Singapore: Interfaith network on AIDS launched

Interfaith Singapore

SINGAPORE – An inter-religious group in this Southeast Asian nation has established the Singapore Interfaith Network on Aids (SINA).

Initiated by the Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao, former Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore and former general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, SINA has links with the Asian Network on Aids and similar networks in the region. It also works in collaboration with the regional office of United Nations program on Aids in Bangkok.

Dr Yap Kim Hao had attended the International Congress on Aids in Asia and Pacific held recently in Busan, Korea.

SINA seeks to bring together those who are involved in providing faith-based services to people living with Aids in order to develop a more wholistic approach.

Effective anti-retroviral medication are being supplied to needy Aids patients, counseling and support are given to them and their families, and a shelter is provided for the homeless stricken with Aids.

“We can do more and we must do more. Appeals will be made especially to more religious people and institutions to address this public health issue which is a threat to all – regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. It has become a pandemic in our world and we are reminded of it on World Aids Day on December 1,” said SINA in a media release.

SINA has recognized the urgent need of prevention of further spread of HIV through wider education, including safe sex education in raising the consciousness of people.

This HIV awareness will lead to caring for those who are afflicted, removing the stigma of the disease and eradicating discrimination of those with HIV/Aids, SIMA feels.

According to the Singapore Ministry of Health, “In 2012, another 441 Singapore residents were newly reported with HIV infection. About 91% of the new cases were males and 9% were females. This brings the total number of Singaporeans living with HIV to 4,485 as of 2010. As on 31 Dec 2010, 2,319 are asymptomatic carriers, 1,137 have or have had Aids related illness and 1,389 have died.”

Of the 441 cases reported in 2010, 432 cases acquired the infection through the sexual route, with heterosexual transmission accounting for 52% of infections, homosexual transmission 37% and bisexual transmission 9%. Intravenous drug use(4 cases) accounted for 1% of infections.

Over half (55%) of all new cases reported in 2010 were aged between 30 to 49. years of age. Approximately 62% were single, 29% were married and 7% were divorced or separated.

The CIMA media release noted that “Our society has identified more than 4,485 people living with Aids now. They have been tested positive and 54% are already at a late stage of infection when tested. Thousands more live in denial and even afraid to go for testing for fear of losing their jobs and home and separation from their families and friends.”

One such victim known only by the name of John lamented:

“But my life changed when I was diagnosed as being HIV positive. I lost my job. With no income, I had to sell my flat to my siblings so that I could get some cash in hand to obtain treatment and HIV medication. My relationship with my family became strained when they found out about by HIV status. They chased me out of the house, the very same house in which we had all lived happily before. I had nowhere to go. I wandered around aimlessly and lived on the streets and beaches.”

Jacinta Rajoo in drawing our attention to John in her article in The Catholic News questioned us:

“So why are HIV/AIDS sufferers treated with such disdain? Why are they dealt the double or triple blow of not only being afflicted by this disease but also the pain of losing material and financial freedom, or worst of all, their emotional and social support? “

It is generally known that Aids though contagious and incurable at the moment is just as death-threatening as other major diseases like cancer. With early detection and treatment people with Aids can live long and useful lives like the rest of us. We have the obligation to support and help one another, SINA said.

It quoted the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying early this month that
AIDS has killed 30 million people around the world, and 34 million are living with HIV today. In Sub-Saharan Africa—where 60 percent of the people with HIV are women and girls—it left a generation of children to grow up without mothers and fathers or teachers. In some communities, the only growth industry was the funeral business.”

She issued an appeal to Americans to usher in an Aids-free generation. This is a distinct possibility for all countries with the advance of medical science and social responsibility.

The worldwide call of UNAids is to “Get Together to Zero” – Zero tolerance of new Infections, Zero tolerance of Aids-related Deaths, Zero tolerance of Stigmatization and Discrimination.

Source: Asia Pacific Ecumenical News

Photo Credit: Asia Pacific Ecumenical News