Nguyen Van Quang, 70, and Vu Thi Thu, 68, Vietnam

Hearing Nguyen Van Quang, 70, talk about his wife Vu Thi Thu, 68, is heart warming to say the least. Van Quang and Thi Tu care for their son who is HIV positive Nguyen Van Quang, 70, and his wife Vu Thi Thu, 68, care for one of their sons who is HIV positive. (c) Jude Escribano/HelpAge International

He said: "My wife is my best friend. I can‘t find anyone like her.  She is one of a kind. When I was a young man, I was a singer. All the ladies would hear my music and would want to kiss me but I would say no because she was the only one for me."

Anyone would think they had a charmed life. But Quang and Thu have not always been so lucky. They had ten children. They cared for one son, who died of an AIDS-related illness. They were left to bring up their two grand-daughters and have looked after them for the past 14 years. One is now 19 years old, and works in a factory, the other is 17. 

Thu and Quang also look after another son, who is 26 years old and HIV positive. Like his brother, he became HIV positive through unsafe intravenous drug use.

Stressed and anxious

"When I first found out that my son was an addict and was HIV positive, I was very stressed. My first son had already died of AIDS and the thought of the second one also being infected made me very anxious," said Thu.

Since 2005 HelpAge International has worked with the Vietnam Women's Union (VWU) and other local partners to build self-help clubs for people affected by HIV and AIDS.

Quang and Thu have received help through their local Intergenerational Self-Help Club (ISHC). Quang was given a loan, with which he bought cows, pigs and ducks. Now he and his wife can earn a living and continue to support their family.

"My wife and I take care of these animals. The cow gave birth to a calf and I use the cow for ploughing and fertilising. The calf itself is now worth 5 million dong (US$300). I'll use some of the money for my family."

Quang then told us about his son: "He is a member of the Empathy Club run by the VWU and gets free anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). Before he started taking them, I used to be busy all day taking care of him. Now he is much more independent.

I realised I was not alone

"At the ISHC, they taught us how to take care of people living with HIV and AIDS. We also write poetry and sing and dance. These activities really help reduce my stress levels.

"The older people's club helps us forget some of our problems. I realised that I was not alone. I had started to isolate myself from the community but the ISHC helped me reconnect. I have made many friends through the club. We feel like a big family now."

Quang's hopes for the future are simple: "The most important thing is to have good health for my son and my family. You need money to survive, but it isn't everything. I hope my children and grandchildren will be good, successful and not face the same problems as me. I hope that my granddaughter will be able to study more so that she can be successful." 

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"When I found out our son had HIV, I was very stressed. But now through HelpAge partner VWU, he gets free anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). Before he started taking them, I used to be busy all day taking care of him. Now he is much more independent."



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