Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 105




Foreword Dr. Richard Leete, UN Resident Coordinator .. iv Introduction Datuk Dr. Ian Chia, Secretary-General, UNAM .. v

Topic 1 First Prize Second Prize Finalista

Sarah Hasnor Abu Hassan . Norliana Khairuddin Aruna Pakirisamy . Fong Wai Ling .. Gayathri Sukumaran Nair . Kenneith Yong Hoong Yuen . Mohd Norshamsudin b Johari . Nik Azan Shah Reza b Nik Abdul Rashid Shalina Manoharan . Suriza Noorfahmi bt Hashim .

02 05 09 11 14 16 19 23 25 27

Topic 2 First Prize Second Prize Finalists

Moong Pooi Funn . Ahadi Iskandar b Ismail .. Anwar b Omar .. Ho Yi Duan . Ivy Ho Jia Min Meera Supramaniam .. Ng Sin Ni Nordiyana bt Norani Ooi Tze How .. Rozana bt Hj Abdullah

32 34 39 43 46 51 53 56 61 64

Topic 3 First Prize Second Prize Finalists

Jonitha Sumithri Nadarajah .. Sheilla A. Otieno .. Cassie Perpetua Forsythe .. Harpreet Kaur Bhal .. Lim Wen Phei Premila Arumugam . Robert Nicholas Lopez Sharmini Joy Ramani . Shobha Nambiar .. Tan Sheng Yeeng .

68 71 74 77 80 83 86 89 92 95

Glossary .. HIV/AIDS: The Power of Language

98 99


Recognising the potential of young people to be agents of change in addressing the global spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the United Nations Country Team in Malaysia, in partnership with the United Nations Association of Malaysia, organised an essay competition during 2003 under the theme Young People as a Force for Change in a World with AIDS. In Malaysia, reported infections of HIV stand at 52 000 as of December 2002. In the year 2001 alone, there were 6 000 new infections reported in the country. Currently there are 24 new reported cases a day. WHO/UNAIDS estimate that the numbers of HIV/AIDS cases in Malaysia could be significantly higher. This is a cause for concern and a trigger for concerted action. It is for this reason that the theme for UN Day 2003 was halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS with a special focus on young people. Halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed upon by world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit held in New York in September 2000. Also taking into account its potential impact on other development goals, it is the focus of considerable attention through multi-sectoral policies and actions throughout the world, especially in developing countries. Young people, and especially girls, are the most vulnerable to HIV infection due to many social, cultural, economic and physiological reasons. About half of all new HIV infections worldwide occur among young people aged 15-24. We need to prevent young people from getting infected as they are the most productive members of society. Nations rely on young people to develop new ideas and stimulate development. It is critical to engage young people in efforts to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS. The essay competition aimed at provoking young people, aged 18-24, to think about the role that they can play in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Young people are more adept at learning and changing both attitudes and behaviour. They can still unlearn the damaging social and cultural norms that fuel the epidemic. Young people have the energy, creativity, optimism and enthusiasm to change the course of the epidemic. We hope that by publishing these essays, the thoughts of young Malaysians will be widely shared, both in Malaysia and beyond. We hope these essays will encourage discussion and debate, and invoke a higher level of awareness to the multitude of issues related to HIV/AIDS. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers and Non-Governmental Organisations, led by the Malaysian AIDS Council, that helped judge the essays, as well as the judges who helped us select the final winners. I would also like to extend my gratitude to UNAM for their cooperation in coordinating the essay competition.


This years UN/UNAM Essay Competition with the theme Young People as a Force For Change in a World With AIDS places strong emphasis on the younger generation in recognising their voices towards addressing HIV/AIDS-related issues in Malaysia. The AIDS epidemic needs to be contained as it has infected over 42 million people worldwide. In Malaysia, the reported cases of HIV infections has exceeded 52 000. The 2003 Essay competition is one of the platforms which the UN in Malaysia and UNAM are giving to young people to voice their views and concerns on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. We want to encourage young people to think of the role they can fulfill in the nationwide response to HIV/AIDS. We are indeed grateful to staff members and volunteers of the Malaysian AIDS Council for their assistance in the first round of judging. The dedicated team consisted of Datin Salmah Md Nor, Dr. Juriah Abdullah, Ms Shalina Azhar, Ms Sivakami Visvalingam, Mr Bill Wong, Mr Azrul Khalib and Mr Shanon Shah. The selection of the winners in the final round of judging was not an easy task, and I thank the team of judges who took time off their busy schedules to assist us. They are Mr. Lowell Martin, then acting UN Resident Coordinator; Dato Dr Sam Abraham of UNAM; Mr. Nik Fahmee, then Executive Director of the Malaysian AIDS Council; Dr. Mary Huang, Malaysian AIDS Council Exco member; Datin Rose Ismail, Managing Editor, New Straits Times Press; Mr. Peter Daniel, Malaysian AIDS Council Law, Ethics and Human Rights Sub-committee member; Mr. Ben Monteiro, AIDS Activist; and the hosts of 3R, Ms Azah Yazmin Yusof, Ms Low Ngai Yuen and Ms Kartini Kamalul Ariffin. We hope that the essays on HIV/AIDS will contribute to an enhanced response to HIV awareness, covering issues related to prevention, care and support. We must always consider the role of young people in addressing such issues. We cannot ignore that they are indeed a force for change. We must tap on their creativity, energy and enthusiasm. I congratulate the winners of the essay competition. We are proud to be able to publish your winning essays in this book in order to share with others the thoughts of young Malaysians on such an important issue. May you go forth to truly be a force for change in improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS.



Topic 1
Some of the most painful symptoms of HIV/AIDS are the stigma and discrimination faced by People Living With HIV/AIDS and their families. This often prevents them from getting appropriate care and treatment and prevents them from having access to livelihoods, education, or even a chance to live normal lives. Frequently, people discriminate because of ignorance. When people do not have the facts on HIV, they begin to irrationally fear the epidemic and people infected with HIV. What would you do if your best friend becomes infected with HIV? How would you support this person, and how would you help create an environment of acceptance, love and compassion? Simptom-simptom HIV/AIDS yang paling menyakitkan adalah dalam bentuk stigma dan diskriminasi yang dihadapi oleh Mereka Yang Hidup Dengan HIV/AIDS, dan keluarga mereka. ini sering menghalang mereka dari mendapat penjagaan dan rawatan yang sepatutnya, dan menghalang mereka dari mendapatkan sumber pencarian, mendapat pendidikan, atau menjalani hidup normal. Seringkali, diskriminasi berlaku akibat kejahilan. Apabila orang tidak memahami faktafakta tentang HIV mereka mula mengalami perasaan takut yang tidak rasional terhadap epidemik ini, dan juga terhadap mereka yang dijangkiti HIV. Apakah yang akan anda lakukan jika kawan rapat anda dijangkiti HIV? Bagaimanakah anda akan menyokong dan memberi semangat kepada kawan ini, dan bagaimana anda akan mewujudkan persekitaran yang menyayang, mengerti dan menerimanya meskipun dia positif-HIV?

Sarah Hasnor Abu Hassan (1st Prize)

Let me tell you of my thousand-mile story. This story was not written just so people would weep and then simply forget about it. No, this story is for everyone to reflect on themselves, and open their minds to the fact that the world is not utopian. It is up to us to make it a brighter place, to live life accordingly, through love for others and ourselves. My best friend in the whole wide world, Linda, was HIV-positive. Its as simple as that. Or so it seems. The news came as a shock to me, of course, and for the whole week I refused to meet her for fear of being contaminated. What was worse, I allowed my selfish, ignorant, narrow mind to make negative assumptions on how Linda contracted it sex, drugs, and all that which seemed so wrong to me. I came to my senses when Mum finally pulled my aside and told me exactly how my friend contracted the virus. Linda had had to have a blood transfusion when she was young and at that time, somehow or other the blood was not screened beforehand to check for the virus. I pretended that it did not matter because I wasnt ever going to see her again, but deep down I was feeling remorseful and guilty. I found myself feeling lonely and sad that whole day and I finally decided that I was guilty, and had to go and apologise to Linda. When I went to see her, she was so sweet and forgiving. We sat on the swings and it was me who was overdoing it weeping on her shoulder, asking for her forgiveness over and over again. I marvel at the fact that she did not hate me for kicking sand in her eyes. I gave her a big hug and said, Lin, you are my best friend and I promise I will do anything in my power to help you. From that day, we had a mutual understanding and we gave each other a sense of comfort. I think that my being there gave Linda strength. The first thing I did to fulfill my promise was to increase my awareness and get rid of my ignorance on the topic of HIV and AIDS. I went to the National Library, travelled to the Malaysian AIDS Council and searched online for any information on HIV/AIDS. I remember looking at an article on stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and I started crying all over again, recalling my own prejudice towards Linda. One of the staff at the Malaysian AIDS Council noticed me in that state and after I had explained what I was going through between choked sobs, she looked at me in the eye and said, Its normal that we feel different around people with HIV/AIDS. But you must understand that the stigma surrounding this disease can only be eliminated when we are all aware of what it actually is. We have to help these people go through life as normally as possible, we have to be strong for them. I reflected on these words and realised that it is not so much the virus that kills people, but rather the fear and hopelessness. Through my research and reading, I began to understand more and more about HIV and AIDS. However, the more I knew, the more frightened I became. I realised that Lin was not as healthy as she made herself look. I learned that her viral load was 10 000 and her T-cell count, or CD4 was only 300. CD4 cells are an important part of the immune system, and a healthy person averages between 500 1 500 CD4 cells per milliliter of blood. Although Linda didnt have AIDS, these figures meant that her immune system was at a

