Amazin Lethi splits her time between the United States and Europe and has a pretty good sense of who is saying what in these parts of the world. The voices she’s listening to are those of HIV activists who raise awareness and get funding for research and treatment. However, the voices she doesn’t hear so well are those from her home country, this one.
“In the Asian community, part of our culture is that we don’t tend to talk about these kinds of social and health issues,” she explains.
Having started in January of this year, the Amazin Lethi Foundation is the result of one woman’s desire to get the conversation going around HIV in the public sphere.
“People always ask ‘why HIV?’” she says. “But you don’t have to be HIV positive to be an HIV activist. As a woman, as an Asian woman, as a body builder [yes, she’s a body builder], I know what it feels like to be marginalized, I know what it feels like be discriminated against.”
It’s this social stigma attached to HIV that the Amazin Lethi Foundation targets, through programmes that reintegrate displaced individuals back into their communities, provide sustainable income generation projects, and offer activities for children with HIV to just be children.
“Initially, for me, it was all about awareness and starting this conversation in the public domain to talk openly about HIV and break the social stigmatization,” she says. “And the more I delved into it, I realised that HIV is the focal point, but there are so many issues surrounding it.”
In addressing HIV, the foundation is addressing other communities who are often silenced as well. Lethi has her eyes on issues such as gender inequality, human trafficking and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Her goal for the foundation is for it to expand across Asia in the next ten or 20 years, and draw more mass media attention to this part of the world.
If you’d like to contribute to the conversation and support Amazin in her work in Vietnam, visit www.amazinlethifoundation.org.