HIV Testing in Red Light District Impacts The Lives of Two Deaf Women
Eden started it’s work in Myanmar in 2013 and launched it’s first mobile HIV clinic in the beginning of 2016. Each week, the mobile clinic team goes into the red light district and provides free HIV testing and support services.
In the year since its inception, the Eden mobile clinic has provided life- saving HIV testing and support services to approximately 420 women and men, with 28% testing positive for HIV.
Being on outreach in this capacity not only allows us to provide life-saving services, it gives us an opportunity to connect with people we may not otherwise reach. Because of the services we provide, pimps trust us enough to allow the young girls and women to freely enter for HIV testing, and have even requested it for themselves from time to time.
During outreach with the mobile clinic, we provide a safe, secure, and private space for each individual. Typically, one or two women are allowed in the van at a time. Following each test, there is a 15-minute wait for the results. It's during this precious window of time that our team members are able to connect more personally with each woman. We learn more about her story and how she came into the red light district. We also tell her about Eden's services, ask her if she wants to get out, and explain how she can find us if and when she does get out.
Each week brings a variety of people and challenges to our mobile outreach team. On one recent outing, our team was approached by two deaf women. Communication was very difficult, but when the team understood that the women wanted HIV testing, they got them in immediately. Both women tested positive for HIV.
Fortunately, their stories didn't end there. The following day, the women went to our center and received further information and counseling. Eden staff members were also able to connect them with HIV service providers so they could access life-saving antivirals.
From HIV infection to diagnosis, a young woman can infect 30 to 60 men with HIV. Eden is committed to providing testing, information, and access to services that will greatly reduce continued transmission, as well as improve quality of life.
Sadly, the women had to leave our center when their pimps called them back. But two women who were unknowingly infected with HIV, now have the knowledge and access to medications that will improve their quality of life and slow down further transmission. Two women who were stuck in the darkness of sex-trafficking with no knowledge of options outside of that world, now know about Eden, who we are, where we are, and how we can help them should they return.