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Bangkok
By GonzaloAbad
11 Feb 2017

Thai children attentive at ceremony to become monks.
1500 Thai children will be a monk on Makha bucha day. Bangkok, Thailand.
Maka Bucha is a public holiday in several Mekong region countries such as Cambodia and Thailand. The date of this important Buddhist festival depends on Lunar cycle. The holiday may also be known as Magha Puja.
On this day, the full moon of the third lunar month (called Tabodwe); seven months after Buddha began his teachings, over a thousand monks gathered to hear Buddha preach.

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Nepal portfolio final 01
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
05 May 2015

On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 8,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 03
Bhaktapur, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
05 May 2015

A Nepali man cooks food for dozens of displaced residents in Bhaktapur, Nepal on May 5, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 7,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 13
Bansbari, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
03 May 2015

Dani Tamung, 75, cries as she describes the loss of her home and possessions due to the earthquake in Bansbari, Nepal on May 3, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 6,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 05
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
01 May 2015

Nepali rescue workers discuss safety concerns as they prepare to remove a body from the wreckage of a building in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 1, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 07
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
01 May 2015

Nepali rescue workers put gloves on after they find a body in the rubble of a collapsed building in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 1, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 08
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
01 May 2015

A tired Nepali soldier takes a break from rescue efforts in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 1, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 09
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
01 May 2015

A young woman with a head injury is spoon fed at a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 1, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 10
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
01 May 2015

On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 8,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 11
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
01 May 2015

A patient has traction applied to his spinal column at a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 1, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 06
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
30 Apr 2015

A Japanese K-9 unit searches for the body of a baby in the rubble of a collapsed home in Bhaktapur, Nepal on April 30, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 14
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
30 Apr 2015

Kathmandu residents displaced by the earthquake spend time in temporary shelters in a park in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 30, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal Quake
Kathmandu
By Taylor Weidman
29 Apr 2015

On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 8,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 02
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
29 Apr 2015

Kathmandu residents perform cremation rituals for loved ones killed in a devastating earthquake at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 29, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 04
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
29 Apr 2015

A Japanese aid worker walks past a military plane sent from India arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 29, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 5,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Nepal portfolio final 12
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Taylor Weidman
29 Apr 2015

On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 8,000 people and injuring thousands more.

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Thailand's Monastery of AIDS
Lopburi Province, Thailand
By Antolo
23 Feb 2015

FULL TEXT ON REQUEST
 

Text by Ana Salvá, Photos by Antolín Avezuela

A Buddhist temple in Thailand serves thousands of HIV patients abandoned by their families. Most of the families that bring their infected relatives never return to the monastery over to visit, even after death.

 

The monastery Phra Bat Nam Pu, located in Lopburi province, 150 kilometers north of Bangkok, has become the place where thousands of people affected by HIV in Thailand receive medical care. Some were abandoned there by their families and others came on their own feet. "Sometimes I would see the sick to the hospital, and in 1991 some began to come visit me here; I was an alternative for them, "says Dr. Alongkot Dikkapanya, the head monk of the monastery which today serves more than 1,500 men, women, children and orphans.

In Thailand, 440,000 people out of a population of 67 million live with HIV, according to the latest UNAIDS report on the state of the epidemic in the world. Many Thai carriers of the virus fear getting tested to see if they are infected. Access to health care in Thailand has improved over the last 35 years, as the country was one of the first to introduce free antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV, with South Africa and Cameroon, according to Doctors Without Borders.

The monastery takes care of HIV-infected patients that tend to be stigmatized by Thai society. The clinic also cares for patients with lower immunity that cannot feed themselves. Some are very weakened by the disease and cannot eat, go to the bathroom or change their own diapers. Some lie almost naked and powdered with talc as a result of the tropical heat.

"The disease weakens patients to death if they don't take their medicine," says Thong, one of the veteran’s center workers who also HIV postive. He gave a false name because he prefers to remain anonymous.

Most patients who come to the clinic have contracted AIDS as a result of having intercourse with prostitutes. Some then spread the virus to their wives. Thais generally prefer unprotected sex, according to a report by the Organization World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010.

One of the infected women living in the center, Pan, 34, sits cross-legged on her bed. She can barely speak. Pan fell ill with AIDS at the age of 19 after having sex with her ex-boyfriend. Later, she gave birth to a girl with HIV who died 11 months after birth.

"My parents divorced a while ago and the new husband of my mother brought me here. They have never come to visit me since then,” explains Pan.

Most of the patient's families never return to the monastery to visit them. Even after death.

"When new patients come, they have to check a box in a form saying what to do with their bodies when they die. Normally their families don't come to pick them up,” Thong says.

