Pressebericht über Sr. Martha

Sr. Martha in Asiens Presse: UCAnews Report

Danke für Ihre Spende an den Kinderhilfsverein House of Hope e.V. München

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Hier erschien Ende 2016 zum ersten Mal ein öffentlicher Bericht der Presse über Sr. Martha und ihre Arbeit im Sr.  Martha Care Center in Khaykkhami, Myanmar. Hier der Bericht in Originalfassung:

One nun's fearless compassion for HIV/AIDS affected people – Sister Martha Mya Thwe established two community-based projects in Myanmar to help people with the disease (from John Zaw, Kyeik-kha-me)

Myanmar, November 30, 2016

Danke für Ihre Spende an den Kinderhilfsverein House of Hope e.V. München

Like many people in Myanmar, Sister Martha Mya Thwe from Maygon village in central Myanmar used to be afraid of touching people living with HIV/AIDS or administering medicine to them.

That changed in 2001 when Sister Martha, a nun from the St. Joseph of the Apparition congregation, became aware of a dramatic rise in the number of people living with the virus in a small community in Mon State where she served. "I thought I must carry out HIV/AIDS ministry as a new call to service. I was inspired to overcome my fear," she says.

"People were whispering about a rising number of deaths but they were not aware that people were dying from AIDS," she says.

Sister Martha partnered with a Buddhist nun to found the Mirror of Charity Care Center, a community-based organization that provides food, medicine and educational support to AIDS orphans and people living with the disease.

"I feel warmth when I stay together with [the patients]. When I share meals with them, they often cry because their family and other members of the community have abandoned them," Sister Martha says.

The center operates on a quiet street in a Buddhist neighborhood in Kyeik-kami, a small, rural township near the Andaman coast about 88 kilometers south of Mawlamyine, the capital of Mon state.

Its mission is summed up in the center's slogan: "To be AIDS-free, happy, healthy, and educated." A team of 13 laypeople help run the organization.

The walls of the center are filled with photographs of the nun embracing her patients — many of them children — and demonstrating the fearlessness and compassion for which she has become known.

Sister Martha is well-known in the Mon Buddhist town of 10,000 people. Only 50 Christians live there. Mon state has one of the highest rates of infection in the country along with Kachin, Shan and Karen states.

In the early days of its operation in 2001, patients died almost every day. At least 10 people died every month. "We couldn't do anything for them because the center couldn't provide anti-retroviral therapy (ART) at the time," Sister Martha says.

The nun tried to source ART for years without success. However, in 2007, she got in contact with the main provider of ART in Myanmar and was able to get enough drugs to treat 20 patients.

The center is now giving the life-saving medicine to about 103 children and adults.

They are lucky. Some 210,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Myanmar and only half of them receive ART, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Humble beginnings

The center began as a simple wooden hut in 2002 and has now expanded to a multi-building complex funded by the Japanese and German embassies. The complex includes a small plot of farmland, a facility for teaching vocational skills and the capacity to raise pigs and chickens.

"I started with only small things and whatever I could pull together to help people and we initially had no outside funding," Sister Martha says.

The center also runs a small clinic to provide primary healthcare to locals without HIV/AIDS. They can get tested for malaria and hepatitis and access counseling.

Sister Martha says that prior to 2011, the government closely monitored her work. The local authorities urged her not to carry out her mission. They frequently visited the center demanding to know the source of her funding.

Things have improved since the introduction of nominal democratic reforms in 2011. Scrutiny has ended and the center can now successfully register with the Ministry of Home Affairs as a community-based organization.

Unlike her counterparts in other areas of the country, Sister Martha does not wear the traditional nun's habit but opts for a simple blouse and longyi, adorned only with a cross that hangs around her neck.

She says that her traditional religious garb was a barrier to connecting with her patients.

"I realized that wearing the traditional habit was a barrier to dealing with HIV patients. So I remain determined to wear civilian clothing to better integrate with the people I serve," she says.

The nun is also looking to the future and to the next generation who will carry her work forward. In 2014, she spearheaded the creation of a new care center in Kawthaung in southern Myanmar that provides ART to at least 500 people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Even after I pass away, I have urged my colleagues to continue this great service because it will be a long time before HIV/AIDS will be no more." 

HIV or human immunodeficiency virus attacks the immune system. Having HIV does not mean a person has AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

HIV destroys certain white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system. AIDS is the last stage of HIV as when a person's immune system is so compromised that the body can no longer defend itself against infection that rarely occur in healthy people.

It takes about 10 to 12 years for HIV to progress to AIDS — even without treatment. However, if AIDS does develop, medicines can often help the immune system return to a healthier state. For those living with HIV, medicines can slow or stop the damage to the immune system.

HIV can't be spread by casual contact like hugging, kissing or sharing food, using common utensils, clothes or sharing toilets with persons living with the virus. There is no risk in coughing or sneezing and is not passed on through sweat, tears, saliva or urine.

Most people get HIV through by having unprotected sex or sharing needles with someone who has HIV. It can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.