RM1.8mil raised for HIV cause


Tengku Amir (centre) with (from left) Cheah, Dr Adeeba, Marina, Jamilah, Jasmin and Pemandu Associates joint managing director and partner Larvin Rengasamy at MAF’s Red Ribbon Gala. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) has raised RM1.8mil via its 14th Red Ribbon Gala.

Funds raised at the foundation’s flagship annual fundraiser, through donations from table sales and contributors, will be directed towards its Medical Assistance Scheme, a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment programme for underserved people living with HIV (PLHIV).

The black-tie event was organised in conjunction with World AIDS Day and was graced by the Raja Muda of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

MAF chairman Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said World AIDS Day 2023’s theme “Let Communities Lead” was apt in reflecting the progress made and in raising awareness of the challenges that remained to achieve the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

“With advances in science as well as treatments such as Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, PLHIV can suppress the viral load and prevent transmission, thus lead a normal life.

“There is also a need to establish a legal and policy framework dedicated to safeguarding the human rights of key populations.

“Punitive approaches towards high-risk populations only fuel stigma and hatred against these populations, pushing them further into hiding and away from services to prevent, treat and mitigate the impact of HIV.”

Dr Adeeba said she was proud of MAF for reaching its 30th anniversary and garnering support of corporates and individuals, despite discrimination and stigma towards the disease.

“I would like to thank the continuous support of corporate partners and individuals who have supported our cause,” she added.

MAF patron Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said stigma and discrimination had a more significant impact on PLHIV than the virus itself.

“I remember when MAF just started, people did not want to be associated with us because of the stigma towards the disease but now, we have celebrities and individuals supporting us,” she said.

“With progresses in science and treatment, eradicating AIDS is not a distant dream but an achievable reality.

“The key tool in curbing the spread of HIV is lifelong medication for those infected, but they still lack awareness on how to protect themselves and others from HIV.

“Social stigma and discrimination have a more profound impact on them, further compounding this issue,” said Marina, adding that much still needed to be done on HIV awareness.

Datuk Azman Abidin, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s political secretary who represented the prime minister, called for strong support in ending workplace discrimination against PLHIV.

“We stand firmly behind MAF’s ambition to promote the legislation of HIV/ AIDS workplace protection law, an effort jointly promoted by Human Resources Ministry.

“People living with HIV should be allowed to pursue careers and build their own lives without being burdened by prejudice and discrimination.

“In the meantime, I urge all employers in Malaysia to re-evaluate their hiring standard and other related human resources practices that may have unknowingly discriminated against PLHIV,” said Azman.

Supported by MAF’s long-term sustainability partner Sunway Group, the Red Ribbon Gala was attended by 400 guests who were treated to a multi-course fine dining experience.

The highlight of the gala was the MAF Impact Report 2023 launched by Tengku Amir.

The report is a comprehensive assessment of MAF’s life-saving programmes and how they have contributed to the overall progression of the mission to end AIDS in Malaysia.

The gala’s top donors include Karex Bhd, Berjaya Corporation Bhd, Pertama Digital Bhd, Bandar Tun Razak Federal Territories Residents Representative Council and Pemandu Associates.

Social Security Organisation (Perkeso) also made a significant contribution to the Medicine Assistance Scheme.

The gala’s entertainment was provided by award-winning crooner Anuar Zain, Akademi Fantasia champion Zahid Baharuddin and Dhiya with her live band De Mona.

MAF also paid tribute to the late Audrey Edwards, who was a winner of the Red Ribbon Media Award.

Also present were Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, MAF executive director Jasmin Jalil and MAF Sarawak branch patron Puan Sri Jamilah Anu.

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