low, where AIDS- related complications could easily develop. I kept Linda company as much as I could, and I tried not to sympathise, but rather empathise with her. I treated her as I had always treated her before I knew of her condition. I reminded her to take her medication consistently, and my fussiness sometimes annoyed her. However, once in a while we would argue because she made herself feel helpless. I would try to make her see that it was up to her to prove that she was not a victim and realise that there was still so much that she could do. At other times, we would talk and pour our hearts out. Lin confessed that she was terrified and it ached my heart to see her speak of her future as if it would not be there. But, right then I also understood that sometimes, when theres nothing else you can do, talking relieves a lot of the pressure. Sometimes, those who did not understand what she was going through would taunt her. Some people even made it a point to purposely avoid her, or simply refuse to be in the same room as her. It was during these times that I knew she would feel isolated and vulnerable therefore I stood up for her. I tried to make my other friends understand, and finally they did. They saw through the disease and realised that they could not abandon Linda simply because she was sick. With the support of all our friends, we tried to create a happy and caring environment for Linda. I think the most poignant moment during these times were when we visited the Malaysian AIDS Council together. I stood back and watched my best friend engage in contact with other people who were HIV-positive. She also talked to the counsellors and I could see that she would be thinking deeply after those sessions. When I asked, she would reply, Its not right that I think its unfair that I have HIV. Now I think about all those underprivileged people who do not have the chance to talk to counsellors, or have friends, or have the means to purchase medication. After a year, the nightmares began. Linda suffered severe weight loss and began to get endlessly ill. She went in and out of hospitals and I dreaded to hear the truth. One day, her parents called me up to tell me gently that Linda had developed AIDS and was only given 6 months to live. I didnt register it at first, because all this while I was so sure that Linda was going to stay well, even though she had HIV. I didnt know what to say or do during my first few visits to the hospital after knowing that she had developed AIDS. We just looked at each other and I couldnt bear to see the pain in her eyes. Gradually we both accepted the situation. Our acceptance freed ourselves from the fear of what might come, and instilled a new power in Linda. During the next few months, I managed to get a grip on myself. With my other friends, the school counsellors and Student Council, we organised an AIDS charity drive to promote understanding and knowledge of the disease. The proceeds went to Linda, to pay for her medical treatment. Our other friends, and even those who did not know Linda all sent cards wishing her well, and visited her as often as she wanted us to. We

would bring her favourite cookies, and wed talk about current events, trends, everything that teenagers should know. We tried not to make her feel that the world was passing by without her, so sometimes wed bring our newly-bought clothes and let her try them out. We sneaked in my Playstation that she loved to play so much, and brought CDs of her favourite singers for her to listen to. As much as we tried, we did not have the power to make the disease go away. Linda soon developed a lung infection called Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia. My friends and I would stay at her bedside, reciting prayers together. When I went home, Id do the Hajat prayers and beg Allah to lessen my friends pain. My best friend Linda returned to Allah the Almighty seven months after she was confirmed as having developed AIDS. I have lost a best friend, but I know that it is the will of God to try us. When I recollect the memories, I see that it has taught me many valuable lessons, the most valuable being that we should treasure our friends, and love them as we love ourselves. I am also now an activist, working hard at eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS. I hope that AIDS awareness is promoted to people, especially young people, around the world so that we can take a firm stand and prevent this epidemic from prolonging.

Norliana Khairuddin (2nd Prize)

It is raining softly. The grey sky sets a solemn mood over the earth. It is as if the whole world is mourning. For today is a very sad day. Today, my best friend finally let go. After fighting with valour and strength unimaginable, she finally accepted that her time had come and that she had to leave this world. For you see, my best friend died of an AIDSrelated illness. It all began five years ago. I cannot categorise the day as damnation or a gift to our friendship. I had been friends with Asha since kindergarten. We basically grew up together, she was like the sister I never had. But over the years, we grew apart. Then, the phone call came. Na, the doctor said Im HIV-positive.. My mind went blank. She was crying at the other end, and the only thing I could do then was to cry with her. Evil thoughts kept racing through my mind thoughts of death, of discrimination, of the medical care that she would need but I managed to put one thought ahead of all others: that I WOULD NOT LOST MY BEST FRIEND JUST LIKE THAT. I raced to her apartment after work. She was sitting on the sofa, staring blankly into space. The irony of it all was that it was a cruel parting gift from her ex-husband. They had only legalised their divorce a month before; she had suspected him of having an affair. Truth finally reared its ugly head. He had been having multiple sex partners, and had been diagnosed HIV positive, which prompted Asha to get herself tested as well. That was how she found out, and the first person she told was I. I sat next to her on the sofa. Slowly, I told her that I am and will always be her friend, that I know how strong a person she is, and that she should now fight the virus. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT?! DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT I AM FACING RIGHT NOW?! she yelled, her eyes red from dried tears. I know that I am not in your shoes, that it seems so easy for me to blurt out all the words to comfort you because I am not the one with HIV, I said. But I also know that I am your friend, and I also know that I dont have to be scared of being infected by you because I know there is no harm in touching you. I know that you really need a hug right now, and I am here to give you one. I pulled her in my arms. She was shaking, her tears fell, and I just hugged her, like always. After she had calmed down, we talked. We discussed everything, from how to tell her parents, and everyone else, to her medical expenses, her medical insurance, and the one I dreaded her will. She also consented to me telling my husband that she was HIV-positive. It all seemed too fast. From the way she was talking, she seemed ready to give up on life and just wait for death. I left her sleeping that night, knowing in my heart that she still believed that her life was over. But I decided that I would not give up, and I would not let her give up without a fight. I told my husband when I got home. Being the great man I married, beheld me as I cried out the story of the days happenings. He even suggested a few things, like taking Asha to the Malaysian AIDS Council where they could refer her to a support group for HIVpositive people and talking with Ashas doctor about how to manage the disease.

Hearing his comforting words and his promise to support me in helping Asha filled my heart with a ray of hope. At least I knew that someone else believed that Asha was not on her deathbed. The most difficult thing for Asha was telling her parents. They could not accept the fact that she was HIV-positive. Asha was slowly giving up hope everyday. She had told her employers, and miraculously they let her keep her job, allowing her to take unpaid medical leave when necessary. However, they also pushed her out of the main office and communicated with her only by telephone or through the Internet. Her colleagues shunned her, refusing even to let her conduct a meeting. Some of them refused to use the same toilet cubicle as her. She stopped going out for lunch because her colleagues would be whispering behind her back and because no one wanted to go out for lunch with her anymore. How could she work in an environment like that? Gone was the energetic, happy-go-lucky friend of mine, one of the best executives her company had; now replaced by an existence that had no hope and no desire to live. I was devastated. I made plans to set things right. With my husbands help, I arranged for Ashas parents to meet with her doctor. It was difficult to convince them to come, but in the end I think that they realised that she was their daughter, no matter what. They were actually scared of losing her, and their understanding of the disease was very limited. Ashas doctor managed to change all that. She gave a detailed explanation of everything the retrovirus, its mode of infection, the medication that she was planning to give Asha, the cost. Her parents were keen to know more, and relieved to finally understand what their daughter was facing. The next thing was to tackle Ashas employers and colleagues. By then, my employers and colleagues had found out too our companies usually deal with each other. I felt the effect then. My colleagues were beginning to discriminate against me as well. That really made me angry. I lost my temper and told them what they would feel if it were to happen to someone they loved, or worse, to themselves. That got them thinking. My employers called me in, and after a long but profitable discussion with them, they saw my point. I had always been persuasive, and I have a way to make other people see things my way. It helped a lot, because after that, my colleagues were helping me out in my plans. My company organised an AIDS Awareness Campaign and invited the company that Asha was working at to join. They did, and I think after that, although we did not succeed in eliminating the stigma and discrimination that they were showing to Asha, at least we had lessened it. Asha was back in the main office and was allowed to continue her work as usual. Her colleagues were treating her better and some even offered to drive her to her medical appointments. So far so good, I told myself. Ashas family was facing a hard time as well. Everywhere they went, people were giving them funny looks and nudging one another. Fortunately, there were a few who understood. Our other friends were also helping out. All of us were being very positive for Ashas sake; and finally the twinkle returned to her eye. She had understood that death was not imminent. Finally, she was fighting her own battle. Although it had not

easy, it was worth all the heartache. Asha survived four years of living with HIV and not falling ill. She went for medical checkups and took her medication religiously. She continued life as usual, even finding the time to go snorkelling, something she had always wanted to do, but never did before. She became active in AIDS awareness campaigns and helped other people with the same fate. Sometimes, I accompanied her to such meetings, and to have met all these amazing people was a wonderful experience for me. I learnt a lot from them, especially about not losing hope and to live life to the fullest. Spiritually, she became closer to God. I took her to my religious classes, we read the Quran together during our free time, and we prayed a lot. She accepted that Allah was not out to get her, that the burden put unto her was to make her stronger, as well as giving her a second chance to become closer to God. We celebrated the birth of my first child and Daniels presence brought a new meaning to my friends life. She was so excited; she was after all my sons godmother. She decided that she wanted to live to watch Daniel grow up, to share the joy and heartache of being a parent with me. My husband and I were willing to share our experience with her, and she was there for my sons first steps, first words, everything. To hear her laugh at Daniels antics was a blessing. She was leading a normal, healthy life she had found her reason to hope for the best, although occasionally she still had to go for check-ups and take a lot of medication until a year ago. She contracted measles from one of her colleagues. She had had measles before, but her immunity was so low, that even a simple infection could take a toll on her. Her condition got worse. Her family and friends could no longer touch her directly, we had to wear gloves. She was brought back to her parents house from her own apartment, because she could no longer take care of herself. Her family and I were taking turns to take care of her cleaning her, feeding her, giving her medication, comforting her. We were fighting our fears as well. We were not ready to lose her. Our friends and neighbours offered sympathy and they helped in any way they could. Her colleagues had a donation drive to ease her family of the financial burden that they were facing. The empathy offered was overwhelming. It could not make Asha better, but it did make our battle easier. Asha was fighting to live, but I could see the pain in her eyes. I wondered whether I was being selfish by wanting her to live on, and not being willing to let her go. I talked to her mother about it, and she told me that she felt the same. Asha was slipping away day by day. We tried to give her the best care, but as fate had it, we knew we were losing. Last night it was my turn to take care of her. I had left Daniel at home with my husband. The sky was full of stars and the full moon flooded Ashas bedroom with its light. I held her hand in my gloved hand. Na, can I see Daniel? I really miss him, she asked softly, her voice barely audible.

