For Immediate Release
KUCHING, 23 May 2017 – Like many other people living with HIV in Sarawak, Joyce (not her real name) finds keeping her doctor’s appointments a challenge.
Living in a small village near the West Kalimantan border located 100 km away, she relies on her employer for a ride into Kuching every time she has a checkup at the Sarawak General Hospital, the only government healthcare facility that provides free first line antiretroviral treatment in the state.
The One Stop Support Centre is the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF)’s response to the single largest barrier to HIV continuum of care in Sarawak – the state’s geographical diversity that impedes access to otherwise readily available services.
It is the first community-based facility established in Sarawak to serve men, women and children impacted by HIV and AIDS.
Launched today by its patron Datuk Amar Datin Patinggi Hajah Jamilah Haji Anu, the centre is named Teratak Kasih Tok Nan after her late husband Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem, the fifth Chief Minister of Sarawak whose leadership was instrumental in initiating the state Government’s response to AIDS.
“Teratak Kasih Tok Nan symbolises our hope and care for the people of Sarawak whose leaders and civil society in recent times have shown great passion and commitment to ending AIDS,” remarked Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Chairman of the MAF.
“It is also a place where we hope communities affected by HIV and AIDS would grow and thrive towards improved health and social outcomes.”
Serving as a halfway home for people like Joyce who travel long distances to access treatment at the Sarawak General Hospital, it is able to accommodate up to 13 occupants at a single time.
The One Stop Support Centre offers community-based HIV testing, counselling, treatment literacy, and legal and welfare service referrals, in addition to providing life skills training and other social reintegration support to its beneficiaries.
It is being run by the Sarawak AIDS Concern Society (SACS), a Partner Organisation of the Malaysian AIDS Council.
“The One Stop Support Centre is critical to the well-being of the communities we serve,” noted Dr Yuwana Podin, President of the SACS.
“As people living with HIV continue to be pushed away due to stigma and discrimination, a safe space is necessary to ensure that their needs are met and their voices heard.”
The Malaysian AIDS Foundation Kuching Gala, a star-studded charity dinner was held in December last year to benefit this project. It raised over RM 500,000.
The AIDS epidemic in Sarawak began in 1989, three years after the first HIV cases were detected in Malaysia. By the end of 2016, a total of 2,436 HIV infections were recorded, of which 542 resulted in AIDS-related deaths.
“Although the number of infections is small, there has been a marked increase in yearly new HIV infections in the past five years – from 147 cases in 2011 to 258 in 2016,” noted Dr Adeeba.
“Through the One Stop Support Centre, we can create opportunities to effectively address this issue by providing HIV and AIDS education, awareness and empowerment directly to people most affected.”
But for Joyce, single mother of one, she has only one opportunity that she hopes to create for herself.
“I have always wanted to learn to read and write. I look forward to taking lessons from the caregivers when I visit the One Stop Support Centre for my monthly checkups.”
Malaysian AIDS Foundation
The Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) was formed in 1993 to raise and administer funds to support the activities and programmes of the Malaysian AIDS Council and its Partner Organisations. MAF funds high-impact HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programmes such as harm reduction, s helter homes, financial and medical assistance schemes as well as HIV health literacy and empowerment activities for underprivileged women and children living with HIV and other key populations nationwide. Learn more at http://yam.org.my/V2/.
Malaysian AIDS Foundation
Zaki Arzmi | 016-2922948 | [email protected]