Om Nang has been living with HIV for at least eight years. Nonetheless, she is a successful, well-respected member of her community, a village called Thmor Sor in Koh Kong Province, Cambodia. Thmor Sor can be difficult to access, and many of the homes are built on stilts above muddy waters. However, its seaside location allows for a plethora of business opportunities; and with assistance from RACHA, Om Nang has succeeded in becoming a successful dried shrimp seller, despite the fact that she is living with HIV.
Om Nang, her family and friends behind her, sits with dried shrimp, removing the shells before she can sell them.
Om Nang tested positive for HIV when she was only 28 years old. She has two sons who are 13 and 15 years old, respectively, and who thankfully both have tested negatively for HIV. Om Nang participates in RACHA's Home Based Care program, which aims to combat the isolation caused by HIV.
Home Based Care is a team made up of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and a leader, who will organize home visits to other PLHIVs in his or her commune twice a month. They will sit and chat with the patients and make sure to check for any severe symptoms--referring the client to a health center or referral hospital if necessary. In addition to receiving visits from the HBC team, Om Nang belongs to her village's Self Support Group (SSG), which meets to share stories and experiences, as well as to save money together. Because Om Nang participates in both HBC and SSG, she is eligible for a microcredit loan from RACHA.
Om Nang has become a successful business owner due to two microcredit loans she received from RACHA's programs. She buys fresh shrimp, dries them over the course of a few days, and sells them for a much higher price. In January 2012, Nang received her first loan for 500,000 riel, followed by a second in February of 2013. She said that, "this loan allowed me to purchase shrimp instead of crab, which sell for more money". She was also able to buy them without debt, meaning she could buy them cheaper. Nang buys 200kg of fresh shrimp, which produces 20-25kg of dried shrimp. It is a labor intensive process; it takes several days to dry and take the shells off the shrimp. However, dried shrimp sells for much more than fresh shrimp, making the extra effort well worth it in the end.
The microcredit loans have made her business stable and sustainable. As a prominent entrepreneur with employees in her village, "I face less discrimination as a PLHIV". And, as she is not lacking in money, she continues to attend all of her doctor appointments and HBC visits, staying on top of her health. She sends her children to school and plans to eventually send them to university. With RACHA's support systems in place, Om Nang is able to live a relatively normal life in which she can care for herself and her family.
Om Nang's family is not the only one involved enrolled in microcredit programs in Koh Kong.
RACHA has promoted micro-credit to HIV/AIDS affected families and relatives responsible for raising orphans, whose parents have died of AIDS. These loans have reached 53 clients, including 41 women, in 15 villages within Smach Meanchey and Sre Ambel districts. The loans have built a portfolio of 22,734,000 Riel (USD $5,613). These savings groups are overseen by the HBC and SSG teams, and are monitored by RACHA's Infectious Disease and Community Health Financing Teams. As the program continues to grow, RACHA hopes to make successful ventures like Om Nang's the norm.