Im sorry sayang, Daniels at home with Areil. Ill bring him tomorrow, all right? I dont think I will last the night, Na. Dont say that, youve come this far.. Dear God, forgive me for being my own selfish self, I am not prepared to lose her. I dont think I can hold on. promise me that youll tell Daniel about me. I will, dont worry. My eyes filled with tears, but I couldnt cry, I couldnt let Asha see me cry right now. Can you call my mum?....and Na. thank you, I love you. My tears were falling. I let go of her hand and went out. I left her with her mother. I took my wudhu, sat at the verandah of her room, and offered a prayer to Allah. I read Yaasin while her mother sat with her. My tears kept falling on the Quran. Asha passed away sometime around midnight. She died in her mothers arms. Her family and I took it calmly. Allah gave us the strength to endure it. After five years, she finally let go. We buried Asha this morning. It has been raining softly since then. I am thankful that Asha lived her life the best that she could. I am thankful that this had brought us closer together again, it had renewed our friendship. It has taught me a lot, about HIV and AIDS, about hope, about the power that love has over everything else. You could treat a person living with HIV/AIDS with all the medication in the world, but the only medicine that will work wonders is love. The rain has stopped; a ray of sunshine escapes beyond the clouds and it fills me with a calm feeling. Its as if Asha is telling me that she is all right, and that I should go on with my life. A hand touches my shoulder my husbands. He is holding Daniel, and as I take my son into my arms, I know that what I believe is true, that in the end, we won the battle after all. I whisper a prayer of thanks to God, and thank you....Asha

Aruna Pakirisamy (Finalist)

There cant be many who havent heard of the killer disease known as AIDS. The public cringes at the thought of anyone they know acquiring HIV or AIDS. A person who has the disease is immediately looked down upon and shunned by society. Some feel that the infected person deserves to have such a disease as it is known to spread through having unsafe sex and intravenous drug use. Everybody knows that unprotected sex and the sharing of needles can transmit HIV so why do these people go looking for trouble? We are quick to point a finger and blame a person for his or her own misfortune. We readily discriminate and seldom stop to think. Imagine if it happened to your loved one. Ponder over the struggle of accepting the fact that your loved one is slowly dying of a disease that has already killed millions all over the globe. Imagine your loved one adding to the statistics of those infected with HIV. When my best friend told me that she was HIV-positive two years ago, I did not know how to react. I had heard of so many cases, I had seen the statistics, but it was always someone far away. Someone who did not affect me, my life and my family in any way at all. But all of a sudden, my closest friend, a girl whom I spent my childhood with, gets infected. The word shock doesnt begin to describe what I felt at that moment. My friend was going to die. The thought of death has always been one of my greatest fears and now I felt like someone had stuck a knife through my heart. I read every article I could find on HIV/AIDS. I realised how little I knew about the epidemic. How ignorant I was about the disease, which is the fourth leading cause of death, according to UNAIDS. AIDS was the leading cause of death in the 1990s, but new treatments have cut the death rate significantly. AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was first reported in 1981 among homosexual men in the United States. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes AIDS was identified in 1983. Out of the 16 countries that have more than one tenth of their population infected by the virus, seven are located in the core of Southern Africa. More than five million people are infected every year. Contrary to the belief of many, included me, a person does not immediately get infected with AIDS. A person is first infected with the HIV virus, which attacks and gradually weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system makes us more susceptible to simple opportunistic infections and cancers. HIV infects the type of cell known as the CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell. White blood cells are an important part of our immune system that helps our body fight infections. Once our immune system is affected, our body becomes weak and is unable to fight even the simplest of diseases, such as a mere cold. Symptoms of early HIV (acute retroviral syndrome), which are often mistaken for symptoms of another viral infection such as influenza or mononucleosis, include fever, sore throat, headaches, pains in muscles and joints, rashes and cramps. Examinations and tests play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection. Early diagnosis and an understanding of HIV help those who are infected to get the treatment and support they need and improves their chances of staying healthy longer. People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHAs) who do not understand the severity of their condition may ruin their chances of staying alive and healthy for a longer period of

time by not seeking the help of modern medication. HIV treatment focuses on slowing the rate at which the virus replicates itself in the body of the infected person and also preventing or controlling opportunistic diseases. AIDS is the last of several stages of HIV infection. AIDS is diagnosed when the victim develops an opportunistic disease or cancer. AIDS is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. Steph, my dearest friend was most fortunate to have all the moral support that she needed from her family and friends. Her family, although devastated, were eager to help Steph battle the infection. In school, teachers and other students were not taking the news very well. While some were sympathetic and supportive, others started to avoid Steph. They made it clear that they did not want to be anywhere nears her. Many of those who were once her friends, kept a distance. The hushed whispers, quick glances, and stares from every corner of the school made Steph feel completely alienated from the other students. They were treating her as if she was a wanting virus and would infect anyone who came near her. My heart went out to her. I spoke to a teacher about the problem, and how painful it was for Steph to come to school every day. We realised that the ignorance of the other students concerning the issue of AIDS was the reason they had ostracised Steph. The students had to be educated on the subject of HIV/AIDS and how the virus spreads. Together with a few friends, we decided to publish a special feature on the epidemic in the schools monthly newsletter. In the article, we explained about HIV and how it could spread from one person to another. About 75% of HIV infections are spread through sexual contact. HIV is a fragile virus, which cannot survive outside the human body. There is no evidence that the virus can be passed on to another person through physical contact, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or faeces. The virus is only spread to another person through certain body fluids like semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, and blood. Thus, a person may be exposed to the virus through blood transfusion from an infected person, unprotected sexual intercourse or the sharing of needles used to inject drugs. Even healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and lab technicians who handle blood or bodily fluids as a routine part of their job are at risk of contracting the disease. The article seemed to have an effect on a majority of the students. Many of those who had been trying their best to avoid Steph came up to her and spoke casually. Steph was very grateful and deeply touched by the gesture. There were many students who were still afraid to even look in her direction, but then again, it would take a miracle to completely change the outlook of the entire student body with a single article. Most people infected with HIV carry the virus for years before enough destruction by HIV of the white blood cells that are crucial to the function of the immune system, leads to AIDS. Steph was lucky to be diagnosed HIV-positive at an early stage. She has stopped coming to school as it takes up too much of her energy. She has been attending various support groups and it has done her a great deal of good. Steph has been very brave and made us proud of her strength and determination to stay alive. We admire her for everything that she has taught us about life and its value. She is still under medication today and is very weak. I pray for her every day along with her family and friends.


Fong Wai Ling (Finalist)

The call came at the least expected time. It was the wee hours of the morning when my house phone rang. I picked it up expecting it to be a prank call, but instantly I knew it was not. The muffled sobs at the end of the line told me instantly that it was Samantha. It had been six months since we last spoke after the huge argument we had that drew us apart. I knew something was wrong and asked her what had happened. Samantha told me through heavy sobs that an ex-boyfriend of hers had just committed suicide after his medical test revealed that he was HIV-positive. My heart sank. My best friend since I was 12 was now afraid that she had contracted the virus herself. I was afraid too. We agreed to meet to talk more the next day. Needless to say, I was unable to return to sleep the rest of the night. AIDS was first conclusively identified in 1981. Cases of people infected with HIV have risen dramatically since the early 1980s. A report cited that at the end of 2002, an estimated 42 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. In Malaysia alone, it was reported that there were 52 000 living with HIV/AIDS, of which 90% are males. It has long been regarded as a killer, spreading devastation to its victims and their families. However, the United Nations and many organisations today are waging an aggressive war to combat this disease. Awareness programmes are held on a regular basis and 1st December has been declared World AIDS Day, a day to commemorate People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHAs) and to spread the message on the prevention of AIDS. Through awareness programmes, the public has been urged to take precautions to avoid contracting HIV. Through education, people have been taught to practice safer sex, avoid sharing needles and to correct the many taboos that society holds on HIV/AIDS. From effective campaigns like these, many have been educated and the number of cases are also showing slight declines. However, the stigma surrounding PLWHAs is still vivid and intact in every society. Thus PLWHAs face discrimination that actually hinders them from coming forward to seek the help that they need. According to a survey conducted in Malaysia, 27.4% of PLWHAs had faced discrimination by healthcare workers, 19% had been mistreated at work, a further 41% had lost their jobs and 55% had their partners leave them. This clearly shows that PLWHAs, regardless of age, race and nationality have been living in shame and pain from the day that society knows about their status. I met Samantha the next day and managed to convince her to take a blood test. One week later, the result came like the omen we had expected she was HIV-positive. Fighting back tears, we held each other. I didnt know what to do, but I promised to stand by her. First, I learnt everything that I could about the disease, to replace the taboos prevalent in our society with facts. I learnt ways to protect both Samantha and myself. I learned that the virus could not be transmitted through casual physical contact like touching, and hugging; neither was it airborne and therefore it could not spread by coughs or sneezes. Transmission of the virus through body fluids such as tears and saliva are also not medically proven.


