Hoa Luc Binh: ‘If outreach workers wouldn’t exist, how would the lives of sex workers be?’

My name is Hoa Luc Binh and I live in Vietnam. I want to share with you an unforgettable story which came to me while I was doing community work. I am a sex worker. Three years ago I was lucky to meet a peer educator and so I became a peer educator myself. When doing outreach, I often meet colleagues who do not know anything about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Some of them are illiterate. I was particularly concerned about one sex worker, Trang.

Trang has two children and an old mother to take care of, which is a great burden on her shoulders. First, she didn’t know anything about HIV. But after my outreach work, she was better informed and had skills to protect her health when doing sex work. This made me very happy and less worried about her. However, when I met her three months later, she shared with me that she sometimes accepted sex without using condoms with clients above 40 years old. She believed that older people have families and stable lives, and so there is no risk of HIV transmission. I was very surprised when she shared this with me. So I talked with her about this belief and advised her to go for voluntary counselling and testing. Fortunately, she was not living with HIV. I felt relieved and very happy for her.

She believed that older people have families and stable lives, and so there is no risk of HIV transmission

When I came home after talking to Trang, a series of questions popped into my mind. What will happen if I stop my community work? If I don’t keep contact with Trang anymore? If I stop sharing objective information with her in time? Maybe bad things will happen to her. And then, how will she, her children and mother be? If outreach workers wouldn’t exist, how would the lives of sex workers be?

Trang’s story is only one example of the importance of our work. I hope that not only me, but all community workers feel proud of themselves and are committed to carry on. Because if we stop doing the work, bad things might happen to community members. I feel that my work is so important and I’m committed to continue – with a smile on my lips and happiness in my heart.

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