International AIDS Memorial Day
“Never give up, never forget” is the theme of the International AIDS Memorial Day (IAMD) 2008. Also known as the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM), the event is the oldest and biggest grassroots mobilisation campaign to enhance the awareness on HIV/AIDS across the globe. The occasion is also held in the memory of those who had succumbed to this scourge, as well as to give support to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients who are still alive. For 2008, this event is held for the 25th time worldwide. It is to combat the stigma and discrimination that comes along with this disease apart from moving the society to actively respond to the prevention and care support for the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs). According to Datuk Mohd Zaman Khan, the IAMD Organising Committee Chairman and Malaysian AIDS Foundation trustee: “IAMD gives us a platform to rededicate ourselves to the fight against HIV/ AIDS”. Meanwhile, the Malaysian AIDS Council President and Malaysian AIDS Foundation chairman Professor Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said this is the first time that the IAMD is held in an open-door concept with the community. “I hope this will empower people living with HIV and raise awareness among Malaysians. “The biggest obstacle they are experiencing is the stigma and discrimination from the society”, said Prof Adeeba. She said Malaysians should be matured and change their perception towards the PLHIVs. For HIV carrier Chandran, not his real name, his 18 years experience as a drug addict was painful. “I was shunned by the society, including my own flesh and blood”, he said. Chandran, 38, said he started to flirt with drugs when he was 17, at the urging of his schoolmates. “After I was confirmed as a HIV carrier in the year 2000, I lost all hope to continue living. I kept resorting to drugs without realising that there are people who still care for me. “I still have my mother, who provides me with the determination to fight my drug addiction. Now I realise that by contracting the HIV, it is not the end of my life as there is still a long journey for me to go through”, he said. “I had been in the police lock up for seven times and was imprisoned for one year. Those times, only my mother cared for me but not my siblings. Chandran admitted that it was not easy to get away from drugs, but his mother gave him the support and encouragement that he needed. Now the ‘born again’ Chandran has a Diploma in Psychology from Sunway University and works fulltime for the Malaysian Aids Council (MAC), helping to free others from drug abuse.