There are a lot of support groups on the Internet and throughout the country that are providing ample information for those who are willing to learn. I knew that to support my friend who is now living with HIV, I had to be her number one supporter, which meant that I should overcome all my fears and ignorance about HIV/AIDS. Then I encouraged her to seek medical help. We had learned that it is possible to lead a healthy life for years without any signs of illness. Though the medical bills are costly, we are grateful for its availability in many local health institutions. Samantha then began questioning herself, whether to inform friends and family about her illness. I did not interfere with her choice, but was not surprised when she told me that she wanted her friends and her family to know. She had always been courageous and confident throughout the many years we were friends. I knew that this would be a good thing as it would be a huge step towards educating those closest to us about HIV/AIDS and hopefully to eliminate the irrational fear and stigma that haunts their minds. As expected, some friends stopped the usual contacts, and family members stayed away. Thankfully, Samanthas parents and siblings were there to stand by her. When friends came and questioned me about Samantha, I would ask them to speak directly to her instead. Broaching the subject in a good-mannered way, I tried to explain to them as much as I could about showing more empathy and not sympathy to Samantha. And that though she had contracted an incurable disease, Samantha was still the same person she had always been. Together both of us joined groups and organisations that are out to educate the public and help PLWHAs. I am personally inspired by ordinary people just like me, who are willing to dedicate their lives to help create a better society for PLWHAs. These are the people who fight an everyday war to stop discrimination and eliminate the stigma faced by PLWHAs by educating the public. I believe that by setting an example to those around me in the way I am treating Samantha, our friends and family will eventually learn. I must tell myself that nothing will ever change our friendship, not even AIDS can come between us. Humans are ignorant in many ways. I had heard about the disease, read pamphlets and seen various advertisements informing the public about HIV/AIDS. And many times it had crossed my mind that it would never happen to anyone close to me, or even myself. But truly I was wrong my best friend is infected with HIV. AIDS knows no barriers and does not choose its victims. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or nationality, is vulnerable to it. Now, I cannot just stand by and watch other people spread the message about AIDS to the rest of the still ignorant world. Im actively involved in many support groups and organisations. Together with Samantha, I network with many other good Samaritans and other PLWHAs to combat the disease that is taking lives around the world. Besides educating the public on prevention, our main aim is to discard discrimination and to let society view the disease and PLWHAs without bias.


Indirectly, we are also encouraging more infected people to come out and seek the treatment that they need. When people are not afraid of discrimination, they are more likely to seek counselling and be tested for HIV infection. Also, theyll be less likely to be involved in risky behaviours and participate more actively in promoting AIDS awareness. I believe that everything happens for a reason. In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining. I had promised to stand by Samantha, and managed to do so by learning more about HIV and AIDS. By educating myself, I am able to educate others around me. By showing more compassion and viewing the world through the lens of a PLWHA, I am able to support Samantha and be the friend that I promised to be. And that has made all the difference.


Gayathri Sukumaran Nair (Finalist)

The mere mention of HIV/AIDS strikes fear even in the most level-headed of us as it undoubtedly is a disease which causes terrible pain and suffering; not only in the affliction of the disease itself, but also its after effects and in having to re-assimilate into society. HIV/AIDS is not particular to any one group, whether they are groups of gender, race, religion or nationality. This indiscriminate disease has quickly become a problem of global proportions. Given todays mindsets about those infected with HIV/AIDS, a Person Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHA) usually faces a huge challenge in his efforts to lead relatively a normal lifestyle once again. Societys preconceptions and misconceptions about the disease make it difficult for those infected with HIV to cope with living with the disease. If I were faced with a situation in which my best friend became infected with HIV, I would consider it my responsibility to provide as much support, in any form, as possible. Of course, the kind of support that my friend would need would be very dependent on how he contracted the disease. Based on that information, I would be able to offer him the proper perspective with which to view his situation and so, help him deal with it. For example, if my friend contracted the disease through his own irresponsible sexual relations, the only way in which I could provide any support would be to help him realise that one mistake should not cause him to make another by keeping his disease a secret. As a best friend, I would also help my friend deal with his family. Family would be an important source of comfort to someone who is HIV-positive, and therefore I would try to help my friends family to understand his situation so that they do not ostracise him due to the disease. I would do this by helping them empathise with his condition and making them realise that his efforts to lead a normal lifestyle would be made much easier with their support. Contracting the disease in the way which he did was a mistake that he should not dwell upon. To be accepted by society, he would have to be open about his state. It would also help my friend to cope better with being infected if he could use his experiences to alert his peers about the dangers of unprotected sex. This effort would enable my friend to feel like he is making a difference by assuring that his peers do not make the same mistakes . By having talks at various levels of society, such as schools, colleges, and community centres, he can spread his message to the community and rally their support at the same time. It would also be possible for my friend to have contracted the disease through contamination during medical procedures. HIV/AIDS has been known to be passed onto totally unsuspecting patients who undergo any sort of medical procedure due to the fact that unsterilised tools were used and medical staff were careless. There have even been cases where infected blood was accidentally used in a blood transfusion. HIV/AIDS has also been passed through such routine procedures such as blood tests, blood donations, and dental check-ups. If my friend contracted the disease through any of these means, the most difficult thing that he would have to do would be to accept that it has happened and that the only way to deal with it is to accept that there is nothing he could have done to prevent it.


Of course, the support of society is once again an important factor. If my friend were to get more involved in HIV/AIDS efforts, I feel that he would find it easier to manage the unfairness of his own situation. I would therefore help my friend get involved, either by making him an advocate to take serious action against hospitals or other medical outfits for their irresponsible actions which led to him contracting this terminal disease. Even though the disease itself is irreversible, this effort would probably give my friend a certain sense of purpose in life; where those responsible for his infection would be properly punished for their irresponsibility. Apart from that, I would provide for him support in the form of a small group of people who believe in the unfairness of his situation and empathise, thus creating a positive environment for my friend to manage the disease. Getting him involved in providing palliative care will also help my friend appreciate the time he still has left to live his life to the fullest. Overall, living with HIV/AIDS is a difficult thing to do. Undoubtedly, an individuals spiritual strength plays an important role in helping one deal with life as a person living with HIV/AIDS. As a best friend of a PLWHA, I would suggest spiritual strength as a means through which he could manage the inner turmoil that takes place when diagnosed with a terminal illness such as HTV/AIDS. I would introduce my friend to the strength of prayer, which has been known to get us through many a difficult period. In most religions, a pilgrimage is considered a sacrifice made for God, and thus I will encourage him to immerse himself in such activities to give him a more positive outlook on life and to see past the suffering due to the disease. The physical and mental state of such a person should be stable and this can be achieved through activities such as yoga which promote health and inner peace as well as relaxation. With all the efforts mentioned above, a best friend of mine who is infected with HIV would hopefully be able to manage life with the disease. The same efforts would hopefully be able to change the mindsets and stigma of society against PLWHAs, leading to a more accepting, loving and compassionate society for PLWHAs to live in.


Kenneith Yong Hoong Yuen (Finalist)

Live and let live. That is the slogan of the two-year World AIDS Campaign 2002-2003 which aims to eliminate stigma and discrimination towards People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Today, young people aged between 15 and 24 years all over the world are vulnerable to HIV infection due to many social and economic reasons. To date, it is estimated that 60 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus. These people experience many painful symptoms of the disease but the most agonising symptoms of all are the shame and bias faced by them and their families. This often prevents them from getting appropriate care and treatment besides preventing them from having access to livelihoods, education or even the chance to live normal lives. What is life if you cant live it out? I was shocked at first when my best friend told me her dark secret, but as the news sank deeper into me, I began to feel sad and angry at the same time. Sad and angry because she was a bright, cheerful and caring friend and I hated the fact that she would not be able to live her life to its fullest because of HIV/AIDS. We were best friends ever since we could remember and we would talk about anything under the sun, from our latest admirers to the things we were going to do in our future. I knew that she was destined to do great things for all of mankind, but because of the disgrace and intolerance she would face, her chances of doing so were reduced drastically. She was so afraid of being shunned by her family, friends, and the community in general that she would neither tell her parents nor seek treatment for HIV/AIDS, commonly known as anti-retroviral therapy. As a result, it was up to me to help her and support her through her dark period. It was the most heart-wrenching moment for the both of us as we cried and dried each others tears that gloomy day since we both cared deeply for each other. I must admit that before this, I too was ignorant just as the majority of the community. However, because of the love I had for my companion, I tried my best to find out as much as I could about HIV/AIDS to further aid me in my crusade against the dishonour and prejudice towards the disease. Only then did I realise that my previous knowledge about the disease was just the tip of the iceberg. I learnt that people with HIV were turned away from healthcare services, denied housing and unemployment, shunned by their friends and colleagues, turned down for insurance coverage or refused entry into foreign countries. In some cases, they may be evicted from home by their families, divorced by their spouses and suffer physical violence or even murder. AIDS is commonly considered a deserving punishment for immoral or bad behaviour such as drug abuse or sex outside marriage. However, what many people do not know is that HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusion. Is it humane to accuse and blame a person with HIV just because he had received infected blood that was supposed to save his life? It is because of ignorance that bias occurs and without knowing the truth, people begin to fear the disease. Looking back on those trying times, I regret the fact that I did not take the trouble to alleviate her pain and suffering although there was so much that I could have done. As her bosom friend, I could have created an environment of acceptance, love and compassion for her and all those who were infected with HIV. It is believed that the


