CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Long way to go getting AIDS back to zero

HONG KONG (SE): “I have been blessed by the support of my family and friends throughout the years, which has helped me regain confidence and move out of the shadow of my life,” Joey, an HIV positive person and volunteer worker at the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, said at the annual AIDS Festival in Chater Road on March 31.

Sponsored by the St. John’s Cathedral HIV Education Centre, this year marked the 10th anniversary of the annual festival, which aims to bring about a greater awareness among the public on issues affecting both victims of the disease and the general public.

Joey pointed out that HIV and AIDS are no longer terminal, saying that stigma and discrimination should not exist in society.

He said that he hopes all HIV positive people can experience the love and respect of others, and that the public can understand that the best way to protect your own body is to understand the condition and nature of the illness.

The festival this year ran under the theme of Getting to Zero. However, the organiser of the event, Elijah Fung, said in a press release that there is still a long way to go in reaching this target.

She lamented that the number of cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) reported to the Hong Kong Department of Health in 2012 was 75 higher than the 438 cases reported in the previous year.

“The record high in reported HIV cases in 2012 signals its continued significance as a major public health issue in Hong Kong,” Fung reflected.

She added that at the end of 2010, there were 34 million people living with the infection, a statistic that was boosted by 2.7 million newly reported cases and mitigated only by 1.8 million deaths from the disease.

The United Nations (UN) attributes the rise in the number of infections to changed sexual behaviour patterns in the world, especially among young people.

Fung said that a joint UN programme on AIDS points to the need for strong programme activities to reverse the current increase in the growth of the pandemic.

She says that it cites community education programmes aimed at reducing the stigma attached to AIDS in society, as well as a greater respect for human rights and a better legal protective environment.

The St. John’s Cathedral AIDS Centre was established in 1995 and is the only faith-based group in Hong Kong working to respond to the curse of the AIDS pandemic. It is pushing for an acceptance of the victims of infection, as well as a greater understanding of their plight, as stimgatisation only serves to alienate people and make the problem worse.

The centre provides AIDS and reproductive health education for students, ethnic minorities and the wider community, as well as conducting research in these areas.

It cooperates with interfaith groups to combat AIDS in the Asia region and also runs internships for students.

Under the drizzly skies of Easter Sunday over 30 organisations in Hong Kong, including both local and international schools, AIDS specific organisations, ethnic groups and 200 volunteers took part in the festival production.

The whole-day event was officially opened by the dean of St. John’s Cathedral, Canon Matthias Der, and the district governor for Rotary Hong Kong, Macau and Mongolia, Eugene Fong.

She Bo-yee, a consultant from the Red Ribbon Centre; Sam Aryadi, the vice-consul from the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia to Hong Kong; and representatives from the Filipino, Thai, Nepali and Sri Lankan communities were among the guests of honour on the day.

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