[Humans of Courage] Minh Thuan, Director, Thuan Truong social enterprise, Director and Coordinator AloCare Clinic
29 November 2019
The first days entering sex work, having to meet clients’ requests, I experienced such excruciating pains that I would cry.
“In my job, whatever clients want has to be met. That day, a client wanted me to have sex with them, while yelling and hitting them. It exhausted me… As I entered the bathroom, I blacked out and fell on my face! A while later, I woke up, put on clothes and walked out as if nothing had ever happened.
The first days entering sex work, having to meet clients’ requests, I experienced such excruciating pains that I would cry. I wanted to leave the city, but what was I going to live by, while working as a helper at construction sites would only pay a couple of hundreds (VND).
Working in such nature but none of my friends, myself included, knew anything about HIV, let alone HIV prevention measures. Whatever the clients say, we would believe them. Lots of us contracted HIV without knowing why…
I still remember vividly every single word in a text message of a friend living with HIV as he left: “I will return to the village, don’t bother looking for me, I have HIV now, and I don’t want to continue living there to give it to you all…”. At the time, he only thought that had he stayed, he would have given it to his clients, and the clients would give it to us. Each time I think of that text message, my heart aches. I felt defeated… I cannot do anything to help him!
Until 2009, I attended a community event for male sex workers, I was stunned when seeing how completely wrong I and my friends were about HIV. I networked to become an outreach person (peer lay provider) with a modest salary.
After a while, I formed the self-help group AloBoy. We can organize quick HIV screening test for the male sex worker community. AloBoy gradually evolved, from a self-help group to a CBO (community-based organization) and currently has been registered as a social enterprise Thuan Truong. From 2019, we decided to open a community clinic AloCare, a specialized clinic that provides counseling, HIV and STI treatment for the community.
When consulting and raising awareness for the community, we have to gradually condition them into actively protecting themselves from HIV, by using PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) for instance, as another safety measure in addition to condoms.
A lot of clients who were assisted often text to update their news. The greatest thing is that many clients report that their viral load is at undetectable level, meaning that it is untransmittable (U=U) when committing to the designated HIV treatment. It is the kind of success that I am very proud of.
I wish that AloCare will continue progressing consistently, and upholding its mandate to always be alongside with the community, so that there will no longer be such sad text messages like my friend’s.” - Minh Thuan, Director, Thuan Truong social enterprise, Director and Coordinator AloCare Clinic