young people of today possess the power to be the strongest force in addressing the epidemic. I too believe in this statement, but I know that it would be futile to start at the very peak of the mountain when the problems were not solved at the grassroots level. Therefore, I could have started with the environment around me, my college and neighbourhood. Living and studying in a fully residential college makes things a little easier as it is much easier to organise an activity due to the close ties fostered between friends. I should have thought of educating the community on HIV and AIDS. What better way of doing so than to organise an AIDS Week or AIDS Month in the college. Posters and articles based on extensive research from reliable sources could have been designed by the students themselves. A competition could be held for the best article or poster by assessing aspects of content and effectiveness. Besides posters and articles, the event could also have involved other aspects of creativity such as story writing, poetry, or even works of art such as paintings and drawings. Once again, competitions could be held as an incentive to the students. This will release the dams that will allow the creative energy of the students to flow freely. Most important of all, the students would have the opportunity to gather information about HIV/AIDS as well as the chance to delve into the mind and life of a PLWHA. These wonderful works could be displayed at places frequented by students such as the foyer, the entrance to the academic block or passageways. To amplify the level of public awareness, the event could be opened to the public. By then, the project would be on a large scale and more effort must be put in to make it successful. Therefore a joint effort could be held with the Malaysian AIDS Council. With their help, exhibitions could be held. Pamphlets and leaflets concerning HIV/AIDS could be distributed to the public. I could even go so far as to invite officers from the council to give talks or even organise their own workshops that would cater to every age group of the community. To hear a live account from someone who works with PLWHAs might actually change a persons point of view. Who knows what might happen then? Maybe one of us might become an AIDS activist in the future. One who will fight the dishonour and prejudice towards HIV/AIDS. Finally, to ensure that information does not go in one ear and out the other, quizzes could be held with interesting prizes to be won. We could even throw in a debate. It would be interesting to see the community pit their knowledge of HIV/AIDS against one another. The International Baccalaurate Programme offered at my college has made it compulsory for each student to do services for the community under a section called Creativity, Action and Service. The most frequently visited places are hospitals, spastic centres, autistic centres and orphanages, mainly by future medical students. However, it is surprising that not many have considered working with the Malaysian AIDS Council. Could it be that stigma and discrimination is already prevalent in these future medical students? I could suggest to the colleges administrative board to recommend the council as one of the places to conduct community service.


Imagine the valuable information and experience that a person could reap by interacting with the officers or even PLWHAs. The strongest and most powerful experience is by personal contact as it will generate empathy and greater understanding. With these strong emotions flowing from within, a loving and caring society can be born. Despite all these suggestions, nothing can change the fact that my soulmate was infected with HIV. Nothing can change the fact that she did not receive the proper treatment in time to save her life due to the stigma and discrimination towards HIV/AIDS. As she lay on her deathbed, I cried once again in sadness and anger. This time, however, I felt guilty towards her because as a confidante, I was not able to create an environment of acceptance, love and compassion that could have saved her life. All I could do to support her was to have hope when there was none and faith when it was lost. The least I could do was to pass on all my strength to her to prevent her from succumbing to the various diseases that ailed her stricken body due to AIDS. However, would she have received proper treatment if society did not discriminate against PLWHAs? Would she have lived on if these actions had been carried out? Most importantly, will we, as humans, leave the matter as it is and deny these people from living the normal lives that is their right? A friend is an angel who lifts us up when our wings have forgotten to fly As her best friend, I have failed her.



Mohd Norshamsudin b Johari (Finalist)

Sememangnya tidak dinafikan bahawa menghidapi sindrom kurang daya tahan penyakit (AIDS) atau dijangkiti virus human immunodeficiency syndrome(HIV) merupakan salah satu masalah yang besar buat seseorang. Malah HIV/AIDS dilabelkan sebagai penyakit yang tidak boleh diubati. Malah, ia dikatakan bahawa sesiapa yang dijangkiti penyakit tersebut seolah-olah hidupnya tidak berguna lagi di dunia ini atau disebut sebagai mayat hidup yang sedang menunggu saat kematiannya. lni kerana HIVIAIDS disebabkan oleh virus yang sangat berbahaya dan hingga sekarang para penyelidik masih belum menjumpai penawar bagi mengatasi dan mengubatinya Sekiranya saya mendapati kawan rapat saya dijangkiti virus HIV, langkah pertama yang harus saya lakukan ialah memberi sokongan dan galakan kepadanya supaya dapat meneruskan hidupnya. Langkah ini wajar bagi memberi semangat kepadanya untuk menjalani kehidupan seperti biasa walaupun dijangkiti virus HIV. Seseorang yang dijangkiti HIV akan merasakan dirinya sudah tidak berguna lagi, malah ada di antara mereka akan mengancam membunuh diri dan melakukan perkara yang merosakkan diri seperti mendera diri sendiri, meminum racun dan sebagainya. Berikutan itu, langkah memberi sokongan yang padu kepada kawan rapat saya yang dijangkiti HIV sangat penting kerana pada masa tersebut dia memerlukan seseorang teman bagi mengurangkan tekanan yang sedang dialaminya seterusnya menenangkan fikirannya. Sebagai kawan rapat, saya tidak harus mementingkan diri sendiri atau berfikiran negatif dengan menjauhi diri daripadanya. Ini kerana HIV/AIDS hanya boleh dijangkiti dengan cara-cara tertentu, seperti melalui suntikan jarum yang telah dijangkiti virus HIV atau melakukan seks yang tidak selamat. Sokongan dan galakan yang diberikan dapat menyedarkan dirinya bahawa masih ada yang kasih dan sayang serta memerlukannya di dunia yang fana ini. Langkah yang kedua yang perlu saya lakukan sekiranya mendapati kawan rapat saya dijangkiti HIV ialah menasihati kawan rapat saya supaya sabar menempuhi dan menghadapi ujian ini dengan berdoa supaya menemui cara dan penawar yang dapat menyembuhkan penyakit tersebut serta menerima ujian yang sedang dialaminya sebagai tanda redha apa yang telah terjadi kepadanya. Kawan rapat saya mungkin dijangkiti HIV bukan kerana salah sendiri seperti berkongsi jarum untuk menyuntik dadah kemudian dijangkiti HIV atau melakukan seks yang tidak selamat dan sering bertukartukar pasangan sehingga dijangkiti HIV. Terdapat pelbagai cara lain yang boleh menyebabkan seseorang itu dijangkiti HIV seperti melalui ibunya yang juga HIV-positif ataupun melalui pemindahan darah yang tidak mengikut prosedur atau saringan dengan teliti. Tetapi walaupun kawan rapat saya dijangkiti HIV akibat daripada kesalahan dirinya sendiri seperti melakukan perkongsian jarum suntikan, saya sebagai kawan rapatnya tidak harus membiarkannya sahaja, tetapi terus menasihatinya supaya meninggalkan perbuatan yang tidak berfaedah itu.


lni kerana ia hanya merugikan dan merosakkan diri sendiri sahaja, bagai pepatah melayu menyebut bagai mencari penyakit. Saya sebagai kawan rapatnya akan sentiasa menasihati dan membimbingnya ke arah jalan yang benar dan betul. Di samping itu, saya akan menyuruh kawan saya itu berdoa kepada Tuhan agar penyakit yang dialaminya menemui penawarnya, di samping saya juga berdoa untuknya. Memang tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa sesetengah orang yang dijangkiti HIV telah sembuh melalui cara-cara tradisional tetapi ia masih tidak dapat dibuktikan atau ditunjukkan oleh pakar saintifik tetapi ia tidak mustahil berlaku terhadap seseorang kerana sememangnya setiap penyakit memang ada cara-cara bagi mengatasi dan memulihkan penyakit tersebut. Oleh itu, saya akan terus menasihati kawan rapat saya supaya tidak sesekali berputus asa tetapi sentiasa mencari penawar bagi menyembuhkan penyakit yang sedang dialaminya. Langkah-langkah ini tidak akan berkesan sekiranya hanya saya seorang yang melakukannya. Oleh itu, kerjasama daripada ibu bapa, pihak sekolah dan masyarakat amat perlu bagi membantu dan menjamin kesejahteraan perasaan, kesihatan dirinya serta tekanan yang sedang dialaminya. Mengikut kajian yang dilakukan menunjukkan bahawa kesan-kesan atau simtom-simtom bagi mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) yang paling menyakitkan hati mereka adalah dalam bentuk stigma atau kecelakaan dan diskriminasi yang dihadapi oleh pesakit melalui masyarakat, ahli keluarga, malah ibu bapa mereka sendiri. Berikutan daripada itu, ia telah menyebabkan PLWHA sukar mendapat penjagaan atau rawatan yang sepatutnya dan menghalang mereka daripada mendapat hak-hak yang sepatutnya mereka peroleh seperti sumber pencarian, mendapat pendidikan seperti pelajar lain, atau menjalani kehidupan normal sebagai orang biasa. Hatta, saya sebagai kawan karib akan melakukan cara-cara produktif bagi membantu kawan rapat saya seperti meminta pihak sekolah menganjurkan pameran atau sessi penerangan mengenai HIV/AIDS kepada pelajar dan guru sekolah supaya mereka dan diri saya sendiri mendapat pengetahuan yang lebih lanjut mengenai HIV/AIDS melalui penerangan daripada doktor atau pegawai kesihatan, khususnya pakar HIV/AIDS. Penerangan tersebut perlu bagi mengelak kawan rapat saya didiskriminasikan oleh pihak yang mementingkan diri sendiri dan pihak yang tidak bertanggungjawab. Diskriminasi tersebut boleh berlaku akibat kejahilan dan kecetekan ilmu pengetahuan seseorang kerana orang ramai tidak memahami fakta-fakta tentang HIV/AIDS, justeru mengalami perasaan takut yang tidak rasional terhadap HIV/AIDS dan mereka yang dijangkiti HIV Melalui program penerangan yang diadakan di sekolah, suasana yang harmoni dan sejahtera dapat diwujudkan, bukan sahaja bagi pelajar sekolah tetapi kawan rapat saya sendiri. Penerangan tersebut akan menyebabkan rakan-rakan sekelas, guru-guru dan pelajarpelajar sekolah tidak perlu takut bersama-sama bermain dan bergurau senda dengan kawan rapat saya yang dijangkiti virus HIV. Malah dengan penerangan mengenai HIV/AIDS, pelajar-pelajar dan guru mengetahui kesengsaraan yang dialami oleh kawan rapat saya serta berkasihan dan bersimpati nasib yang menimpa dan ditanggungnya. Program itu juga dapat memberi kesedaran tentang bahayanya penyakit tersebut dan


