[Above: Highlights of the It Begins With You event in Kota Bharu Mall included HIV quizzes for the public to enhance their understanding on HIV and AIDS, a resident clown to entertain the crowd, and a colouring competition for children.]
While HIV treatment has become more accessible to patients, the number of HIV-positive people continues to increase, signaling a dire need for education, especially for healthcare professionals, in order for us to have the right perspective and fully understand the social and healthcare implications for people living with HIV (PLHIV).
HIV and AIDS awareness programme, It Begins With You, recently made further inroads by reaching out to the people of Kota Bharu in conjunction with World AIDS Day 2011.
The Kota Bharu initiative, which was spearheaded by healthcare company MSD, and the Malaysian Society for HIV Medicine (MaSHM), was supported by the Kelantan Health Department, Prihatin, SAHABAT, Kolej Kejururawatan, and the medical, nursing and pharmacy students from Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Commenting on this latest initiative, Ewe Kheng Huat, managing director of MSD, said, "It is timely that It Begins with You spreads its wings beyond the Klang Valley as we are acutely aware of the need for education and awareness of HIV and AIDS in other regions.
"As much as we have witnessed positive responses in the Klang Valley over these last six years, we look forward to seeing how the Kota Bharu initiative will also contribute to lives being changed, perspectives challenged, and, more importantly, to sow the seeds of commitment among future doctors and healthcare professionals in Kota Bharu.
"We are indeed pleased to be able to launch It Begins with You in Kota Bharu and reach out to the community there. It has been great to see the enthusiasm of our partners - their dedication and excitement are certainly infectious and encouraging. They have rallied together to set out a good HIV and AIDS outreach programme, and we applaud each of them," Ewe added.
Dr Mahiran Mustafa, President of MaSHM and advisor to Prihatin, said: "From 1986 up to 2010, 91,362 HIV-positive cases have been reported, with 12,943 of these lives lost. While HIV treatment has become more accessible to patients, the number of HIV-positive people continues to increase, signaling a dire need for education, especially for healthcare professionals, in order for us to have the right perspective and fully understand the social and healthcare implications for people living with HIV (PLHIV). This is so that we can accord them the respect and care they need.
"One of the key reasons why we are raising awareness on HIV and AIDS in Kelantan is because the state records one of the highest incidences of new infections for HIV. According to figures from the Health Ministry, in Kelantan alone, there were 9,891 HIV-positive patients at the end of December 20092. The increasing number of reported new HIV infections needs to be addressed," said Dr Mahiran.
The Kota Bharu initiative comprised programmes such as educational visits to a shelter home and support centre by the medical, nursing and pharmacy students, spearheaded by Prihatin and SAHABAT, as well as a public event at Kota Bharu Mall to drive the awareness on HIV and AIDS.
The event was launched by Dr Wan Mansor bin Hamzah, the deputy director of the Kelantan State Health Department.
Highlights of the It Begins With You event in Kota Bharu Mall included HIV quizzes for the public to enhance their understanding on HIV and AIDS, a board for public pledges in support of the cause, and a resident clown to entertain the crowd.
Other interesting activities included a colouring competition for children, as well as dikir barat and wayang kulit performances with HIV themes.
It Begins With You was first initiated in 2005 to address the low ratio of doctor to HIV-patient, by raising awareness among medical students of the dire need for more HIV and AIDS treaters. It also seeks to address the stigma associated with the interaction and treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV).
The programme continually invites resources and expertise of partner organisations to address these issues and positively impact the lives of PLHIVs. Previous advocacy initiatives included participation of medical students from various universities, namely International Medical University, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Putra Malaysia.
To continue support towards these universities, HIV initiatives such as a HIV talk and a HIV awareness run were held at the International Medical University in conjunction with their HIV Week in October and November this year.
About Malaysian Society of HIV Medicine: MaSHM was founded in 1998 by group of doctors dealing with HIV and AIDS. The primary aim is to provide and participate in education of HIV and AIDS and raise awareness among the medical and allied professions, patients, schools and the public. It is currently actively involved in conducting training courses and workshops to equip current and future doctors and paramedics with knowledge and skills to diagnose, counsel and treat PLWHAs.