Wat Phrabat Nampu, the Sanctuary for HIV Patients

Wat Phrabat Nampu

Wat Phrabat Nampu, the Sanctuary for HIV Patients

1 December marks World AIDS Day, a day when world wide campaigns are launched to promote awareness in prevention against AIDS/HIV, while trying to reduce the stigma often associated with HIV infected patients. Memorials for those who died of the pandemic are also observed. Apart from reducing the number of HIV patients, many organizations and agencies also try to help those people suffering from the disease, by enabling them to survive and have ordinary lives similar to others. In Thailand, Wat Phrabat Nampu is one of them.

Wat Phrabat Nampu is located in the central province of Lop Buri. The temple has started to cure and rehabilitate HIV infected patients since 1992. The operation of the temple is divided into mainly two parts, namely a section which cares for HIV infected patients and a nursery for children left orphaned by HIV parents. Wat Phrabat Nampu has been sponsored by the public and private sectors as well as other donors to shoulder an approximate monthly expenditure of four million THB for food, medication, cremation, and other operational expenses. At present international volunteers from many countries, especially Japan and the United States are taking turns in working in the temple to help in the cause.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with NNT, Incumbent Abbot of Wat Phrabat Nampu, Phra Udom Prachatorn, remarked that society nowadays had more acceptance towards HIV infected people. In the past, they were abandoned by their own families and shunned by the world. He however admitted that some discrimination against HIV infected people persisted but it was greatly reduced. As noted by Phra Udom Prachatorn, it is a great merit to nourish one person since these patients would have committed suicide if they did not come to Wat Phrabat Nampu.

According to the abbot, the overall situation of HIV/AIDS in Thailand is better, and the fatality rate from the pandemic has reduced. Nevertheless, he admitted that disease control remained difficult, especially with groups at risk or teenagers aged 13 to 16 years old. He said campaigns and the amount of publicity they received did not occur on a continuous basis; for example, the campaign that was stressed before World AIDS Day was quickly forgotten after the event. The government spends an annual budget of about 2-3 billion THB to cure HIV/AIDS patients. Phra Udom Prachatorn hence viewed that the public sector would not need to spend such a high amount if there was enough publicity to create awareness among people to control the spread of the virus.

HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most deadly pandemics. Vast amounts of assistance given by benevolent donors and organizations will not be able to cure and eradicate the disease out of the world if the virus spread is not controlled. Prevention is indeed better than cure, and society has often been repeatedly educated and informed about this issue. If all the attempts are not heeded, hundreds of Wat Phrabat Nampu or other sanctuaries will certainly not be adequate to accommodate all HIV patients and children left orphaned by HIV infected parents. (NNT)