KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — The efforts of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society and individuals who have contributed their efforts to tackle the HIV epidemic in Malaysia must be recognised, said civil society and corporate leaders.
Speaking to the Malay Mail on the sidelines of the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala dinner, civil society leader and prominent human rights lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the efforts of non-governmental organisations and ordinary individuals against HIV needed to be acknowledged.
“I am delighted to hear of the wonderful work not just by the Malaysian AIDS Council, but also by ordinary people, by individuals and NGO. The recipient of the award today is an amazing woman, but look at how quietly she does her work and get on with it. I think it’s wonderful the council recognise people like that.”
Ambiga was referring to the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award winner Matron Fadzilah Abdul Hamid, who has spent the past 30 years caring for women and children affected by HIV.
“ I think the NGO has done a wonderful job in their outreach and education relating to AIDS,” she added.
Ambiga added she was inspired by the support shown at the event tonight on the seriousness of tackling the HIV epidemic.
Ancom’s executive chairman Datuk Siew Ka Wei, who was also present at the award ceremony, said tonight’s event is indicative that the myth and misinformation surrounding HIV must be addressed.
“It is clear from tonight that ignorance must be combated and people must know how to treat those with AIDS.
“Some of them did not get the diseases deliberately, so it’s important that we all treat them with humanity and care.
“But the most important thing I learnt tonight is there are a lot of good people out there,” he added.
In her keynote address at the award, Malaysian AIDS Foundation Chairman Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said the issue now lies with the political will to handle the epidemic in a more effective way.
“The global AIDS response has been transformational from a disease we couldn’t talk about, to a political agenda that heads of state and government are leading on. But it’s not only presidents and prime ministers who have a part to play.
“All of us need to have these difficult conversations around drug use, LGBT and the inclusion of genuine human rights protection because everyone, everywhere has the right to good health regardless of who we are and who we love,” she said.
Dr Adeeba also acknowledged that civil society has done much to combatting the HIV epidemic in the country and hoped the new Pakatan Harapan administration will recognise their efforts.
“We in civil society put tremendous hope in this new and enlightened government, that there will be due recognition of our value in improving engagement in health in general, and the HIV response in particular.
“Civil society has transformed Malaysia — now, allow it do more,” she said.
*A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.