby Peak. She burped contentedly and fell asleep on my lap. I thought, “Maybe if we all work together we can save her.” She had a will to live. She ate well.

Baby Peak and her sister

She died of AIDS. Technically, she died of some unknown illness. She had started on ARV drugs (that fight HIV), but something already had her in its grip too strongly for any drugs to release her. The local hospital had given up and sent her to the orphanage. There was hope but not much.…

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