Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The Archdiocese of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has launched a specialized centre for treating children affected by HIV and AIDS. A place that provides care and shelter to children under 16 years, victims of a disease transmitted to them by parents living with HIV. The family home Mai Tam Warm Shelter - which opened in early 2010 and can accommodate up to 60 children - was inaugurated by Card. Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man who, in 2004, promoted pastoral and social activities for people infected with the virus.
During a visit to the centre – which took three years to build - the Vietnamese cardinal gave gifts to children, exchanging a few words with them. "You know what the symbol of the new lunar year is?" he asked the guests of the centre, just days before the Vietnamese New Year is celebrated on February 14. "The Tiger" the children replied in chorus. "Well, I hope you can be as strong as the tiger," added the cardinal, triggering the laughter of children.
Cardinal Pham Minh Man also recalled the five young people who died of AIDS, pausing in front of their coffins placed near the altar. The youngest, Peter Kim Nguyen Bao Nguyen, was only four months when he died, the eldest, Joseph Diep Minh Tam eight years old, died last September 9, 2009 after having fought all his life against the disease. "God always loves the human being - said the cardinal - and God has taken these children to heaven ... Therefore I call on Christians to care for and help those less fortunate children, and love them. "
The Mai Tam Warm Shelter is home to 60 children, the youngest of whom is only six months while the oldest is 16. Their smiles, their innocent eyes, their happiness - tell healthcare workers – sometimes helps you to forget their terrible disease.
According to figures from the Committee for prevention and control of HIV / AIDS in Ho Chi Minh City, at the end of 2009 there were 135,171 HIV positive people, including 29,134 cases of AIDS. From 1990 to date 41,418 people have died. In 2009 there was an increase of 83% in cases of infection among people between 20 and 39, the most affected were males (82.17%) rather than females (17.81%), but these figures could be much greater. Last year the number of children infected by their mother was around 60 thousand in the whole country, but only 7% of the total benefit from medical care and aid.