BDAC proposes national strategy on HIV response

National 3 minutes, 5 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE president of the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council (BDAC) proposed for the establishment of a National Strategy on HIV response to coordinate HIV work with stakeholders here, as Brunei is a signatory to the ASEAN Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS.

Iswandy Ahmad said the declaration on Fast-Tracking and Sustaining HIV and AIDS Responses to end the AIDS Epidemic by 2030 is a call for relevant authorities and stakeholders to take action. At the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summit in Vientiane last week, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed previous ASEAN Declarations on HIV and AIDS, which called for ASEAN response to HIV and AIDS, political will and leadership and meaningful partnerships with relevant stakeholders, in particular with the key affected populations.

Iswandy said the BDAC welcomes the declaration as a commitment from country leaders, including the Brunei Darussalam.

“One key takeaway is the ‘inclusiveness’ of members of the society, namely key populations and vulnerable populations as an important component who are not just a recipient or client of services, but are also actively participating in the whole HIV and AIDS response,’’ he said.

As a non-government organisation (NGO) that advocates for HIV and AIDS work, Iswandy said BDAC believes for the need to adopt best-practices from other countries, yet at the same time adapt it to Brunei’s socio-cultural background for a more effective response.

“For example, we may not have many people in disaster-affected areas, but we can adapt our responses to our youths or those who are sexually active,’’ he said.

During World AIDS Day in 2015, Brunei recorded 24 new HIV cases, where most transmissions were via sexual methods.

“As an NGO, we continue to advocate that the Brunei society play a multi-sectoral approach in HIV response. This does not mean just relying on few agencies to play their part. All sectors from government, NGOs, private sectors, family institutions, workplace and public, among others, need to contribute, be it in policymaking, advocacy, workplace support, love and care for people affected and practising non-stigma behaviours towards people affected,’’ he said.

Iswandy said BDAC is calling for the community to work hand-in-hand with the NGO to approach this.

He said while holding discussions and urging the relevant authorities to be more responsive and having a proactive approach in HIV response, BDAC will also be pursuing education and empowerment for the community to develop their readiness to prepare for the need of addressing HIV related situation.

“Encouraging members of the public not to stigmatise people living with HIV is an example. Hopefully one day when they come across someone they know who is living with HIV, they will provide the support needed. This is particularly important for service providers such as health caregivers and educators, among others,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Iswandy pointed out two challenges in achieving these declarations.

“It comes down to two things; complacency and non-ownership. Firstly in complacency, the general public thinks HIV is ‘under control’ and it doesn’t affect them directly. While it is true HIV response is getting more effective, there is still an indifferent attitude among members of the society to HIV response,’’ he said.

He explained the second challenge was non-ownership, where the public feel HIV response is merely a health issue.

“Hence, only the relevant authorities like the Ministry of Health or AIDS NGOs need to take action. People forget that HIV is a ‘development issue’, where it affects the country from many aspects including financial constraints (provide medical services to people affected with HIV), socio-cultural (status of people living with HIV in the community) and productivity (family members who are working need to take time off to take care of a sick family member constantly),’’ he said.

The Brunei Times