More evidence-based HIV awareness programmes needed

National 3 minutes, 20 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BRUNEI needs to have a more evidence based approach in their HIV awareness and prevention programmes.

“Only then can we use the data to back up our programmes,” said the president of Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council, Iswandy Ahmad yesterday.

The AIDS council president was speaking on the sidelines of the ‘RED (Re-educate, Empower and Destigmatise): A Red Ribbon Campaign event to observe the World Aids Day (WAD) 2015 at Mabohai Shopping Complex yesterday.

Earlier this week, Minister of Health, YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi, in his message in conjunction with World AIDS Day, said that 24 new HIV cases were reported this year.

Iswandy said the council saw the increase in new HIV cases in two perspectives.

“First, this is good because more people are getting tested and are aware. On the other hand, it is also a concern, because the increase shows that there are more people getting infected with HIV. Therefore we need to step up our game,” he said.

“We need to brace ourselves. We are used to having low numbers of new cases in the past few years, now we are getting an increase, he added.

Iswandy said the council does not target a particular group in their programmes. He added their approach has always been bottoms up, from the grassroots leaders and the community.

“I think it is high time that we engage the policy makers. On the line of our health policy, for example, how do we protect those living with HIV and how do we protect volunteers who are doing work on HIV. What are our educational policies on students who are living with HIV? Sooner or later those who are born with HIV will be in school, are we ready and equipped to handle it?” he said.

The council also plans on extending their awareness programmes to nurses next year.

“Nurses are our first line of defence. Nurses are the first ones to meet the patients or those who are seeking medical care.

“ It is good to reach out to them, for them to be in line with what we are doing. It is just a way of making sure that we are on the same page,” he said.

“We also need to reach out to those ‘underground’, in terms of behaviour and in terms of location. For example, according to the report, there are more same sex behaviour, we need to reach out to them but the concern here is where are they?” he said.

Underground groups here refers to single mothers, school dropouts, people living with HIV, people using drugs, people engaged in same-sex behaviour and people engaging in high risk behaviour.

Asked what the council’s future plans were, Iswandy said the biggest challenge for them was getting funding.

We have plans and opportunities, but the limitation for the council is funding, he said.

Iswandy said the Health Promotion Centre help funded their HIV Awareness Programme for Peers and Youth (HAPPY) which allows them to go to schools and conduct awareness programmes.

“Standard Chartered Bank also funded the ‘RED (Re-educate, Empower and Destigmatise): A Red Ribbon Campaign event to observe the World Aids Day (WAD) 2015, without which today’s event would not have been possible.

“Funding is one of our major concerns for next year. There is no direct funding yet for HIV efforts in Brunei,” he said.

Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing, Standard Chartered Bank (Brunei), Marilyn Graeme said, “We will continue the approach that we have been taking on HIV, which is to keep supporting the organisations that are advocating it, educating our employees and reaching out to organisations that are interested in our programmes.”

“These will continue to be the mainstay of what we do for HIV in Brunei.

“Hopefully we can have more collaboration not just with Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council but with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. Standard Chartered continues to be pro-education when it comes to HIV,” she said.

The Brunei Times