Malaysian AIDS Foundation raises RM1.5m to help underprivileged HIV patients

The fund allows the patients to have access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment


THE Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) has raised RM1.49 million at the Red Ribbon Gala and Sunway-MAF Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award 2021 held at Hilton Kuala Lumpur (KL) recently.

MAF chairman Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said the funds raised would be channelled to its Medicine Assistance Scheme, a programme that helps underprivileged Malaysians living with HIV to gain access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment.

“We are accelerating our ending AIDS mission as we rebound from Covid-19, which has only reminded us of the grim reality of the early years of the AIDS pandemic when treatment was wishful thinking,” Dr Adeeba said in a statement.

“Thanks to 40 years of scientific progress, we now have the most powerful tool that can turn the tide on HIV/AIDS for good, which is the antiretroviral treatment.

“It is therefore imperative that we continue to place treatment at the core of our response, while strengthening the political will, financial investment, multisectoral collaboration and community engagement to ensure its sustainability,” she added.

Meanwhile, MAF patron Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir stressed the urgency to address the socioeconomic disparities that are putting communities affected by HIV/ AIDS at greater risk for Covid-19.

“Continued access to antiretroviral treatment significantly improves protection from Covid-19 for people living with HIV, and this is the immediate priority as we continue to grapple with the impact of the pandemic,” she said.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar who officiated the event commended the HIV/AIDS civil society for their tireless and unwavering dedication to the community response during the pandemic which would go a long way in the concerted effort towards achieving the ending AIDS goal by 2030.

He also reaffirmed the Health Ministry’s commitment to intensifying testing and treatment for key populations and providing antiretroviral treatment to people living with HIV.

As MAF’s signature fundraiser, the Red Ribbon Gala commemorated key milestones on the road to ending AIDS by 2030, a shared goal among key stakeholders for Malaysia’s national AIDS response.

It also gave recognition to unsung heroes who demonstrate exceptional leadership and resilience in their work to support communities impacted by HIV/ AIDS through the Sunway-MAF Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award.

This year’s Sunway-MAF Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award honouree, Dr Mahani Nordin, AIDS Officer at Terengganu health department, was recognised for leading the way and going above and beyond her call of duty to sustain the local community response to HIV/AIDS. She is one of the co-founders of Komuniti Cakna Terengganu, a community-based organisation that provides harm reduction services around needle exchange and methadone maintenance to people who use drugs as well as treatment, care and support to people living with HIV.

On top of her co-founding role, she donated a piece of her own 0.4ha land to the organisation, where a shelter home was built to help men who use drugs recover and integrate into society.

A small plot of the same land has been turned into a community farm that allows the residents to attain their livelihoods through a social enterprise.

She was also successful in her advocacy work with key state stakeholders, leading the Terengganu state government to designate a 2.8ha land to expand Komuniti Cakna Terengganu’s efforts and establish homes and facilities for men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

“I am deeply humbled by this recognition and grateful for the attention that it will bring to the struggles faced by the local community in Terengganu. There is still a lot more work to be done, especially in terms of removing the stigma around HIV/AIDS and drug use,” Dr Mahani said.

The Sunway-MAF Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award presentation marked the beginning of Sunway Group’s long-term collaboration with MAF as the new official sustainability partner.

Central to this partnership is Sunway’s five-year support on MAF’s major projects serving underprivileged people living with HIV in Sabah and Sarawak.

At the same event, MAF’s official strategic partner, Yayasan Sime Darby presented its donation of an 11-seater van to Sabah AIDS Awareness Group Association, extending its commitment to ending AIDS under its partnership with MAF even further.

The Red Ribbon Gala was supported by MS New Symphony Exercise Clinic as official changemaker partner, Hilton KL as venue sponsor and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. — TMR