Leadership at All Levels Crucial in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Nov 29, 2008

29 November 2008, Kuala Lumpur -The United Nations in Malaysia joined hands with PT Foundation to flag off the 2008 Red Carnival at Sungai Wang Plaza here today, in a bid to raise awareness on the importance of shared action and responsibility ahead of World Aids Day.

The 1st of December is a day when individuals and organisations from around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic.  This year marks the 20th Anniversary of World Aids Day and the 27th year since the disease was first identified. In Malaysia, more than 80 000 people have been reported to have acquired HIV since 1986.

In full carnival spirit, the Red Carnvial, which carried the theme, "I Love Me" was a two day activity-packed event which drew on the participation of youth volunteers as agents for change. Hundreds of Malaysians wearing red ribbons flocked to the crowded streets of Bukit Bintang which were decked with red balloons, with over 70 celebrities lending their efforts to the cause by joining the host of street performances.  Information kiosks were set up in key locations to disseminate HIV information to the public.

This year's event also saw a new partnership with Jabatan Kesihatan Negeri Wilayah Persekutuan dan Kuala Lumpur (JKNWPKL) in bringing the message to a wider audience via “Edarton Red Carnival” – where 300 college student volunteers flooded the city via Kenari cars, scooters, RapidKL trains and buses, and the KL Monorail, to distribute leaflets and raise funds for HIV work.

Speaking on behalf of PT Foundation, Mr. Hisham Hussein, Chairman of the organization, said, "The biggest challenge to HIV/AIDS is not the virus itself.

It is the stigma and discrimination faced by marginalized communities and people living with HIV. As long as Malaysians shun these communities, they will go underground, making it difficult to reach them with prevention messages and harm reduction programmes.

"This is a sure way for HIV to spread from these communities to the mainstream population via their partners and/or their clients."

 In his speech, Mr. Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia and UNDP Resident Representative, underscored the need for the country to strengthen and exhibit leaderships at all levels in dealing with the challenges ahead. 

 "Today, though the number of people reported newly infected with HIV is less than it was 5 years ago, the four fold increase in newly reported HIV cases amongst women and girls in the last 10 years is cause for enormous concern.

 "The 6th Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of combating HIV and AIDS is particularly important in Malaysia’s context because it currently remains the critical goal that will decide whether Malaysia is on track to achieve all of the MDGs at the aggregate level by 2015.  To address this, the Government of Malaysia and civil society organisations such as PT Foundation have shown inspiring leadership and great courage in responding to HIV and AIDS in this country," he said.

 "On this World AIDS Day, all of us who are working to end this epidemic must decide to put communities first in our work, to make financial and human support for young people and for women a priority, and, most importantly, to place the highest priority on compassion for each other.  We must unite with the goal of saving lives," Mr. Malhotra added.

 It is expected that the Red Carnival will reach a total of 100,000 people and raise RM100,000 for HIV/AIDS work and exemplifies the need for a multi-sectoral response to HIV -  with sponsorship coming from CIMB, Sungei Wang Plaza, United Nations Malaysia, Malaysian AIDS Council and the Ministry of Health Malaysia, and the support of Internet media – Fridae.com and AMP radio stations – LiteFM, MixFM, MyFM, ERA, Sinar, THR Raga and Gegar.

Also present at the opening ceremony were Mr Youssouf Oomar, UNICEF Representative, Dato' Simon Foong, PT Foundation Board of Trustee, Dato' Rosie Tan,  PT Foundation Board of Trustee, and Dr. Supathiratheavy a/p Rasiah, Deputy Director, Jabatan Kesihatan Wilayah Persekutuan.

For more information on the work of PT Foundation, please visit their website at: www.ptfmalaysia.org

In Malaysia, UNDP is currently working with the Ministry of Health, the Malaysian Aids Council, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) and other partners to strengthen community based prevention and care efforts. For more information on the project, please visit: http://www.undp.org.my/hivaids--meeting-the-challenges-with-community-based-prevention-and-care-efforts

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