[Humans of Courage] Do Thi Nghia, Thuy Nguyen, Hai Phong
01 December 2019
Every day that I am living, I am willing to do anything to help people like me
“Back then, when I used meth, if I saw my husband and children during high time, I would dash towards them and just attack. My husband would rush in to hold me back, but the tighter he held me, the more I would attack and sink my teeth into his flesh.
My daughter was only 3 years old when I brought her to roam around the tracks (used to be a ‘hot spot’ for drugs dealing in Hai Phong) with me. To avoid the cops, I hid the money in the waist of her pants and let her climb over the tracks inside to buy heroin for her mother and friends. One time, she climbed inside and the cops already took me away outside. When she went out, I had already disappeared. She hid the heroin under a brick and sat on it, starved from 9am to 5PM, and patiently waited for me to be released to pick her up.
Then I found out I was HIV positive because I shared syringes with other drug addicts. Since then, when I wanted to buy foods, they would not sell it to me. People wouldn’t let my son and daughter to play with theirs. They went to school and would return home all beaten up. At the time, I loved dogs, but whenever we managed to have one, I would also sell that dog. My dad traded the big house for a smaller one so I would have the money to buy drugs.
I tormented everyone I knew, but no one left me…
In 2008, my city started the pilot for methadone (a medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder) treatment, but it was rumored among drug addicts that taking methadone would make you stupid and die. They all avoided the treatment including myself. I roamed and lied around the train tracks as usual.
My dad went to find me and said: “Listen, eventually everyone dies. If you can choose, die with some dignity. If you continue living like this, you are tormenting your husband and your child…” Then my dad took me to counseling and signed me up for methadone. At the same time, I entered the ARV treatment for HIV. Gradually, heroin no longer tasted like anything, I gave it up. I also gave up taking meth.
In the beginning, it was my dad who earned the money to ease my cravings. Later when I became sober, joining key population (KP) programmes, I had money to take care of my dad. Now, I am a KP counselor for a Global Fund-sponsored project and a volunteer at the Community Health Center. Seeing my healthy, sober self with the viral load at undetectable level, meaning that it cannot be transmittable (sexually) to other is a clear proof for everyone that: “We can start over!” Other members of the community listen to me because I have been through it all. I also went to disseminate condoms and clean syringes. There are times when I would leave [condoms and clean syringes] outside my door so they would not have to call me in the middle of the night. Besides my consultation work, I also raise a bunch of pet dogs, both out of my love for them, and also for extra income.
My dad passed away last year. I remember, back in the days when there were friends coming over, drug addicts and HIV positive, my dad wouldn’t mind at all, calling them all his children. Now, I learnt from him and consider many as my family members. When they have no money for treatment, I will give them a month of salary. For some, my husband and I will accompany them to take their first methadone dose. When starting one’s first methadone dose, if they meet not-so-good friends, they will once again give in to heroin. One of them, already gave up heroin for good, on ARV treatment, now works as a builder and just helped me redo the walls.
Crossing over those hurdles back in the day motivates me to share and bring better life to other people. Everyday that I am living, I am willing to do anything to help people like me.” – Do Thi Nghia, Thuy Nguyen, Hai Phong