KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — The past few years have been tough on non-governmental organisations.
With funding limited, the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) was among the NGOs trying to make things work for those who still needed its help.
Enter Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) that duly worked with MAF and committed a total of RM6 million for raising awareness, providing subsidised medication to underprivileged patients and helping the communities directly affected by HIV/AIDS.
“MAF came to us in 2013 asking for assistance because they needed funds to sustain the HIV/AIDS situation in Malaysia. Budgets were being cut and they explained to us that if they did not get enough funding they were going to struggle.
“They talked to us about HIV/AIDS. I knew very little about it, but I saw the passion and the impact they have created over the years. I brought it up to the council and they immediately agreed,” YSD chief executive officer Yatela Zainal Abidin told Malay Mail.
YSD was awarded the patron’s award for corporate social responsibility excellence by MAF at the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner last night.
“What caught my attention even during the earlier meetings was how I saw a potential that we at Yayasan Sime Darby could create, impact and raise awareness within our organisation to other Malaysians through working with MAF, and true enough, it has made us better individuals,” she added.
Among the first few programmes that MAF introduced was the syringe exchange programme.
It left a lasting impression on Yatela that led to YSD’s involvement in several other projects such as MAF’s Pal Scheme, which was launched in 1998 to assist the people living with HIV through medication.
“What I like about this programme is the number of individuals I’ve worked with who inspired me,” she said.
She related a story of a HIV-positive lady who had to bring up five children on her own, but was fired by her company after they found out about her status.
The lady also had to have second line anti-retroviral treatment (the first line medication which is provided free by the government was not working).
She duly contacted MAF and received help through the PAL scheme.
“She was so resilient to overcome the challenge and has since even built a shelter home for women and children who suffers from HIV.
“This shows that every HIV patient is similar to other Malaysians,” she said.
About RM2.7 million out of the RM6 million supports the PAL scheme which has assisted 106 patients in the span of three years and is in the midst of helping another 40.
“It’s not just about putting the money there. We want HIV patients to lead normal lives and thrive,” she said, adding that YSD has also supported the Malaysian AIDS Council with an advocacy manager.
Besides the Pal Scheme, YSD and MAF has also worked on expanding the Red Ribbon Youth Club, which consists of 10,000 teenagers and young adults aged between 17 and 21.
“The younger generation are our future. So, while we work alongside various stakeholders too, we need to get them on board and address the importance of ending stigma and discrimination.
“They make up a huge number of our population and we want to get the message out there in the shortest time possible,” she said.
Sime Darby, in 2016, received the Asean Red Ribbon for Outstanding Workplace Award, in recognition of its non-discriminatory human resource policy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts to improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS.
Other initiatives by YSD include funding the establishment of Rumah Sahabat in Kelantan, the first-ever palliative shelter home to meet the needs of people living with HIV in the state.
“We are humbled by the recognition, but we know there is so much more that needs to be done. We hope more corporations can come on board to assist MAC and MAF,” said Yatela of the patron’s award,” she said.
“We know the country can achieve its objective to reach zero new HIV cases and its ambition of ending AIDS 2030.”
Malay Mail was the media partner for the event.