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Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day 2007: Let's get our focus right...

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Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

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For the next whole week (until Sunday a week from tomorrow), the red ribbons you see adorning this blog's header graphic will remain, as will the banner right below it. It's Walski's small contribution towards building awareness concerning a big global problem.

AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - a fatal collection of symptoms and infections resulting from the damage to the immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV (definitions as stated in Wikipedia).

Stated in the manner above, it is possible to look at AIDS from a non-judgemental perspective. It boils down to the fact that AIDS is a serious health issue. And like any other health issues, our focus should be on how to cure it, and how to prevent it from spreading.

The problem creeps in when we start to place our own judgemental values on AIDS and HIV - that these are God's retribution to mankind for behaving in certain ways, contrary to our belief systems. Briging in these judgemental views does two things - it detracts us from the real problem, and prevents us from doing something positive.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, Walski wants to ask you this - what are YOU doing to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in your own personal capacity?
(AIDS is everybody's problem, and more, in the full post)

Walski doesn't expect an answer, by the way. It's something for you to think about and answer to yourself. But while you're thinking about it, a quick look at some of the stories found in the Malaysian MSM today gives us an idea as to the challenges facing AIDS awareness.
(Slightly humorous aside: In the HIV/AIDS caregiving and activism circles, the acronym MSM stands for "Men having Sex with Men". What Walski is referring to, in this case, is of course the MainStream Media. Any connection between the two, however, well... nevermind.)

From the NaSTy (emphasis by myAsylum):

"We are trying to do something with the drug users but the MSM and the sex workers are a bit harder to tackle because of issues like criminalising sex work and MSM acts, therefore providing information and prevention tools are difficult," Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said.

"We haven't paid any attention to them. MAC, I know, has something to do, but we have our own constraints," she added.

Things do not look too good where infection rates are concerned, as she said the country will continue to see a rise among non-injecting drug users.

This also means the average person who has sexual relations and does not use condoms, a subject the Malaysian government admittedly shies from and the public largely chooses to ignore.

(for full article, click here)

Dr Adeeba doesn't elaborate on what kind of constraints are put on agencies like MAC, but Walski gathers it's the implicit resistance from certain quarters that are religiously and/or socially influential, which in turn inhibits the Government from doing more, in fear of losing political support. Like the notion a certain Mutant Mullah has that condoms encourage adultery. That would be Walski's guess. And it goes back to the effects of being judgemental, and turning heath issues, such as HIV and AIDS, into moral issues.

Other challenges, perhaps are ignorance and denial. Ignorance of how HIV can be contracted, and partly because of that, a kind of "oh, but it can't effect me" sort of denial. Via The Star:

This surge in the number of HIV-positive women was a cause for concern, said council president Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman.

She said a large majority of the affected women were not infected as a result of “their own action” but by their partners.

“It is sad that awareness of the disease is still lacking but we are doing our best to feed them with information so that they can take precautions.

“The awareness is particularly important among younger Malaysians,” she said after the flagging-off of the Riding for Life campaign Saturday.

(source: The Star)

And so, at the end of the day, it really is up to every single individual to do their part in ensuring that HIV/AIDS does not spread. Practising safe sex, for example. And by "safe sex", Walski doesn't mean locking the door, or making sure the nosy neighbors (who may want to tell on you) aren't watching.

Also, arm yourselves with proper information on how HIV spreads. With information available on the Internet these days, there's no excuse for not knowing anymore. Once armed with the correct information, then it's incumbent upon yourselves to correct any wrong understanding that your friends and/or family may have - not easy, Walski knows, but it is a responsibility on your part. Call it a burden of knowledge.

If there is anything that you can take away from this post, Walski hopes it's this:

HIV/AIDS is not just their problem, it's EVERYBODY's problem. And EVERYBODY includes YOU.

Walski's AIDS information PSA footnote: Apart from the Malaysian AIDS Council, there are other NGOs that provide support, most notably the Pink Triangle Foundation (PTF). The PTF site has a links section, from which more resources are available, like AEGIS (AIDS Education Global Information System), for example.