Laszlo Sumegh - a death from AIDS

Since 1995 Laszlo Sumegh has been working as a streetworker to help young boys who have found themselves drawn into prostitution in the Czech capital. He has set up the foundation "Sance", which from a tiny office just off Wenceslas Square offers the boys some basic support. He provides condoms, medical attention and often just someone to talk to. Nobody knows how many boys are involved in prostitution, but large numbers are to be seen every evening around Prague's Main Station. Some 60 boys and a handful of girls regularly visit Laszlo Sumegh's centre, and anything up to another 600 are in occasional contact with Laszlo and his assistant Pavel. For Laszlo the work can often be heart-wrenching. Some of the boys come from backgrounds that are almost unthinkable; they end up in the street and it is not unusual for them to die from AIDS and hepatitis. Some have even been murdered. Here Laszlo remembers a tragic moment that came close to breaking his will to go on, but in the long-term reinforced his determination to help the boys.

"One experience that I've never forgotten was at the Bulovka Hospital, where I was working with HIV patients. There was a young boy in the room. If you looked at his face he looked great - healthy like you and me - but AIDS had left his body paralyzed. He couldn't walk. When his close family, friends, and his boyfriend realized that he was suddenly dependent on them, even if it was just to get a glass of water, they abandoned him. At home he had to crawl across the floor for that glass of water. So they took him in at the hospital. I was in the room where he was lying, and he needed to change his pyjamas. I put my arms round him. I dressed him. He told me I had cold hands although my hands were hot and sweating. He began to shake. I didn't know what was happening. I ran out into the corridor and cried out: "Doctor, nurse come here. He's suffocating." He died in my arms. That was the first time something like that happened to me. I went to the cremation. What I experienced in the crematorium made me think I'd never go through something like that again. The ones who cried most were the ones who hadn't given a damn about him. Behind me, two boys were sitting, who were just as ill as he had been. I heard one saying: "Next time it will be me." The other one said: "No, no, I'm more ill than you are." Hearing that just sucked the life energy out of me, but worst of all were the ones who were going on about how they loved him, but hadn't lifted a finger to help him."