What is so unique about BaanGerda?
BaanGerda is the only place in Thailand that offers a family environment for the care of HIV orphans. We have 85 children being raised in 8 families, each with their own home. Some of the foster parents are HIV+, and care for the children as they would their own. This allows them to give the love and support needed and to develop strong bonds that can't be found in state orphanages.
How do children arrive at BaanGerda?
When we first started in 2001, we accepted HIV-infected or AIDS-sick children from a temple hospice. Later, more and more children were brought to us through word of mouth.
Why have so many children arrived in such a poor state of health?
The majority of children that come to BaanGerda were not taking ARV treatment. The lack of medicine meant that their immune systems became weakened and they developed AIDS related illnesses.
How did these children become HIV infected?
Most of the parents of the children at BaanGerda were infected with HIV. The disease was passed to them through pregnancy, and when they were born they were already HIV positive. The parents subsequently died from an AIDS related illness. Between 20-30% of babies born to HIV positive mothers who have no prenatal care and no antiviral therapy will be born HIV positive.
Are the children aware of their HIV status and the special responsibility they have to society?
Yes. We talk to them about HIV and how to prevent it spreading, as soon as they are old enough to understand.
How much does treatment cost?
The economic problems for orphans are considerable because of the
AIDS-related deaths of family members and relatives. First-line antiretroviral drugs currently cost $25 per child per month. If they develop resistance to these they need to take second-line drugs which cost $200. At BaanGerda, we currently have 19 children who take second-line drugs. We also have one child who does not need to take any medication.
Why do you spend money on musical instruments and play areas when there are children elsewhere who need help?
We don't. All of our monies are used for basic necessities such as medical care, accommodation and food. However, we do occasionally receive gifts and donations for certain projects or activities. We believe that providing life-saving medication is of limited benefit unless we can also offer opportunity, hope and a chance for a normal life. These extra gifts are always welcome and contribute enormously to the well-being and happiness of the children.
Isn't it going to be difficult for the children to integrate back into society?
We are aware that for children living in this special environment, it could make it difficult for them to adjust back to normal society. There is still alot of prejudice and stigma for those living with HIV, so we must educate and support them to cope with these challenges. It is our hope that the children will be accepted into university or further education. We will also provide skills training to help boost their chances of finding work.
Can I visit BaanGerda and is it safe to do so?
Yes, it is absolutely safe to visit. If you are interested, please contact us to make arrangements.
Can they go to school and hold jobs?
Children with HIV who receive proper care and the right medical treatment have the same potential as anyone else. All of our children attend a nearby school, and we hope they will continue their education afterwards. We will help them to find work and encourage them to build their own lives. Whatever happens, BaanGerda will always be their home should they need it.
When they grow up, can they get married and have children?
If they decide to have children, there are ways that can prevent the child from being born with HIV. Currently, the risk of a mother passing HIV on to her infant can be decreased to less than 1-2% with proper planning and treatment.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV and AIDS are simply two different stages of the same disease. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system and damages it. A person is said to be HIV positive if that person is infected with the virus HIV. The deterioration and destruction of the immune system eventually leads to AIDS, and this is when people become susceptible to other illnesses. In short, HIV is the virus, and AIDS is the disease that it causes. Any person who has HIV, whether the person is sick with AIDS or not, can pass the virus on to other people.
How long can someone with HIV expect to live?
Exactly how HIV will affect a person’s life span is still unknown; however, since the introduction of effective treatments, there has been a decrease in HIV-related illnesses and increased life expectancy. Some people have been living with the virus for over 20 years. If medications are taken correctly, they can help maintain a healthy life for many years. It is hoped that eventually a cure will be found. In that respect, we consider BaanGerda to have a certain ‘time bridging’ function.
How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?
This varies considerably from person to person and depends on several factors including medication and nutrition. During this stage, a person may have no symptoms and may not be sick at all. Experts are unsure why some people can live symptom free for so long. A Thai working group in 2001 found that, without treatment, approximately 15-20% of children infected with HIV progress very rapidly towards AIDS and die within a few years. Medications can prevent children with HIV from developing AIDS.
How is it treated?
There are many different drugs that are used to slow the damaging effects of HIV. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs slow down the replication of the virus and the destruction of the immune system. However, they do not totally rid the body of the virus. There is no drug that can vaccinate you against HIV or cure HIV. It's also believed that living a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet can help.
Can I tell from looking at a person if they have HIV?
Most of time, there is no way of telling if someone has HIV by looking at them. However, if an infected person is not cared for and becomes sick, they may look small and thin and have skin diseases or other illnesses.