From where I stand: Chum Sopha

“I was 27 years old and living in Thailand when I heard about the big HIV outbreak in my Cambodian village. I noticed a skin rash on my body, a common symptom of HIV, and I went back to Cambodia to get tested.

When I got the diagnosis, at first, I felt numb. My husband tested HIV-positive too. It was heartbreaking to see the children in the village infected.

My husband is a construction worker, which requires intensive labour. But now he cannot go to work regularly because of his health. We don’t own land to farm, so I am raising chickens to make some money.  

Since the beginning of the outbreak, we established a women’s support group in the village with the help of UN Women. In the women’s group we are all HIV-positive. We support each other and share our life experiences. The solidarity gives me a safe space and the opportunity to grow. Together, we confront discrimination, we laugh and learn how to stay strong.

It took a lot of support and counseling for me to realise that I can have a fully functioning life, living with HIV. Now, every morning I wake up with hope and take my medicine regularly. 

My biggest hope is that we are able to support my daughter, Hannah, to pursue her education and reach her full potential. I also want to continue to work with the women’s group, support other women living with HIV, to raise awareness about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and advocate to prevent violence against women. This work gives me strength.”

Chum Sopha, now 29, works with HIV-positive women in Roka Village in north-west Cambodia. UN Women co-founded a women’s support group following a HIV outbreak in the village, in which Sopha is one of the five core members. Through counseling, human rights trainings and home visits, the support group has helped HIV-positive women overcome several challenges and empowered them to claim their rights. Sopha’s work is directly related to Sustainable Development Goal 3, which focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.