An HIV doctor’s devotion goes beyond the call

Dr Ngo Thi Anh Dong is so devoted to her job and patients, and so well-loved, that when she’s absent from the health clinic on any given day, people tend to panic.

Dr ​Ngo Thi Anh Dong gives advice to the wife of a man diagnosed with HIV. (Photo: VNA)

Where is she?, the patients ask. They even call her up to ask if anything is wrong.

“It shows that I’m lodged deep in their heart,” the 62-year-old said.

Since 2005, Dr Dong has been working at an outpatient clinic for HIV patients at the Binh Thanh District Preventive Health Centre.

The clinic provides counselling, antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and community-based support to 1,800 people with HIV.

“I’ll work until my health will no longer allow me,” Dong said. “I don’t dare quit because I’m not sure if my replacement would be as devoted as I am."

In 1999, Dong began working as an obstetrician at the Preventive Health Centre in District 4, and was hired in 2001 as the only doctor at the centre’s outpatient clinic.

Since that time, she has mostly treated people with HIV.

“I’ve wanted to quit many times, but I haven’t," Dong said. "When we show patients love, they treat us kindly. I’ve never been badly treated by patients.".

She recalled that, one day after a heavy rain, Xom Chieu street where the clinic is located was flooded. She should have stayed  at home, but after several patients phoned her, Dong left to visit them.

“If I hadn’t gone, what would have happened to them? At that time, they needed me,” Dong said, adding that patients also need “warm arms and love” from health officials and the community.

Many people in the community, however, are not sympathetic to HIV patients and, unfortunately, display discriminatory attitudes toward them, she said.

Dong is determined to treat the patients with respect so they can become confident and integrate into society.

One patient said that when he learned of his HIV status he was “shocked and depressed”.

But Dr Dong showed him respect and helped him get a job as a peer educator for HIV patients.

He in his job speaks with people and encourages them to take a HIV test, and if the results are positive, asks them to agree to receive ARV therapy.

“If I hadn’t met DrDong, I wouldn’t be healthy and have such a stable job,” he said.

The wife of a man with HIV spoke about Dong’s dedication. "She called my husband when she realised that he was not taking his medicine on schedule."

Nguyen Thi Huong, the clinic’s new doctor, said: “Dong shows enthusiasm when she works with me. She teaches me everything, including how to communicate with people with HIV and the best medical treatments.”

Dong knows the living circumstance of each person with HIV treated at the clinic, Huong said, adding that Dong also helps them try to overcome their personal difficulties.

Late last month, Dong was one of 113 people honoured by the HCM City People’s Committee and Vietnam Fatherland Front for their contributions to a civilised society and to the promotion of a good quality of life.

Nguyen Thanh Phong, Chairman of the city People’s Committee, who spoke at the ceremony, said: “Their silent and noble contributions need to be honoured because they are done from their heart. These people are the seeds that cultivate goodness in life.”

Vietnam’s Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, speaking at the ceremony, called the recipients “commendable models who’ve advocated humanitarian activities which have contributed to a kinder and better society.”


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