Post by Camaro West and Emma Saloranta
Today, we had the pleasure of attending a field visit organized by Women Deliver and sponsored by Malaysian Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and the Ministry of Health. We visited Rumah Solehah, a support and medical center for women and children living with HIV/AIDS. The organization works under the umbrella of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia, and provides a variety of medical and psycho-social services to infected and affected women and children. Rumah Solehah was founded in 1998, and employs six staff members as well as volunteers. The organization works with a variety of infected groups, including sex workers and drug users; women infected by their spouses; and infected mothers and children who are either infected or affected by HIV. They run two separate homes, one for women, which has facilities to host five women at a time, and another for children which has space for up to ten children.
The approach of Rumah Solehah is multi-pronged, and targets both the physical and emotional well-being of the women and children. For the women who come to the organization, Rumah Solehah offers support in building the women’s self-esteem, supporting their communication skills and developing their vocational skills, while also monitoring their health. The women stay in the house for a minimum of three months and a maximum of 12 months, and come to Rumah Solelah through referrals from doctors and HIV specialists throughout Malaysia.
Rumah Solehah is one of 45 Malaysian NGOs affiliated with the Malaysian AIDS council, and they work closely with many other partners through periodical meetings and seminars. The organization also engages in research, and has collaborated with the International Islamic University of Malaysia for a qualitative study done by a PhD student on Women Living with HIV/AIDS.
The organization is carrying out immensely important work in Malaysia, and it was clear from their presentation that the staff at Rumah Solehah share a deep passion towards helping women and children with HIV/AIDS to manage their disease and find ways to live normal, healthy and long lives despite their HIV-status. This organization is contributing towards lasting change through their work at the grassroots level here in Kuala Lumpur, and we are thrilled to highlight their progress and offer our support of their mandate.
Rumah Solehah is just one example of how Malaysia is leading the way in maternal care. By offering well-rounded, high quality and culturally relevant care to patients, not only are they improving the lives of women and children affected by HIV/AIDS, but the cycle of former patients who continue to volunteer with the organization is a testament to their effectiveness.
As Rumah Solehah staff so aptly noted:
With women living with HIV/AIDS, every birthday is worth celebrating – a birthday to these women means ‘we are still alive’.
With the support of the Malaysian government and other partners, the organization will continue to help HIV positive women celebrate birthdays for years to come.