menggalakkan orang ramai supaya menjauhkan diri daripada dijangkiti HIV. Selain daripada itu, saya akan berjumpa dengan ibu bapa kawan saya bagi memberi penerangan kepada mereka sekiranya ibu bapa kawan saya ini menyisihkannya. Saya akan memberitahu mereka supaya tidak menyisihkan anak mereka yang dijangkiti penyakit ini, dan menerimanya sebagai takdir Ilahi. Dalam situasi sebegini, adalah amat penting bagi seseorang anak mendapat perhatian yang sewajarnya terutamanya pemberian kasih sayang kerana sudahlah dirinya disisih oleh masyarakat, kini disisih oleh ibu bapanya sendiri. Hati anak manakah yang tidak terguris apabila dirinya dibiarkan bagai sampah sarap. Bagi ahli-ahli keluarga pula, penerangan serba sedikit mengenai HIV/AIDS terutamanya bagaimana virus HIV boleh disebar dan cara-cara melindungi diri boleh diberi. lni untuk mengelakkan adik-beradiknya menjadi takut untuk menghampirinya. Penerangan sedemikian perlu bagi mengelakkan ahli keluarga kawan rapat saya mendapat maklumat yang salah, contohnya orang ramai takut menyentuh, mendekati atau bersalaman dengan seseorang yang HIV-positif. Malah ia pernah berlaku kepada diri saya, kerana semasa umur saya dalam lingkungan belasan tahun, ibu pernah memberitahu saya supaya jangan mendekati mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS kerana takut berjangkit, seperti demam campak. Tetapi, kini saya sedar bahawa maklumat yang saya terima adalah salah kerana penyakit tersebut hanya boleh dijangkiti apabila cecair badan seperti darah, air mani, cecair faraj dan susu ibu seseorang yang HIV positif bercampur atau terdedah kepada cecair badan seseorang yang lain. Sikap masyarakat juga memainkan peranan yang penting bagi memberi semangat dan keyakinan kepada kawan rapat saya supaya meneruskan hidupnya. Sikap masyarakat yang memandang serong dan tidak dapat menerima PLWHA di dalam masyarakat harus dikikis. Ini tidak bermakna masyarakat tidak perlu menjaga tepi kain orang dan mengambil berat, tetapi di dalam konteks mi, bermaksud masyarakat tidak patut memulaukan PLWHA seperti menyuruh mereka keluar dari kampung. Oleh itu, sekiranya masyarakat di kampung kawan rapat saya berfikiran demikian saya akan mencari jalan bagi membantu kawan rapat saya supaya tidak disisih oleh masyarakat. Langkah drastik yang perlu saya ambil seperti memberi nisalah mengenai HIV/AIDS dan meminta pihak kerajaan supaya menganjurkan kempen kesedaran mengenai perlunya PLWHA dibimbing dan diberi kasih sayang serta diterima oleh masyarakat Hal ini perlu kerana sesetengah masyarakat bukan sahaja memulaukan PLWHA, malah setiap ahli keluarga pesakit tersebut. Dengan itu, PLWHA akan merasakan dininya bukan sahaja jatuh martabat atau maruah, malah ahli keluarganya turut menanggung beban akibat kesilapan mereka. Perkara sedemikian tidak harus berlaku kerana ia boleh memberi kesan yang negatif terhadap PLWHA.



Bagi melepaskan tekanan yang dialaminya, kemungkinan PLWHA yang dahulunya berkongsi jarum untuk mengguna dadah akan kembali semula melakukan kerja-kerja sebegitu. Dengan ini, kesalahan siapakah yang menyebabkan masalah ini berulang? Sekiranya perlu, saya akan meminta pertolongan daripada ketua kampung agar memberi penjelasan secara terperinci kepada penduduk kampung mengenai HIV/AIDS supaya mengerti dan menerima kawan rapat saya seperti anak muda yang lain. Ini kerana bukan keinginan atau kehendaknya dijangkiti HIV. Secara kesimpulannya, semua pihak harus mencari jalan bagi mengelak bertambahnya kadar jangkitan HIV bagi mewujudkan negara kita bebas daripada penyakit yang berbahaya ini. PLWHA pula tidak seharusnya dibiarkan dan dipulaukan oleh masyarakat dan orang ramai. Semua pihak yang terbabit, khususnya kerajaan seharusnya mengambil langkah yang lebih praktikal bagi mengelak berlakunya diskriminasi terhadap PLWHA dengan giat menyebarkan maklumat penerangan mengenai penyakit tersebut, khususnya kepada orang awam. Sesungguhnya negara yang maju dan damai bermula daripada rakyat yang sihat dan bersatu.



Nik Azan Shah Reza b Nik Abdul Rashid (Finalist)

Place yourself in this situation: you are in the clinic seeing your doctor to obtain the results of the blood test that you had to take in preparation for your new job. The doctor says that the results are in, and that he has some bad news. You fear the worst. The doctor, in his most sympathetic tone, says that you are HIV-positive. What will you do? Will you wail sadly, regretting that one night stand? Will you scream with anguish, lamenting that jab you took to get high? Or will you ponder, miserably, what you did to bring this upon yourself? No matter the answer, anyone who is HIV-positive will have a single question coming from deep within: who will befriend me now? Even in todays society where most forms of discrimination have been abolished, discrimination against People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHA5) still occurs. Job discrimination and prejudice, to name a few, have given PLWHAs more pain than they can tolerate. Yet, they can still be an important part of society and give a positive impact on the growth of the country. Had my best friend been diagnosed with HIV, I would most likely remain his friend; as the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Its not like casual contact can cause the HIV virus to infect my body, can it? I can always play a game of hand wrestling or squash and yet have no risk of getting infected. Sadly, the general population is somewhat ignorant of this fact, and I think this is a pivotal point in bringing PLWHAs out of exile and back into society. In my opinion, one should think big and act small in an effort to bring love and compassion from society to the PLWHAs. In order for the whole world to accept PLWHAs, we should first convince a smaller community. In my friends case, I would show to all my peers the fact that he is still capable of doing things just as he was before he was infected with the virus. If he and I were to study together, and he obtains excellent results, wouldnt that cause the other students to think twice about his disability? It would, I hope open their eyes and make them accept my friend once again into their social circles. My best friend should also not keep to himself socially. I would most likely suggest to him to find a friend so that his friend count can gradually increase, which will not only help boost his confidence in attaining his dreams, but also to show others that he is still capable of maintaining his own circle of friends. Just like with any other friendship initiation rite, he should find someone with similar interests and start from there. People are social creatures and once they know that someone is at par with them, friendship can easily blossom. One can also take a direct approach in opening the minds of society, most effectively through talks or conferences. As a student, I can give a speech during school assemblies about the conditions of PLWHAs, or for even greater effect, my friend himself can give the speech. Those who are more soft-hearted can empathise with my friend and try and be friends with him, while those of tougher hearts at least know that he is not as dangerous as society makes PLWHAs out to be. ____________________________________________________________________________________


Acts of compassion from one person to another usually elicit similar acts in return. The same should also apply to PLWHAs. By giving out love and compassion to others who are conditionally worse than they are, PLWHAs can expect a similar love in return. Furthermore, should I take my friend to do charity work at disabled childrens homes, it would make healthy people consider how better off they are in the communal sense. Although this last suggestion of mine may sound a bit idealistic, in the long run it is plausible. It involves educating young children about the disease: what it is, what are the causes, why people should not discriminate against people who have HIV/AIDS, and most importantly, ways of avoiding HIV infection. Young minds are the easiest to mould and shape, and they must be shown that PLWHAs are just like any other people. The least I can do is to recommend to primary school teachers around my residence the importance of this education. PLWHAs, especially in Malaysia, are today neglected and hated, when what they need is compassion and love. Discrimination will turn them into recluses and will give further negative impressions to society, turning into a vicious circle that will ruin the lives of PLWHAs. Thus all hands must come together to put these people back into the place where they belong, back into the warm and loving hands of society.



