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The Commitment Tree: "Jangan Lupa"

It was scary with SARS. Yet AIDS has been haunting us for two decades with no end in sight. In Malaysia, more people are getting infected. Ordinary housewives, young women who never thought that their decent-looking fiancé frequented commercial sex workers in the past – all are at risk. World Health Organisation has not made any announcements that possibly the AIDS pandemic is tailing off.

With SARS, people complained about the discrimination. It was reported that allegedly Singapore nurses in uniform were not welcomed in lifts or public buses and that landlords were asking foreigners employed at certain Singapore hospitals to move.

With AIDS, people dare not even complain because they fear to disclose their condition due to the stigma. They fear discrimination from treating doctors and nurses who will not give them medication or priority in care. They cannot complain to friends for fear of losing their friendship.

With emerging global and national socio-economic-health agendas, like SARS and the Iraq war, people begin to be complacent that there are already avenues of help and that the issues of HIV/AIDS are being contained. Yet, from the Ministry of Health statistics, the infection rate is not contained in Malaysia. Therefore, the theme for this year’s International AIDS Memorial Day (IAMD) 2003 is apt – “Remembering the Cause, Renewing the Commitment” or simply put, "Don't Forget".

Penang FPA's event this year, headed by Ms Yeap Meng Chee, was on the actual IAMD day ie. 18th May 2003 (Sunday), at the Cititel Penang. The event was supported by the Malaysian AIDS Council & Ministry of Health. YB Mr Teng Chang Yeow represented the Chief Minister of Penang to launch the Commitment Tree.

Objectives
  • To invite members of the public, volunteers from other NGOs, government agencies to renew their commitment in fighting HIV/AIDS in Penang.
  • To recruit ten new committed people to be involved in HIV/AIDS awareness programmes in Penang.
  • To initiate focus group discussion for HIV infected and affected persons
The event began at 8.30am with a forum in the morning with three speakers who shared their experiences:
  • "Children living with AIDS" - Mr Lim Seng Keong, Buddy Programme Chairman, Community AIDS Service, Penang.
  • "Women living with AIDS" - Ms Engie Ng, Penang FPA
  • Men living with AIDS" - Mr Benedit Monteiro, Positive Living Kuala Lumpur
After lunch, there were three separate workshops for specific topics, followed by the launch of the Commitment Tree.

The topics for the workshops were:
Group 1: Sharing our commitments
Group 2: Youth & HIV/AIDS (youth under 25 years of age)
Group 3: Me and You (MAY) Support Group Discussion (for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS)

The Commitment Tree highlighted commitment messages from guests and participants hung on the tree. There was a candlelight memorial for those infected, affected and died of AIDS, accompanied by poetry recital, sharing session by a person living with AIDS and singalong.

Penang FPA hope that this HIV/AIDS public awareness programme will enable people not to forget HIV/AIDS issues, especially the 100 forum participants and Commitment Tree launch guests.




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