St John’s Cathedral was a hive of activity in the hours leading up to World Aids Day last Sunday. The HIV Education Centre run at the Cathedral invited more than 200 participants, including representatives from 20 organisations, to take part in workshops and activities to learn more about HIV and Aids.
“Celebration of Life: Ending HIV Infection, Stigma and Discrimination” was supported by The Rotary Club of Queensway and UNESCO Hong Kong.
Outdoor shows and workshops invited people to learn about the illness and how they could tackle it. Magic shows, drama performances, poetry reciting and musical performances all encouraged the public to learn more about Aids-related issues and help Hong Kong achieve zero HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero deaths.
Keynote speakers included Dr Ada Lin, the Senior Medical Officer of the Special Preventive Programme in the Department of Health, and Professor Shiu Hung Lee, the Vice President of UNESCO in Hong Kong.
Dr Ada Lin said, “Medical advance in HIV care ensures that antiviral drugs for effective and sustainable suppression of virus are available nowadays, which would significantly improve survival of HIV infected individuals and reduce HIV transmission in the community. However, the support from families and friends of PLHIV is also important.”
She also recommended regular HIV testing for at-risk populations (men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, IDU, spouse or regular partner of PLHIV), and early HIV treatment for those tested positive.
Professir Shiu Hung Less said that to reach ‘zero new infections’ and ‘zero discrimination’, we need to involve the community in our fight against HIV/AIDS.
He said that governments as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society organisations can implement community-based activities through community health workers and volunteers. HIV/AIDS is a major public health concern at regional and international levels. It requires greater engagement and improved collaboration between government and NGOs and other civil society organisations.
Mr Fung Hing-Wang, the Assistant Governor, Rotary District 3450, said that while the advancement of medical sciences have brought the contracting of HIV and hence the epidemic AIDS under much better control, the number of people affected is still increasing albeit at a slower rate than before. And because of misunderstanding or ignorance, stigma and discrimination remain a reality of life for people living with HIV.
Mr Fung said that the event was important because it reminds us to continue to be alert to the epidemic AIDS, to be aware of measures for avoiding contracting HIV, and to be always prepared to share such knowledge with others. It also serves to let the world know that we as a united group will always show our attention, care and support to people who have to live with HIV, and that such united efforts will be manifested in various forms continuously and effectively through activities where no one will be discriminated.
The event was in response to the global theme for World AIDS Day, “Getting to Zero”, as selected by the World AIDS Campaign. Backed by the United Nations, the “Getting to Zero” campaign focuses on the goals of Zero New Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, at the end of 2012 an estimated 35.3 million people were globally living with HIV; in 2012 there were 2.3 million new HIV infections and 1.6 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.
In Hong Kong, according to data released by the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health, the cumulative total of HIV infections reached 6198 by the 3rd quarter of 2013. The record high number of cases has shown that AIDS is still a major public health concern in Hong Kong.
The Centre, in partnership with the Religious Broadcast of RTHK Radio, has prepared a World AIDS Day programme to raise the public’s awareness and encourage education.