Shalina Manoharan (Finalist)

A year ago, my best friend Ashley met with an automobile accident. Her car was rammed by a truck and she suffered serious injuries to her lower abdomen. Petrified that he would be charged for the accident, the driver left the scene immediately. Ashley was left bleeding severely in her car for about half an hour before a good samaritan spotted her wrecked vehicle. He was astounded to find her in the car alive but unconscious in a pool of blood. He immediately rushed her to the nearest hospital. Due to severe loss of blood, she had to be given a blood transfusion. She was kept under close observation in the Intensive Care Unit for three weeks and was later transferred to a convalescence ward. After being in the hospital for a month she was finally discharged. Had it not been for the blood transfusion that she had received, she would have died, but ironically that has now become her Death Sentence. Ashley is currently fighting a battle with AIDS due to the blood transfusion that she received as it was infected with the HIV virus. The news was flashed across the papers and soon everyone came to know of her predicament. Her family sued the hospital for their lack of diligence and won the case incourt. As news of her misfortune spread, some of her relatives, friends and neighbours began to avoid the family for fear of contracting AIDS. Unable to bear the social stigma Ashley stopped going to college. She refuses to leave her house as she is intimidated by the hostile environment whenever she is out. Although her immediate family and best friends are still with her, at times she gets very depressed with her present situation and has even considered committing suicide to end her pain and also that of her family. I have always told her to be impervious of whatever is said about her, but at times its very hard even for me. Since the accident, I have started to read a lot on HIV/AIDS to help educate the public and our friends on this disease so that a loving and compassionate environment can be created for her and the rest of the people fighting this disease. AIDS is a disease that crosses borders as easily as the wind. Since the epidemic began, over 21.8 million people all over the world have died. AIDS which is also known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is a condition that is not genetically transmitted, but it is acquired through the HIV virus, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus affects the human bodys immune system and causes it to work inefficiently. Therefore even the slightest flu could be deadly for a Person Living With HIV/AlDS(PLWHA). Once a person has been infected with the HIV virus, he or she is not diagnosed immediately with AIDS. Generally, a person develops AIDS after being infected with the HIV virus for roughly about seven to ten years. The HIV virus is not transmitted by touch. It is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk but not through saliva, tears, sweat, faeces and urine. A person who is infected with the HIV virus will experience flu-like symptoms which usually lasts longer than a common flu. These symptoms might include fevers, chills, night sweats and even rashes. However sometimes these symptoms are so mild that he or she may not even notice them. ____________________________________________________________________________________


When a person is infected with the HIV virus or develops AIDS, the public begins to ostracize them and they become outcasts of the society. A person infected with the HIV virus should be showered with love and care to help them fight their battle. Ever since Ashley was infected by the HIV virus I have been a constant source of support both morally and spiritually. Her family and I have never left her alone to fight this. We have always been with her to the extent that she is never left alone at any time. Ashley and I always pray together seeking Gods blessings and guidance to help us through this. Her family and I are very supportive of whatever it is that she does. During the last vacation, both of us went bungee jumping together as she always wanted to do it and we figured that there was no use procrastinating any longer, so we went ahead and did it. The jump was the most exhilarating experience either of us had ever experienced before. After we got back on our feet she looked at me and said Im not going to let this virus destroy my life, Im not just going to let go without putting up a fight. It was at that very moment that I knew we were going to get through this. Ever since returning from our vacation I have been busy writing articles for the college newsletter and also various magazines to educate the people about HIV/AIDS, hoping that through this society will begin to accept PLWHAs without any fear. I have also written an appeal to the Health Minister to help in providing affordable anti-retroviral therapy and to provide hospices for needy AIDS patients, and most importantly to create an environment of acceptance filled with love and compassion for PLWHAs. I have also organised an AIDS Campaign with the help of my college. Through this campaign I have managed to create an awareness programme for young people on how to protect themselves and realize that they can endanger themselves through ignorance. This programme has also helped the community to come forward to help care for PLWHAs. When society starts to accept PLWHAs, they will not feel depressed or unwanted anymore. It is important for PLWHAs to have emotional support because it breaks the isolation and provides a safe way of sharing both feelings and practical information. When they are loved and accepted they tend to feel euphoric again and thereby they pay less attention to their illness and the thought of dying. Hence they become more optimistic and hopeful for their future. Ashley has now been accepted by her peers and relatives and she has since become a member of PT Foundation, a non profit organization that champions the AIDS cause. This has allowed her to interact with people from all walks of life who are fighting the same battle. Joining this support group has also made her appreciate the love and care she receives, as not all the PLWHAs in this support group are as fortunate as her. Some have been abandoned by their relatives and friends through sheer ignorance and fear of this epidemic. The knowledgeable counsellors at this organisation have helped to put most of her fears to rest. Although the bitter truth that we do not know how long this is going to last still remains, Ashley goes on with her life with optimistic hopes for a miracle drug and a possible cure in the near future. As for me, I have learnt to overcome the harrowing moments and at the same time I cherish this moment of her life and I shall treasure her friendship forever.


Suriza Noorfahmi bt Hashim (Finalist)

AIDS atau Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome adalah akibat jangkitan virus HIV atau Human Immunodificiency Virus ke atas seseorang. Jangkitan yang berlaku menjadikan seseorang yang dijangkiti mengalami kegagalan fungsi system daya tahan badan melawan sebarang agen biological yang memasuki badan. Virus HIV bukanlah suatu virus yang bersifat fatal. Kebanyakan daripada mereka yang dijangkiti HIV bukan mati kerana virus ini tetapi mereka mati kerana penyakit-penyakit yang berkaitan dengan AIDS, iaitu satu komplikasi tidak langsung daripada tingkah laku virus HIV tersebut. Di seluruh Malaysia, golongan muda sering terdedah kepada jangkitan HIV disebabkan oleh pelbagai faktor sosial mahupun ekonomi. HIV membawa kesan ke atas ahli masyarakat yang paling produktif. Namun demikian, golongan muda mempunyai kuasa untuk mengubah arah hala epidemik ini. Golongan muda mempunyai tenaga, semangat positif, kreativiti dan perasaan kasih sayang untuk menghalang kes-kes jangkitan baru dan untuk menjaga mereka yang HIV-positif serta keluarga mereka di samping mengurangkan stigma yang membelenggu epidemik ini. Tambahan pula diskriminasi yang dihadapi oleh mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) ini sering menghalang mereka dari mendapat penjagaan dan rawatan yang sepatutnya. Malah, ia turut menghalang mereka dari mendapatkan sumber pendapatan, mendapatkan pendidikan atau menjalani kehidupan yang normal. Akan tetapi, terfikirkah kita andainya virus HIV ini dijangkiti oleh orang yang rapat dengan kita seperti rakan kita? Sebagai seorang yang berperikemanusiaan adakah kita akan membiarkan rakan kita itu terkapai-kapai umpama perahu yang hilang pendayungnya dalam meniti kehidupan dan hari-hari mendatang? Dimanakah jati diri dan nilai mural kita sebagai seorang sahabat? Saya cuba meletakkan diri saya sebagai seorang sahabat kepada rakan yang dijangkiti virus HIV ini Sebagai seorang sahabat, adalah amat perlu bagi saya untuk menyokong dan memberi semangat kepada rakan ini. Sebenarnya, PLWHA adalah sama seperti golongan yang ditimpa kesusahan lain, wajib diberi bantuan oleh masyarakat. Seorang yang telah dipastikan HIV-positif tidak boleh diketepikan oleh masyarakat. Sebaliknya, individu tersebut masih dianggap normal dan berguna kepada masyarakat. Dia mempunyai hak sepenuhnya untuk melibatkan diri secara aktif dalam pelbagai aktiviti di tempat kerja mahupun bermesra bersama keluarga. Individu ini juga mempunyai hak sepenuhnya untuk terus bekerja dan menjawat jawatannya sebelum ini. Hal ini kerana dia tidak akan merebakkan virus tersebut kepada rakan sekerjanya hanya dengan bekerja di samping mereka. Individu ini juga harus tinggal bersama ahli keluarganya dan berinteraksi sepenuhnya bersama mereka seperti biasa. Kita tidak ada asas untuk mendiskriminasikan atau memencilkan golongan PLWHA ini. Memetik kata seorang sukarelawan yang mendampingi para PLWHA, Encik Ahmad Khalis, Masyarakat cemerlang bukan setakat yang tinggi pencapaiannya dalam bidang ilmu dan kewangan, tetapi turut merangkumi aspek kemanusiaan dan nilai sosial seperti menyumbang secara aktif demi kebaikan orang lain.


