Crédit Émilie Porée.

“Look At Her”: The Expert

TRANSLATED BY JOYCE CHEN AND NIKI SO

As part of the “Look At Her” project, Emily Porée is traveling across Southeast Asia to meet and profile women from all backgrounds. In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, she met up with doctor Soulany Chansy to discuss her workplace, the Lao Red Cross Society.

Soulany is 51 years old. She studied for seven years in Baku, Azerbaijan, in order to obtain a diploma in medicine. She quickly got a job as a doctor in the Lao Red Cross Society in Vientiane. Wanting to expand her skills, she obtained a certificate in “Management of National and International Perspectives on HIV” in 1997. The doctor became a specialist in the HIV virus and aids.

She also continued to build up skills in more general areas such as project development, communication, and leadership. Additionally, she closely follows any Red Cross-related news and their different networks all over the world. Over time, Soulany moved away from medical practice towards research and the implementation of projects revolving around aids. In 1999, she joined the “HIV/AIDS Project in Laos” project as an assistant and became the manager one year later. The project centers around four main axes.

Prevent, inform, treat, accompany

“Firstly,” she explains “my team and I base our work on the prevention of viruses in order to minimise the number of illnesses.” After following a training program on virus prevention in Tokyo, she went to meet some prostitutes in one of the city districts. “Our objective is to protect their lives, not to lecture them. We give them practical advice and organise informational workshops so that they have all the available information about the virus.”

The second part of the project is about the development of an anti-stigmatisation and anti-discrimination program in the Lao villages. Amongst many of them, the virus is not well understood and those infected are shunned from society.

The third part has to do with treatment. “We guide those infected towards professionals in surrounding clinics and hospitals based on the diagnosis.”

The fourth and last phase of the project consists of “teaching those infected by the virus as well as those around them to accept the situation and to adopt effective coping mechanisms in their everyday lives.”

A busy schedule

The doctor and her teams divide their work into several activities. Some members of the project go out into the field to understand the state of the situation and its evolution, in order to gather statistical information. Using these statistics, other members create workshops on prevention, awareness and non-stigmatisation. They go into the Lao villages that are most affected by the virus and create a rapport with the people through these workshops. Another important activity is to participate in international conferences in order to explain the project as well as to present the results obtained and the progress made. Soulany highlights that it “is also necessary to form partnerships with NGOs and businesses.” This allows greater visibility and to raise funds to finance the project.

Soulany moves from one project to another, each one linked to different aspects of HIV. Between her research, its implementation, her international conferences and her role as manager, Soulany has a busy schedule. Her detailed CV is as long as twelve pages!

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