World AIDS Day may already have passed, yet the efforts of Maryknoll Sisters who care for AIDS patients live on. In Myanmar’s remote mountains, AIDS victims and their families make up the ministry of Sister Mary Grenough.
Late last year, Sister Mary was busy conducting a health workshop in the Myanmar city of Mandalay. Being able to travel throughout Myanmar is key.
Sister Mary’s program, made possible by the contributions of Maryknoll donors and sponsors, enable people on the ground to get life-saving information into the hands of AIDS patients and caregivers, especially those in the remote areas of Myanmar’s mountains, where doing so can be a challenge.
“We need support groups here because the discrimination based on ignorance, fear, and negative judgment of those who are HIV-positive is so strong,” Sister Mary said.
Many Burmese people even refuse to read materials about HIV/AIDS for fear that others might think they have the disease. Discrimination keeps people from getting tested.
Sister Mary started the Myanmar Catholic HIV/AIDS Network to forge a connection among the country’s many AIDS patients. But reaching the country’s churches and social organizations with facts about AIDS can be hard if they’re not used to welcoming people with the disease. The group is slowly (but surely) changing Myanmar’s timeworn attitudes.
In fact, Sister Mary, a trained nurse from Kentucky, just hired someone to help with the network’s latest effort: starting support groups for AIDS patients in Yangon’s Catholic community. Elizabeth was hired for the job as a “part-time volunteer” because she is uniquely qualified for the work. Elizabeth is HIV-positive.
Elizabeth’s husband died three years after they were married. He had AIDS and then passed it on to Elizabeth, who’s left with supporting a 12-year-old son. Meanwhile, Sister Mary’s group can only pay Elizabeth for two days of work per week, for which she’ll be paid less than $70 a month.
“We hope Elizabeth can help us to start support groups in the Yangon catholic community,” said Sister Mary. “She has excellent experiential knowledge of what it means to be HIV-positive and knows people and groups.”
Sister Mary is seeking your help so Myanmar’s AIDS victims can get the support they need. “People can’t even afford transportation to come to a meeting, food to serve during the meeting, and funds to start their own group activities, some of which would be income-generating projects.”
Learn what else Maryknoll Sisters are doing to help AIDS victims through Maryknoll’s Office for Global Concerns and find more reasons to support our work, both financially and in prayer.