SOME 700 people attended a charity dinner to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day (IAMD) at the St Anne’s Church hall in Jalan Kulim, Bukit Mertajam.
Community AIDS Service Penang (CASP) chairman Dr Hor Chee Peng said the 35th annual IAMD gathering was held worldwide to remember those who died of HIV and raise awareness on the virus at the same time.
He said the theme this year was ‘Reflecting on our Past, Preparing for our Future’.
“When the AIDS Candlelight Memorial was first held in 1983, no one could have predicted the scale and impact of the global HIV epidemic that is now well into its third decade.
“With millions of lives lost and close to 37 million people currently living with HIV, we, as a global community, remain profoundly challenged by this epidemic.
“We should work together to sustain, strengthen, and revitalise our response to HIV by preparing for a future that is free of HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” he said.
Dr Hor said CASP, established in 1989, is meant to provide shelter for homeless and abandoned people living with HIV or AIDS.
He said the present shelter home in Jalan Pow Nee has the capacity to accommodate up to 19 people with 24-hour nursing care provided.
“We have nine self-trained staff working on a voluntary basis.
“CASP has cared for up to 250 people since we set up a shelter home,” he said, adding that they have to tighten their spending with fewer donors in the last few years due to inflation and higher cost of living.
With demand for the shelter home services increasing, he said CASP hoped to find a new and permanent home with a larger capacity to accommodate up to 30 people.
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Penang has again offered us a piece of 2-acre (0.8ha) land in Sungai Lembu near Bukit Mertajam and IJM Corporation Bhd has also offered its support for the new home.
“I would like to take this opportunity to urge well-wishers to come and support our new mission for building a permanent home for CASP,” he said.
Those present were treated to a buffet dinner comprising vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.
There was also a cake-cutting ceremony for all mothers present to mark Mother’s Day celebration.
Also present were Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Penang Rev Datuk Sebastian Francis, Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon, IJM Corporation Bhds land administration and property development manager Sunny Foo and Penang Endowment Board executive director M. Ramachandran.
Those keen on donating to CASP, can call its office at 04-5398510.