KUALA LUMPUR, 10 Dec – HIV and AIDS should be humanized to the general public in order to eradicate stigma and discrimination against the epidemic.
Patron of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and Chair of the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said despite treatment that was available for individuals to live a normal and healthy life, what remained was the stigma.
“Living with HIV is never easy, it’s not just because of the disease but the stigma. There have been instances of students deprived of opportunities to further their studies because of their HIV status, there have been employees who have been wrongfully terminated because they are HIV positive.
“There are heartbreaking stories of single mothers and children living with HIV being discriminated against by society despite educational programs to illuminate on how HIV is,” said Marina, a long-time advocate in the battle against AIDS.
She said it was obvious that we needed to do a lot more educational programs and make visible the human aspect of the epidemic to the general public.
“Everyone deserves a life worth living and in the case of people living with HIV, it means better access to life-saving treatment and equal opportunities to further their education,” she added.
Marina was speaking at the Press Conference on Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF)-Berjaya Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner on Tuesday.
Hosted by MAF, the prestigious fundraising event will be held on December 14 at Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
It pays tribute to individuals and organisations that have shown courage, commitment and dedication in creating lasting impact on communities most affected by HIV and AIDS.
The nominees and winner of the Award will be revealed on the night itself and the winner will receive a cash prize of RM20,000 and an exclusive trophy.
Meantime, Malaysian AIDS Council President Bakhtiar Talhah has urged society to be more open in their discussion about sex education in order to end AIDS by the year 2030.
“In Malaysia, few years ago the main source of (HIV) transmission is people who injected drugs but now 94 per cent is from sexual transmission.
“It is not rocket science on how to prevent HIV, so if we can talk more openly about condom usage, about sex education, we can eradicate AIDS by 2030,” he said.
Bakhtiar who is MAF Honorary Secretary also thanked title sponsor Berjaya for their commitment to addressing the AIDS crisis in the country.
“No other Malaysian corporate citizen has a long history of partnership and support for MAF and the AIDS cause as Berjaya does.
“It is a relationship that spans over two decades and continues to flourish today,” he said.
Other corporations involved in the Gala included Monspace as presenting sponsor and Malton Berhad as signature sponsor.
Tenaga Nasional Berhad, Karex Berhad, Tropicana Berhad, and Westports Berhad were named as Diamond Table sponsors for the event.
The current HIV climate in Malaysia makes the Gala more crucial than ever with the money raised being channelled towards initiatives for HIV education and prevention, AIDS care, and support for People Living with HIV.
The Prime Minister’s wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali will grace the dinner this weekend as guest of honour.