Together with a team of HIV specialist doctors, medical social workers and pharmacist, Fong Lin manages 200+ patients as an HIV care nurse in a training hospital in Singapore. Having worked with AIDSLink International for three years, she shares her insight about the situation of HIV and AIDS in South East Asia today…
“There seems to be great confusion about how to care for HIV-infected and affected people, and about taking a stand concerning LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] issues,” said Fong Lin from Singapore. “Due to stigma, discrimination, fear, misconception and moral views, many still struggle with acceptance, [and yet] the church has been very silent and slow to get involved.”
According to the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH), 469 Singapore residents were newly reported with HIV in 2012, 98% of which were through sexual transmission (heterosexual 47%, homosexual 45% and bisexual transmission 6%). Interestingly, 48% of the new cases already had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed. This brings the total number of HIV infected Singapore residents to 5,775 (0,1% population).
In Malaysia, 2,504 people were newly reported with HIV infection last year, adding to the cumulative total of 94,841 HIV cases (0,3% population) in Malaysia in 2011. In contrast to Singapore, 53.2% of new infections in 2008 were amongst injecting drug users.
There is currently only one shelter in Singapore for homeless people who are HIV-positive, and this is run by the Catholic church. “A very small number of churches have ministry to support and care for those infected or affected by HIV and AIDS,” noted Fong Lin. “Many with HIV and LGBT issues are suffering quietly in the pews. Why?”
As a nursing student, Fong Lin became interested in HIV-related issues and her calling was confirmed when she started working in this field full-time. Seizing all opportunities to equip herself for the role of caregiver, educator, advocate and friend of those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, she did the Channels of Hope (COH) course run by AIDSLink International and continued to work for them for the next three years.
“You do not need to be a medical person to do the COH course,” said Fong Lin, “nor do you need to know a lot about HIV. This course is for anyone who desires to experience the Father heart of God in reaching out to people living with HIV; it's about touching the hearts and souls of people living with HIV and allowing the compassion of Christ to compel us as disciples to make a difference to lives affected by the HIV pandemic. You will receive gems of material to run workshops and mini-talks for individuals or mass groups of people. I have used the course material to train medical and non-medical personnel, children, youth and migrant workers.”
Rose* first started attending the Meetse a Bophelo after school center in 2011. When we met her, she was merely skin and bones. She came to our center with no life in her eyes. She could barely stand to look a teacher in the eye or play with the children.
Her mother had passed away from an AIDS related illness and she was living with the fear that she was going to suffer in the same way. Nutrition plays a huge role in everyone's health but is even more important with those living with HIV.
Seeing Rose struggle to gain weight was hard to watch. She had been eating at home, but like many of our children her diet consisted mostly of pap and bread.
As soon as she started at our center, she began receiving a Nucleo nutritious drink in addition to well-balanced and healthy lunches. Due to the severity of her malnourishment, we also gave Nucleo to her grandmother so that she could drink it at home.
Rosemary Hack, the founder of AIDSLINK International, along with her husband Michael, visited Operation Mercy Iran.
Operation Mercy Iran and AIDSLINK International have been partnering since 2008, and have conducted a number of trainings.
The most recent training was a three-day workshop entitled "HIV/AIDS Prevention Workshop" for local NGO's in Feb. 2013
Rosemary and Michael trained Operation Mercy staff regarding daily challenges in the field e.g. cultural intelligence (for expat staff), team building skills, and coping with personal challenges.
UNAIDS reports a 52% reduction in new HIV infections among children and a combined 33% reduction among adults and children since 2001.
This is fantastic! All of us involved in AIDSLink International are thrilled. However, the temptation is to take our foot off the gas - in reality this is a crucial time - if we want to see these gains continue, there is absolutely no room for complacency. We must continue to TRANSMIT HOPE!
It was a thrill to read a report from the AIDSLink team at Lake Tanganyika. They have just started an HIV counseling and testing programme in very remote villages where neither HIV testing or treatment were previously available.
They test people for HIV and if they are found positive immediately test their CD4 count and if needed put them on treatment right away. In one village of 67 people tested, 6 were positive and 5 of those were able to start treatment within 30 minutes of diagnosis. One person said that they had been unwell for 8 years - no one had been able to tell them why or offer help.