Almost no one in this village on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City is a blood relation of the other, but they have a much stronger bond. They are all AIDS patients dying away from their kin.
Sometimes two or three die a day, said one of them named An, coughing.
“We are so happy when we wake up and still feel our heart beat.” All the residents of this area are in the final stages of the dreaded disease.
These people are in final stage of the disease. They have developed tumors and their families were too scared to keep them, and chased them away. An who used to be a gang leader in District 4, said, “We don’t want to see anyone, except those like us.”
They call their place, a thatched hut in a vacant field in Binh My Commune, Cu Chi District, the “Dead Hotel,” which was opened in 2003 by a man who doesn’t want to reveal his name.
The idea was inspired by a doctor and supported by several benefactors. More than 300 patients of the disease have received free care at the place and “more than 100 have really smiled before they died,” the owner said.
An said the “hotel” owner is single. “He just spends his time looking for disgusting people like us. Some people know about this place and just come on their own.”
The owner supplies food and all facilities like beds, mosquito nets while healthy people among the group do the cooking and cleaning.
Thai, who just joined the group this month, said “I heard this is a home for unhappy people. So I came, after three days of begging for food and sleeping on the street.”
Among those sharing the hotel are 68-year-old paralyzed Kiem, lying still for others to feed him, a former prostitute who was recently beaten badly by her family when she went home to attend her mother’s funeral, and a man who might be the next to die as he has intestine cancer, said a woman named Thao who has stayed at the place for two years.
A former porter infected after he stepped on a needle used by some drug addict is also among the residents.
They used to have a girl who was cheated by her step father to become a prostitute. Thao recalled that the girl cried when seeing no one of her family was with her on her last day – only members of her group.
An said “We care for each other so we can feel what remains of human love. It’s late but it’s the last solace for our lives.”
Another infected man named Hao said he would die peacefully if he can die here.
When one of them dies, others will clean them carefully and wait until 1 or 2 a.m. to carry them to a coffin shop in Go Vap District that offers coffins free to AIDS patients, then to the incinerator in Binh Duong Province, before bringing their ashes back.
The owner of the place told Tuoi Tre: “I hope those in the group continue loving each other like brothers. And I hope other healthy people don’t discriminate against these HIV/AIDS patients so that they can go in peace.”
The “Dead Hotel” has also received poor people recently, like the elder Hai Hue who was abandoned by her children, Dung who were thrown out to the streets by his parents because he has a mental illness and a couple are going to have a baby, but the husband has tuberculosis.
However, the “Dead Hotel” itself might not last long. Vo Van Thong, a local police officer, said the place was going to be cleared for some projects but he promised the local government will try to help these people.
Source: Tuoi Tre