Dressed to Test: Empowered Communities Take HIV Services to the Streets

By Richard Nyberg and Montakan Tanchaisawat

The old saying, “You are what you eat,” doesn’t apply that well to Atachai Phunkron. It’s more about what he wears. Who would have thought a nondescript lab coat could change his life? Just ask him about it and watch him beam.

“Every time I wear the coat, I feel like it has a magical spell,” said the 28-year-old HIV counselor from Ubon Ratchathani in northeast Thailand. “I feel like I am playing another role—that I commit to transfer knowledge to my clients to save their lives. I used to see people wearing a white coat helping people in the hospitals and had never thought I would have an opportunity to be like them one day.”

It’s a bit unusual that he wears the coat at all given his bachelor’s degree in management from Thailand’s Ramkhamhaeng University. His career aspirations changed when he moved from a sales position to become an accountant for the local NGO, Service Workers in Group (SWING), working in Bangkok and the coastal town of Pattaya. It didn’t take long for him to figure out that he had a knack for helping people.

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