Raising funds for Sarawak’s first HIV one stop healthcare centre
By Patricia Hului
A total of RM550,000 was raised for Sarawak ‘s first ever One-Stop Healthcare Centre for Integrated HIV Treatment, Care and Support during Malaysian AIDS Foundation Kuching Gala at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) on Dec 8.
The event was held in conjunction with the World AIDS Day which is observed on Dec 12 annually.
Quaint government quarters located at Jalan Crookshank, not far from Sarawak General Hospital, has been identified as the future premise.
Extensive renovation and refurbishment work will start soon and the project is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2017.
Sarawak Chief Minister’s wife Datuk Amar Puan Sri Jamilah Anu, patron of the gala said the centre was the way forward in addressing HIV and AIDS-related issues affecting our men, women and children.
“The facility, which will be operated by the Sarawak AIDS Concern Society, will offer temporary or short term refuge to those who travel hundreds of kilometres from all parts of the state to receive free HIV treatments, tests and follow ups,” she said.
“It will also serve as a community empowerment centre providing psycho-social support and other life-affirming activities that will have positive impact on their health and will being as well as livelihood skills training to help alleviate poverty.”
According to Jamilah, the rising trend of new HIV infections over the past five years from 169 cases in 2011 to 230 last year is cause for great concern.
“As is the fact that the vast majority of these cases, over 90 per cent were attributed to sexual transmission.
“This situation makes women and girls as equally, if not more, vulnerable to HIV as men, for many of these women, their only risk factor for HIV is being married.”
Meanwhile, Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, chairman of the Malaysian Aids Foundation said the situation in Sarawak is even more challenging.
“Due to the diversity of its geography and the resulting long distance travels, many people living in HIV in the rural and deep interiors of the state, and not to mention those from resource-limited households and lower income brackets, face difficulties in accessing free HIV services provided at the Sarawak General Hospital or our local NGO partner, the Sarawak AIDS Concern Society.”
She added that although the number of people infected with HIV in Sarawak is relatively small, the state and the foundation cannot afford to turn a blind eye to it.
The fundraising gala night was a star-studded event with the performances and appearances of Red Ribbon Celebrity Supporters.
Sarawak’s very own leading singer, Bob Yusof has been part of the Red Ribbon Celebrity Supporter Programme since 2011.
Bob, who co-chaired the fundraising event, shared how he was criticised for volunteering with the foundation.
“Social stigma and discrimination were always the issues for us. There were people who scolded me for helping these people with HIV but I still want to continue and fight against the social stigma and discrimination against HIV-infected people,” he said.
He explained that because of the social stigma, a lot of women with HIV are afraid to come forward to seek treatment even when the treatments are given free.
Bob stated, “With the treatment and help made available nowadays, HIV-infected people actually can lead a normal life, get married and have children free of HIV.”
He added, “Together, we must urge them to seek for treatment.”
Bob also lent his voice by singing to entertain the crowd during the night.
Other performers included singing sensation Ziana Zain and crowd favourite Sarawakian Dayang Nurfaizah.
Injecting some humour to the night’s line-up was comedian Dee.
Local actors Aaron Aziz and Fahrin Ahmad also flew in to show support for the event.
The night was made even more glamorous with a jewellery fashion show by Mouawad, a Swiss and Emirati luxury goods company.
Also present were deputy health minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya, Sarawak AIDS Concern Society president Dr Yuwana Podin and BCCK chief executive officer Eric van Pinggelen.
The event was made possible with the sponsorships and partnerships of Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, Sarawak AIDS Concern Society, Hilton Kuching, Malindo Air, Mouawad and Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Cats FM, TV Sarawak, Ticketpro Malaysia, Outled, Flora Terrace and Lumiere Creative.