World AIDS Day has been observed on 1 December every year. To commemorate this day, The Society for AIDS Care (SAC) continued its signature “Red Day” campaign. Under this theme, we urged the public to wear Red on World AIDS Day to show their support for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). Awareness and prevention go hand in hand. We aimed to raise public awareness on HIV/AIDS prevention, to encourage wider acceptance on people living with HIV/AIDS, and to build up “Zero Infection for the Next Generation”.
Renowned artists Ms. Annie Liu, Ms. Catherine Chau, Ms. Gaile Lai and Ms. Jade Leung have participated in our campaign by dressing Red and holding our red ribbon showing “I promise, I will not discriminate against People Living with HIV/AIDS” in the campaign photo. Their messages aim to facilitate better understanding on HIV/AIDS, help reducing discrimination and empowering the public by promoting the importance of HIV/AIDS awareness.
Today (1 December), we organized a public roadshow to introduce the services of SAC and invite the public to take a photo with our Red Ribbon at Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (opposite to Haiphong Road Temporary Market cum Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar), at the junction of Argyle Street & Shanghai Street, Mongkok (outside Langham Place) and at Argyle Street, Mongkok (outside Mongkok MTR Station Exit C). Red ribbon, information on SAC’s AIDS enquiry hotline and free HIV & Syphilis testing and introduction of our services were also distributed during the event.
The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health has released the latest quarterly figures on the local HIV/AIDS situation in the third quarter of 2018. It showed that there were 156 new HIV infections, and the cumulative total of reported HIV infections are 9,543 since 1984 while the confirmed AIDS cases reported are 1,959 since 1985. Despite various efforts conducted, many patients are not ready to disclose their positive identity to even their families and partners.
Fear of discrimination deter these patients to enjoy the same social rights as the others, as a result, many patients choose to live in isolation, some prefer to break away from their normal social circle and a lot of families are faced with shame, anger and uncertainties of their future lives.
The Society for AIDS Care once again appealed for everyone in Hong Kong to participate in the “Red Day” Campaign. Through their active participation, we hope to reduce discrimination against PLHIV. Therefore, PLHIV can seek proper help without fear, and feel better prepared to re-integrate back to the community.
According to statistics by the Department of Health, there were 681 cases of new infections in 2017, accumulating to a total of 9,091 cases since 1984. Today, The Society for AIDS Care (SAC) organized the AIDS Charity Walk cum Mask Design Contest Award Ceremony at the Peak. Celebrities Ms. Annie Lau, Ms. Candice Yu, Mr. Michael Wong and his family members and Ms. Ankie Beilke attended the ceremony as SAC Ambassadors. Co-chairperson of AIDS Walk, Mr. Christopher Jackson and emcee Mr. William Lam reinforced the importance of supporting people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) and to achieve the goal of “Zero Infection for the Next Generation” together. Other guests such as Mr. Andrew Pong, Mr. Adrian Chau, Mr. Sheldon Lo and fashion celebrities also attend to the event.
Ms. Candice Yu also attended the Walk to support PLHIV. Ms. Yu appreciated SAC’s direct patient services to those in need. And was happy to walk with PLHIV and helped them reintegrate into the society. She also introduced the Women Hotline and Free HIV Testing Service which is operated by experienced nurse and social worker to answer women's enquiries on HIV. It helps those women who are lack of knowledge on HIV prevention. The Co-chairman of AIDS Walk and Board Director of The Society for AIDS Care, Mr. Christopher Jackson stated that we have provided services for over 1,230 cases in the last 23 years. And without the support of our donors and corporates that devote their time and effort, all of the good work cannot be achieved.
Most patients under SAC’s care suffer HIV infection were unknowing of its cause at the time. Some of these cases include mother-to-child transmission, spouses infecting each other and tainted blood transfusion. These patients live under constant stress of HIV stigma and discrimination, driving them to live behind an invisible mask to protect their identities. SAC has been providing direct quality service to meet the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their care givers since 1994. The services are provided with the team of experienced nurses, social workers, counselors and physiotherapist to re-build the lives of PLHIV and facilitate full community integration.
At the invitation of Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Health Services, the representative of the Society for AIDS Care (SAC) will attend the LegCo Meeting on Monday, 5 February 2018, to response in relation to the recommended HIV/AIDS Strategies for Hong Kong (2017-2021). The response mainly reflects the two major issues need to be addressed immediately: the needs for women to receive HIV/AIDS preventive education and HIV Antibody Testing service; and prevention of perinatal infection.
There are 8,952 HIV infected cases accumulated as reported in 2017 3rd Quarter HIV situation according to the Department of Health and it reflects there is still an upward trend in the infected situation in Hong Kong. SAC strongly urges LegCo Panel on Health Services to concern for women infected cases and new cases through perinatal infection:
Second, among existing HIV infected cases served by SAC, female cases account for 40% of total cases served. Most of them belong to middle-aged group and discovered their infected status after receiving HIV antibody testing when their husband had confirmed diagnosis. Generally, they lack of knowledge on HIV/AIDS prevention and have no bargaining power in using condoms when having sex with their husbands. Moreover, they do not aware the importance in having regular HIV antibody test.
Thirdly, Council for the AIDS Trust Fund (ATF) makes reference to recommendations of the Strategies in funding allocation to AIDS NGOs in serving targeted high risk population. As general women population has not been classified as one of the targeted population, no resource is allocated for service rendered to them. SAC strongly urge ATF not only to concern the high risk groups, but also the needs of women in receiving HIV/AIDS preventive education and getting support for HIV antibody testing service.
Reduction of “Stigma and Discrimination” of AIDS is still something in need to be addressed urgently in Hong Kong. Despite various efforts conducted, many patients are not ready to disclose their positive identity to even their families and partners. Fear of discrimination deter these patients to enjoy the same social rights as the others, as a result, many patients choose to live in isolation, some prefer to break away from their normal social circle and a lot of families are faced with shame, anger and uncertainties of their future lives.
AIDS Care NGOs work with each patient on an individual/family basis. Education and targeted programs are provided on better coping skills, encouragement of positive living as well as the importance of adopting safer sex practice to all service users. Successful implementation of these programs by AIDS NGO encourages patients to better care for themselves, their partners and integrate into the community. At the same time, more aggressive AIDS acceptance promotion programs conducted jointly by the government and NGOs to the public are required to contribute to a more harmonious Hong Kong society.