About Anonymous Clinic
The Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center officially began operating in December 1989. Since 1985, people with HIV/AIDS have been receiving treatment and care from Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, an organ affiliated with the Thai Red Cross. Since 1987, the Thai Red Cross has been educating the public about the disease and conducting research on it.
In 1991, the World Health Organization designated 1st December as the Thai Red Cross's annual AIDS campaign day. To comply with WHO's policy on AIDS, the Thai Red Cross founded the Anonymous Clinic, which became the first of its kind to be exempt from revealing the names of patients with HIV to the government. Without asking for real identities and addresses, the clinic provides such services as blood checking and advising on diseases transmitted through blood and sexual intercourse like AIDS, syphilis, and hepatitis B. Comprehensive health care services are now provided to clients regardless of HIV status as entry points to HIV testing according to the provider initiated counseling and testing model (PICT), aiming to reduce stigma of HIV testing. These services include annual health checks, anal and cervical Pap smear, STI testing and treatment, and nutritional assessment and counseling.
AIDS started to spread into Thailand in 1984. As of 31 July 2000, a total of 149,266 people were reported to suffer from full-blown AIDS. It was estimated, however, that approximately 1 million people or 1 out of 60 people nationwide were infected with HIV. When considering only the population between 20-40 years of age, the ratio was 1 out of 40. AIDS was the number one cause of death in several major provinces surpassing heart disease, cancer and accidents. Men account for two thirds of all AIDS deaths because the illness spread among men before it infected women. Since most of them died in their prime or between 25 and 40 years of age, it was considered a great economic loss to their families as well as the country.
Now, neither a cure for or vaccine against AIDS has been discovered. The best vaccine therefore is people's awareness of self-protection. Thailand has been recognized by many countries for its successful campaign against the disease over the past 5-6 years. The number of people with HIV in Thailand has reduced dramatically from an annual average of 100,000-150,000 to 60,000-80,000.
Since most HIV-infected children were born to mothers with HIV, the number of children with AIDS is tied to the rate of AIDS infection in pregnant women. At present, a total of 1 million Thai women give birth annually. Of this figure, 2 percent or 20,000 are AIDS-infected. 6,000 or one third of the children who are born to these mothers are likely to be infected, becoming a healthcare burden to their family, society and the country.
In late 1995, the Thai Red Cross Society initiated a fund-raising project called "Help to reduce AIDS transmission from mothers to newborns" to mark the auspicious occasion of His Majesty's 50th anniversary on the throne. The project is under the royal patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali and is sponsored by the Ministry of Public Health. Its slogan is "A thousand baht from you can save a child from AIDS." This amount can buy enough AZT for a mother-to-be and her newborn. So far, the project has provided the medicine to over 3000 pregnant women. The results of blood testing from newborn babies have corroborated the finding of the ACTG 076 research that the medicine can help reduce the rate of AIDS transmission from mothers to babies. The AZT project has also made its country very proud; it was referred to by 3 panelists at the International Conference held in D.C. from 3-6 September 1997 as a model project for any joint cooperation between a private organization, the royal family and the government in solving problems where government aid has not yet reached.
Every year on 1st December, the Thai Red Cross Society organizes a special event to mark World AIDS Day. Its first-year celebration in 1991, known as "Tien Song Jai", was co-organized by the Thai Red Cross's Wednesday Friends Club, whose members are people with HIV. The Club's objective is to create good understanding between people with HIV and the society as a whole and to make the latter realize that it is possible for HIV-infected people to live a healthy life, and to be useful to their families and communities, that they are not a health threat, and that their moral support can encourage people with HIV to fight against the disease and to go on with their lives.
The Centre is headed by Professor Praphan Phanuphak.
The services presently offered include:
1. Knowledge and advice about AIDS Hepatitis B, syphilis and blood group testing. Test results are treated as confidential, and patients need not give their names or addresses.
2. Anonymous testing of CD4 cells For HIV+ patients to determine antibody levels.
3. HIV viral load testing Knowledge and advice about veneral diseases, and veneral disease testing and treatment. How to collect a blood sample for HIV viral load testing Collect seven millilitres of blood in an EDTA-treated tube (to prevent it from clotting), and have the tube sent to the Anonymous Clinic as soon as possible within six hours. In case it is not possible to have it sent within six hours, isolate the plasma from the blood by churning it at a speed of 1500 rounds per minute. Place the plasma in a box of ice at -20 degree Celsius and send it to the Clinic within 24 hours. The b-DNA method is used in HIV viral load testing.
4. Hepatitis B viral load testing. How to collect a blood sample for Hepatitis B viral load testing Collect five milliliters of blood in an EDTA-treated, non-heparin tube (to prevent it from clotting), and have the tube sent to the Anonymous Clinic as soon as possible within six hours. In case it is not possible to have it sent within six hours, isolate the plasma, or serum, from the blood by churning it at a speed of 1500 rounds per minute. Place it in a box of ice at -20 degree Celsius and send it to the Clinic within 24 hours. The PCR method is used in HBV viral load testing.