Life Life

20/01/2019 - 09:27

“Prolonging” life

Medical Specialist Level 1 Châu Văn Thức, Head of the Out Patient and Addiction Treatment Department, the Provincial Center for Disease Control (CDC) was named by his friends and colleagues as a “HIV preventer”, “life prolonging” person for HIV-infected people in Hue city.

Dr. Châu Văn Thức is visiting and treating HIV-infected patients


I have known Dr. Thức for a long time. He is a sincere and simple person who does not “scramble”, but focuses on his work only. Yet, every time I asked him about HIV prevention, he shook his head and said that he did not want to write anything due to the sensitive issue related to people infected with “H”. Then one recent winter day, he accepted to sit with me to “review” the old days.

Mr. Thức was admitted into Hue University of Medicine in 1983. When he graduated, he was one of the few students receiving “red degree” for a general practitioner. One course before his, Mr. Nguyen Dung, the present Vice Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee also received “red degree” at this university. It is a pride that many medical students dream of. However, when his schoolmates were employed to faculties or departments in the city, Mr. Thức went to work at Vinh Hien Commune Health Station (Phu Loc district), a poor coastal countryside.

At that time, Vinh Hien had nothing but the summer “specialties” of dengue fever and diarrhea. Having just graduated, he “covered” many tasks from the epidemic prevention, birth delivery and medical treatment... But thanks to this difficult time, the city youth grew more mature.

After many years of hardship in difficult areas, by the time his children need him a spiritual support, Dr. Thức asked for returning to the city. Going back to the city was also an unsolvable problem for him because almost every unit and hospital were full. Fortunately, the Provincial Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, which is now the CDC’s Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention, had two positions free.

At that time, this unit was recently established by the Provincial People's Committee. It lacked human resources because no doctor dared to go to such an HIV/AIDS related areas, and the community’s discrimination against this disease was too huge. He was hesitated while holding the decision to appoint him to the department. His wife also worried that her husband might face many risks, pain and death of those who were infected with HIV/AIDS.

In order to undertake the appointed job, he had to “get” a training course to exchange expertise and find out about HIV/AIDS disease with colleagues in the Department of Infection of Hue Central Hospital. His time there was not long, but he not only learnt expertise but also felt the love of the doctors and nurses who were day and night concerned about prolonging lives of their patients.

Up to present, he has been mainly in charge of examining and treating HIV/AIDS patients at the Provincial Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention for ten years. From his own experience, to get HIV-infected people to health facilities, doctors and nurses must be always friendly, encouraging and sharing. Initially, HIV-infected patients were very shocked, sad, depressed, and uncooperative with doctors in the treatment... “Doctors who want to successfully counsel and treat HIV-infected people must understand their psychology and help them overcome all discriminations, obsession and fear,” said Dr. Thức.

Worrying about each fate

Currently, Dr. Thức is still “fighting alone” at the CDC’s  Patient and Addiction Treatment Department with an average examination of 5-10 patients a day. He said that most people with HIV had a difficult life. Many of them have to work hard to look for a job and earn a living in other provinces and cities. Their livelihood sometimes affected their re-examination time, but he sympathized and only advised them to re-examine on time to ensure the treatment effectiveness.

Previously, a patient in Phu Loc district had to ride a bicycle to the center to get medicine because he had no money to take a bus. In other case, a patient from the coastal area of Phong Dien district had enough money to take a bus to the centre, but did not have enough money to return; therefore, he and his colleagues joined hands to help this patient. Those were small actions but most HIV-infected patients managed by the faculty knew by heart the full name of Dr. Châu Văn Thức.

During a recent event of the department’s HIV-prevention peer group, I happened to know about N.V.A. from Phu Loc district who was infected with HIV and now considers Dr. Thức as a benefactor. A. came from a poor family and had to go to Ho Chi Minh city to work since 2009. Then, she fell in love with a guy from the Mekong Delta and got married. It was expected that A. would be happy with her husband. Unexpectedly, two years later, her husband died and A. found herself infected with HIV.

Severely shocked, A. desperately went back home to live in melancholy and depression. When her family brought her to the Department of Treatment Counseling - the Provincial Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, A. was thin and told unending stories. Sharing with her situation, Dr. Thức considered A. as a relative, approached for screening counseling, and created a stable psychology to help A. for her antiretroviral drug treatment...

Now, A. is on time to visit and monitor her health periodically at the Treatment Department. It is happier that A. got married again and had a healthy baby boy. Cases like A. or worse are not a few, and Dr. Thức shared with them and considered them as his family relatives. He treated not only physical diseases but also psychological illness for HIV-infected people.

Dr. Than My Dung, a long-time colleague at the provincial HIV/AIDS prevention Center, shared: “Dr. Thức is a responsible, whole-hearted and dedicated doctor. Most patients who come to him feel the lightness and joy, and have faith to overcome disease”.

“I just hope that I am myself every day, and people with HIV in the area will become less and less. I also want to remind my patients that HIV infection is still not over... If patients cooperate and follow the treatment, their life will last for 20 to 30 years and still give birth to completely healthy children,” said Dr. Thức.

Presently, there are nearly 320 HIV-infected patients in the area; in which, nearly 100% of patients are regularly consulted and treated with ARV by Dr. Thức. Therefore, most of them have a stable health. There are also many patients getting married, having normal childbirth, and becoming active in local HIV/AIDS peer education activities.

Story and photo: Minh Van