From St John's Cathedral, HKSKH
Organised by St John’s Cathedral HIV Education Centre and supported by The Rotary Club of Queensway and UNESCO Hong Kong, the event “Celebration of Life: Ending HIV Infection, Stigma and Discrimination” was successfully held at the Garden of the St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong.
More than 200 participants from different sectors of Hong Kong society were present on the eve of World AIDS Day (1 December). The event was in response to the global theme for World AIDS Day from 2011-2015 “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 6,198 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.
“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” said Dr. Ada Lin (Senior Medical Officer, Special Preventive Programme, Department of Health) who was the Guest of Honour at the Celebration. Dr. Lin also pointed out the importance of safer sex, 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.
Distinguished guest, Professor Shiu Hung Lee SBS ISO JP (the Vice President [Medical and Healthcare] of UNESCO Hong Kong), said that as regards ‘zero new infections’ and ‘zero discrimination’, we need to involve the community in our fight against HIV/AIDS. Governments as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations can implement community-based activities through community health workers and volunteers. HIV/AIDS is a major public health concern not only in Hong Kong, but also at regional and international levels. It requires greater engagement and improved collaboration between government and NGOs and other civil society organisations.
Distinguished guest, Mr FUNG Hing-Wang (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.
He 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.
More than 20 organisations, included UNESCO Hong Kong, The Rotary Club of Queensway, Department of Health, The Consulate General of the United States of America (Hong Kong and Macau), the Central and Western District Council, The Equal Opportunities Commission, Hop Yuen Charitable Foundation Fund, The Hong Kong Coalition of AIDS Service Organizations, the Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, C.O.M.E. (Christ Original Missionary Eternity), Christian Action, PathFinders and the Ethnic Minority Health Service Unit of the United Christian Nethersole Community Health Service participated at the Celebration. The event included a series of exciting outdoor programs, such as magic shows, drama performance, poetry reciting, musical performances and sharing. The activities aimed to educate the public on AIDS-related issues and help Hong Kong achieve zero HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero death target.
Apart from this event, the Centre, in partnership with the Religious Broadcast of RTHK Radio, has prepared a World AIDS Day programme to arouse public awareness on AIDS. It will be broadcast on December 1, 11:05, on RTHK Radio 4 at FM97.60 (http://programme.rthk.hk/channel/radio/programme.php?name=radio4/churchservice&p=629).
St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre is a non-profit making and community-based organisation and it was the first faith-based organisation to undertake the AIDS ministry in Hong Kong. Since its inception in 1995, the Centre, through organising different activities, has been making enormous efforts in raising the public’s concern about AIDS in Hong Kong society, promoting AIDS prevention, and educating the public (especially youth and women) on appropriate sexual knowledge.