Among the options in the form, they can choose to be mummified for display in a room a few meters from the clinic. This decision is taken by the victims themselves to raise awareness about HIV's lethality.

"When we have to decide what to do with the bodies, we cremate them" says Thong.

In the windows of the room, behind the figure of a Great Buddha of black color, there are sachets containing the ashes of patients who failed to beat the disease.

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AIDS Monastery 12
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Kitti, 46 years old, is so weakened by the disease that he must wear diapers. He became infected after having sex with his wife. He reached the temple three years ago, after the death of his wife. None of his family is taking care of him.

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AIDS Monastery 13
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

A patient trying to get outside of the building by himself.

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AIDS Monastery 14
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

On a temple inside the complex, some mummies of infected HIV patients that passed away are shown to explain the visitors how the sickness affect the human body.

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AIDS Monastery 15
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

A black statue of Buddha reigns in the middle of the temple where all the remains of the patients that passed away in the monastery are stocked.

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AIDS Monastery 16
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

After death, the bodies of the patients are incinerated and the remains are stocked all together in individual sachets behind the Buddha statue.

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AIDS Monastery 17
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

The patients have the right to decide if, after death, they want their bodies being mummified to be shown at the museum, to explain the world how HIV affects humankind.

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AIDS Monastery 01
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Worrakit has 42 years old. He used to inject drugs and had unprotected sex. The disease has weakened him to the point of became blind. He came to the monastery three years ago because he had nowhere to go.

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AIDS Monastery 02
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

A patient on Phra Baht Nam Phu Monastery awaits the nurses who take care of him.

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AIDS Monastery 03
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Kraison, 46 years old, became infected 10 years ago after having sex with a prostitute without protection. He arrived at the temple 2 years ago because he is not able to support himself. He lost his legs after suffering hyperglycemia when infected by HIV.

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AIDS Monastery 04
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

All the critical patients must share the same dorm. A large room loaded with hospital beds shared by the inmates and all their personal belongings.

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AIDS Monastery 05
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

A patient tries to get some rest at his bed in the middle of the main room.

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AIDS Monastery 06
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Rachen, 58. He used to inject heroin. He was fired from his neighborhood when his neighbors realized that he was infected.

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AIDS Monastery 07
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Pon, 48, joined the monastery seven years ago, after a routine check revealed that he had HIV. Since then he quit his family without saying a word to don't disturb them. Now he kills time on his bed drawing portraits of the founder of this center.

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AIDS Monastery 08
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Maprod came to the temple with her mother seven months ago. Her mother got AIDS, but he was born healthy. Now he’s almost 2 years old.

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AIDS Monastery 09
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Aman, 45. HIV affected his brain and he became deaf 5 years ago.

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AIDS Monastery 10
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

Some of the patients are so weak that can not even walk. They must wait for helpers to get rid of their bed prisons daily.

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AIDS Monastery 11
Lopburi Province
By Antolo
03 Feb 2015

The only isolated area in the whole building is a small dorm settled for tuberculosis patients, at the end of the main room.

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North Korea in Color 024
By Ulrik Pedersen
02 Jun 2014

The regime is restoring Buddhist monasteries across the country. The reason is not clear but this is happening with most tourist itineraries.

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Burma-In Buddhas Honor
Yangon, Burma
By Michael Biach
28 Feb 2014

Burma, also know as Myanmar, is a predominantly Buddhist country. Nearly 90% of the country's inhabitants are Buddhist. A number of tribal peoples also practice forms of Animism. Among the country's most sacred sites are: Shwedagon Pagoda in the former capital Yangon (Rangoon), Golden Rock in the south, the ancient city of Bagan, Mount Popa, the most important nat pilgrimage site in Burma and the Maha Muni Buddha Pagoda in Mandalay. This photo collection documents some of the country's most famous sacred sites and the life of its Buddhist inhabitants.

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The Three Gems of the Buddha 11
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
16 Oct 2013

A lady attending a secret support and education group for young Muslims. She wouldn't give her name or affiliation for fear of being targeted by Buddhists in the city.

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The Three Gems of the Buddha 13
Yangon, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
16 Oct 2013

The doorway to a 969 supporter's house. In areas of town where ethnicities are mixed, families use flags and stickers outside their houses to determine they're affiliation, and iron bars for safety.

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The Three Gems of the Buddha 12
Meiktila, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
05 Oct 2013

A remaining mosque. Before clashes in March four hundred Muslim homes sat on this land. They were burnt during fighting.

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The Three Gems of the Buddha 22
Meiktila, Myanmar
By Spike Johnson
05 Oct 2013

A Muslims man rests while he rebuilds a Mosque after it was damaged in fighting.