KUALA LUMPUR, 31 March 2014 – Ralph Dixon and Jeff Lau, the only two Malaysians competing in the Marathon des Sables 2014 – a seven-day ultra-marathon across 250km of harsh arid terrain in the Moroccan Sahara Desert – from 4 April, were set to raise the bar high for the country’s AIDS awareness and fundraising efforts, announced the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) at a press conference here today.
The MAF Marathon des Sables 2014 Challenge will see the two runners compete in ‘the toughest footrace on earth’ in their bid to raise much-needed funds for two charitable initiatives under MAF; the Treatment, Care and Support Programme benefitting underprivileged women and children living with HIV to improve their access to lifesaving HIV medicines and care, and the Red Ribbon Youth Club which is an HIV education, empowerment, advocacy and leadership programme designed for young people.
Dixon, an avid marathon runner and a Trustee of MAF is poised to repeat the feat he achieved in 2010 upon completing his attempt at the Marathon des Sables in its 25th edition then, also for the same cause. “After finishing my first race, I swore I would never ever put myself through what I can only describe as the worst six days of my life! But funding for the AIDS response in this country has been severely cut back, and at the same time people living with HIV continue to be pushed to the margins of society due to stigma and discrimination, a situation which negatively affects their access to crucial healthcare services. Naturally, I have picked up my gear again and continued running,” he said.
The reality of the HIV situation in the younger population was what compelled Lau, a 24-year-old student and a Red Ribbon Youth Club Advocate to challenge himself to the extreme. A first-timer to the Marathon des Sables, he explained, “One in three new HIV infections in this country is reported among young people between the ages of 13 to 29. As a young Malaysian, it is indeed my responsibility to spread awareness of this very important issue and encourage my peers to lead a healthy lifestyle and practise safer sex for prevention of HIV and other infections.”
MAF Chairman Prof. Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman commended both runners for their efforts and wished them well on their courageous endeavour. “We would also like to express our most heartfelt appreciation to all our donors, sponsors and partners for their kindness and generosity, which undoubtedly will have a positive impact on the quality of life and health of the communities we serve,” she added.
Official partner MAA Group Berhad and official supporter Cocoaland Holding Bhd. presented MAF with RM 10,000 and RM 5,000 cheques worth of donation respectively during the press conference. MAF has also received the support from another official partner BFM 89.9, and venue sponsor Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur who hosted the press conference. Numerous other foundations, corporate and individual donors have also made generous contributions to this fundraising event.
The MAF Marathon des Sables 2014 Challenge fundraising campaign which began in January has thus far amassed donations over RM 70,000 in total and will continue until the end of April. One hundred percent of the proceeds raised will benefit the two aforementioned MAF projects. MAF welcomes donations from the public which can be made online via: http://www.simplygiving.com/
Malaysian AIDS Foundation
The Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) was formed in 1992 to raise and administer funds to support the activities and programmes of Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) and its Partner Organisations, under the patronage of YABhg Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of the Prime Minister. MAF funds prevention, treatment and care programmes conducted by MAC. MAF also distributes corporate donors’ funds to support projects that have been unable to secure government funding or projects located in parts of the country where resources are scarce. For more information on MAF, logon to its dedicated website www.mac.org.my
Malaysian AIDS Foundation Marathon des Sables 2014 Challenge
Facebook | www.facebook.com/MAFMdS2014
Twitter | via Red Ribbon Youth Club @RRYouthClub
Hashtags | #MAFMdS2014 #RRYC
Youtube | http://bit.ly/1hzUc5U
Media & Communications Department, Malaysian AIDS Foundation