Contributed by Lee Wei Fang
On May 14, a group of 40 volunteers underwent the first of a four-part training conducted by the Patient Care Center at Tan Tock Seng’s Communicable Diseases Centre. Several volunteer groups from various organizations were involved in the session, including AFA (Action For Aids), FRIENDS, FIRST Hand and more. The training module serves to empower volunteers with necessary pre-requisite knowledge including the following:
• History, epidemiology and transmission of HIV
• Infection control
• Patient nutrition
• Providing effective emotional support
• Symptoms, signs and spectrum of diseases in HIV/AIDS
• Stigma and discrimination
• Volunteer experience sharing
All these equip volunteers to serve effectively, with grace and professionalism. During the session, Dr. Lee Cheng Chuan, senior consultant in TTSH, presented deep and relevant insights on HIV, dispelling common misconceptions of how AIDS is spread, and also highlighting the prevalence and risk factors associated with the contracting of Aids.
A major social problem HIV/AIDS sufferers face is social stigma and discrimination, both self- and community-imposed. HIV/AIDS sufferers are often judged or labelled as “deserving” of the illness, but in reality a non-HIV person is not necessarily “holier” than a HIV-positive person. The ugly response of judgment has far reaching effects on HIV sufferers. Many are driven to tight corners with limited employment options, and it is not uncommon for family members and friends to ostracize them when they learn about the victim’s condition.
A booklet compiled by Barker Road Methodist Church, titled We Are All HIV+ documented several real life struggles and fears of HIV patients in Singapore. The book was compiled through anonymous interviews, and the stories highlighted the very real, and painful problems HIV/AIDS patients face. Honest accounts shared about how family members start a painful divide of separating “special” utensils for the victims, how friends turned their backs overnight, and the secrecy many victims opt to live in for fear of rejection —choosing to hide the truth even from their loved ones. However, the faith and courage with which many of them choose to fight is amazingly encouraging and speaks volumes on the strength of the human spirit.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus attacks the body’s immune system, which protects a person from germs, bacteria and other viruses. With a weakened immune system, a person is more likely to fall sick.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is the advanced stage of HIV infection, when the individual becomes ill with more serious diseases or certain cancers. This occurs as a result of progressive damage to the immune system.
Being diagnosed with HIV does not mean you have AIDS.
People who have been diagnosed with HIV can continue to lead healthy and productive lives, but they need to be on medication. They can go to work or school, and lead normal lives like their non-HIV counterparts. ~ Lee Wei Fang
Where To Get Help
• 24-hour AIDS/Sexually Transmitted
Infections: +65 6295 2944
• AIDS/STI Information Hotline: 1800 252 1324
• AIDS/Information and Counselling Hotline: +65 6254 0212
(6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. on Tue, Thu & Fri)
HIV screening is available at:
• DSC Clinic
• 31 Kelantan Lane, #01-16 S200031
• All polyclinics and private clinics
All HIV test results are confidential.