Dalam usaha untuk membangkitkan kembali semangat rakan saya, saya akan memberi dorongan yang menekankan aspek kerohanian, iaitu aspek ketahanan mental. ini adalah bertujuan supaya rakan ini tahu bagaimana hendak mengawal emosi dan perlakuannya dalam menghadapi dugaan yang maha hebat ini. Selain itu, didikan agama dan disiplin haruslah dicurahkan secara berterusan agar rakan ini akan berasa tenang dalam mengharungi liku-liku kehidupan yang mendatang. Malah, saya akan mencadangkan kepada rakan saya ini agar mengikuti program dan seminar yang diwujudkan khas untuk mereka yang dijangkiti HIV ini. Contohnya, Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia iaitu sebuah institusi pemulihan persendirian yang mengekalkan modaliti Bimbingan Kepulihan Rakan Sebaya yang menekankan perstrukturan semula pola pemikiran, pengurusan dan penstabilan emosi, perubahan tingkah laku, penyuburan kerohanian serta penyerapan semula kepada masyarakat. PLWHA akan diberi sokongan dan galakan oleh para kaunselor. Dengan cara ini, sedikit sebanyak ia akan memberi semangat kepada rakan saya ini untuk meneruskan hidup dan berhadapan dengan masyarakat. Meskipun ada di kalangan masyarakat kita yang memandang serong dan mempunyai tanggapan hina terhadap PLWHA ini. Tetapi dengan dorongan yang diberikan rakan saya ini akan mampu menangkis segala anggapan negatif itu. Masyarakat perlulah didedahkan dengan simptom HIV/AIDS ini bagi membuka mata dan minda mereka terhadap gejala ini seterusnya dapat mewujudkan persekitaran yang saling menyayangi, mengerti dan dapat menerima golongan yang dijangkiti HIV. Meskipun semua orang mengetahui apa itu HIV/AIDS, ramai di kalangan masyarakat yang merekacipta mitos terhadap gejala ini. Masyarakat terlalu berfikiran sempit dan tidak mengetahui secara mendalam mengenai simptom ini sekaligus meletakkan pandangan hina terhadap PLWHA. Majlis AIDS Malaysia (MAM), sebuah badan bukan kerajaan (NGO) yang merangkumi 37 buah pertubuhan lain seringkali menganjurkan aktiviti-aktiviti tertentu serta memberi banyak maklumat mengenai HIV/AIDS bagi memperkenalkannya kepada masyarakat. MAM kerap mengadakan pelbagai seminar, forum, ceramah dan pameran kesedaran untuk semua kumpulan sasaran di seluruh negara dengan bantuan NGO yang lain. Antara pertubuhan-pertubuhan yang digabungkan di bawah MAM ialah AIDS Action Research Group(AARG), All Womens Action Society(AWAM), dan Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia. Unit komunikasi MAM mengumpul dan menerbitkan bahan-bahan yang berkaitan dengan pengetahuan, pendidikan dan komunikasi yang disalurkan kepada pelbagai pihak tertentu. Malah, ia juga mempunyai perkhidmatan infoline HIV/AIDS selama 24 jam yang menyediakan maklumat asas tentang penyebaran dan ujian HIV Orang awam juga boleh meninggalkan soalan mereka dan ia akan dijawab dalam masa 72 jam oleh pekerja MAM. Menerusi program Hospis Cahaya Outreach, pelbagai bantuan dihulurkan seperti perkhidmatan sokongan sosial, penjagaan rapi dan pengajaran kepada PLWHA tersebut untuk menjaga dan menguruskan diri.



Sekitar pertengahan tahun 2002, MAM telah menganjurkan sebuah pameran di Balai Seni Lukis Negara yang menggambarkan realiti kehidupan beberapa PLWHA di Asia yang dikenali sebagai Positive Lives: Responses to HIV. lni diikuti oleh pelbagai sesi ceramah, forum dan persembahan drama tentang HIV/AIDS. Dengan adanya program seperti ini, ia dapat membantu dalam menyedarkan masyarakat terhadap PLWHA ini dengan rela hati dan terbuka. Sekaligus kita dapat mewujudkan persekitaran masyarakat penyayang dan dapat menerima pesakit sindrom ini. Selain itu, kempen dan program khas untuk golongan remaja perlu diadakan dengan bijak agar remaja tertarik lalu memberikan komitmen sepenuhnya. Sifat remaja yang suka berjenaka dan berterus terang memberikan komen atau kritikan terhadap sesuatu perkara yang mereka tidak suka atau tidak berpuas hati haruslah diambil berat. Remaja harus didekati secara psikologi dan bukan secara agresif. Remaja tidak seharusnya dilihat sebagai kelompok yang lemah dan mentah. Remaja perlu didekati sebagai kawan khasnya dalam kempen pencegahan AIDS. Setiap tahun tanggal 1 Disember, pastinya sambutan Hari AIDS Sedunia diadakan. Ia memfokuskan kepada pelbagai perkara mengenai langkah-langkah wajar dalam mengangani masalah wabak AIDS ini. Riben merah digunakan sebagai lambang kesedaran AIDS yang melampaui segala perbezaan jantina, bangsa, sosial, agama dan politik. Tindakan memakainya melambangkan sokongan seseorang ke arah memahami dan berbelas kasihan kepada golongan yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS ini. Justeru, dengan adanya program-program yang menyebarkan maklumat tentang HIV/AIDS secara berterusan ini, masyarakat akan lebih berpengetahuan tentang penyakit ini, bagaimana ia merebak, dan cara-cara untuk mengelakkannya. Sekaligus ini akan membangunkan masyarakat mengenai kehidupan yang ditanggung oleh mereka yang menjalani kehidupan dengan ditemani virus ini. Ia juga akan mewujudkan masyarakat penyayang, yang mengerti akan epidemik ini dan yang paling pentingnya, dapat menerima PLWHA ini dalam sama-sama menjalankan aktiviti harian bersama tanpa perasaan bimbang atau berprasangka akan dijangkiti penyakit ini. Bak kata pepatah, kecil tapak tangan, nyiru kami tadahkan. Hal yang demikian juga dapat memberikan peluang kepada PLWHA ini untuk terus menjalani kehidupan tanpa sebarang perasaan rendah diri, malu dan perasaan takut yang tidak rasional terhadap HIV yang dijangkitinya. Seterusnya memadamkan diskriminasi yang berlaku akibat kejahilan terhadap epidemik ini.



Topic 2
HIV/AIDS affects the most productive members of society. In Malaysia, the largest group currently infected with HIV is between the ages of 15 39. Discuss the social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia if this group continues to be affected by HIV/AIDS, and what can be done to prevent this. HIV/AIDS membawa kesan ke atas ahli masyarakat yang paling produktif. Di Malaysia, jumlah jangkitan HIV yang paling tinggi adalah di kalangan mereka yang berusia 15 39 tahun. Bincangkan kesan ekonomik dan social HIV/AIDS di Malaysia sekiranya kumpulan ini terus dijangkiti HIV/AIDS, dan apa yang boleh dilakukan untuk memghalang in dari berlaku.


Moong Pooi Funn (1st Prize)

Imagine that your body has an army of tiny soldiers, defending your body against dangerous intruders, much like a real army protects its country. These tiny beings fight in many ways to defeat various threats, ensuring safety and health in the body. Then imagine that one day, your entire army becomes weak, unable to ward off any intruders. What would happen to the body? It would be vulnerable. That tiny army is your immune system, its soldiers are antibodies, and that vulnerability to outside attacks can be defined as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It happens when a weakness in the bodys system allows infections and causes a group of problems that make up a disease. AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In short, HIV infections result in AIDS. The largest group currently infected with HIV in Malaysia is between the ages of 15 39. The most productive members of society are affected, constituting more than 80% of reported cases of HIV/AIDS (www.mac.org.my). This is indeed a great number and if it is to continue, it will have profound economic and social impacts, among others, on society. HIV/AIDS instils fear, prejudice, misunderstanding, and discrimination in society. People have misconceptions, mainly due to lack of awareness, and thus people infected with HIV are attached with a social stigma. A common misconception is that HIV is only transmitted sexually, and that those who are infected must have had unsafe or unnatural sexual activities. But not all are infected this way. Even those who are infected through blood transfusion are misunderstood and further fixed with discrimination because other people tend to treat all HIV-infected the same: as social misfits or so on. These conflicts among members of society will proceed to break down social structures in society and cause disintegration if infection rates do not slow down. Society will experience disorder and social stability will be threatened with more discrimination and misconceptions. The problem of the aging population will also be augmented if more people from the generation of the ages 15 39 continue to be affected. Older members of society will no longer be able to rely upon the next generation in their old age. Instead, they will not only have to care for themselves, they may have to be sole caretakers of their grandchildren as well. HIV/AIDS takes away adults in their prime, the expected main income earners in most families. There will be greater dependency and generation gaps in society with more of the elderly and the adolescents, if the central group diminishes as a result of rising infection rate of HIV/AIDS. Where would society be then? If the most productive group continues to be affected by HIV/AIDS, it will also have a severe impact on the family as an institution of society. Families with partners that are infected tend to break down more easily. Distrust among partners leads to separation, divorce and broken families, changing the structure and size of the average family. This is not to mention HIV transmission from spouse to spouse, or mother to child, thus affecting close ones as well. Children may lose their parents, orphaned by AIDS.


Other social systems will suffer as well. One of the most important things in ensuring the survival of a society is the education system. HIV/AIDS deprives a country of teachers, students, and parents, not to mention the moulding of future productive members of society. The political institution will suffer from a lack of potential voters and, more importantly, a lack of potential future leaders of society who are the youth of today. Those aged 15 39 constitute the dynamo of society, the determiners of the near future, the path-makers for the next generation. But at this rate, one wonders will there be a future generation. When a person is infected, time and money must be spent in providing treatment and care. Close ones must bear the burden, both financial and emotional. Health care is not cheap and prices continue to soar, making it harder for PLWHAs to make ends meet. In seeking much needed medication, some might eventually resort to illegal means in order to fund their treatment. Society will ultimately be faced with social problems such as higher crime rates in addition to rising cases of domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, and so on. People might be forced into sex work or drug trafficking, which in turn, exposes them more to infections. All this amounts to instability, which together with conflict is capable of tearing apart families, friends, and communities. Continuing high rates of HIV/AIDS infection in those aged 15 39 will also have a serious economic impact. Seeing that this group represents the most productive members of society, labour capacity will be significantly reduced as more and more infected people will drop out of the active work force. All sectors will be affected, especially in the crucial areas such as agriculture. Absenteeism due to sickness or caregiving related to HIV/AIDS depresses labour productivity. Premature deaths of young adults of prime working age due to AIDS-related illnesses will also effectively lower labour capacity and availability. In the future, as more of todays young people are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, there will be shortages in the labour force due to reduced availability and erosion of human capital which could be put to good use. With such high infection rates, the demand for health care will definitely increase, which existing health systems are not capable to respond to. Costs of health care will soar, placing much of the heavy burden on health systems and budgets. Government expenditure will have to be reallocated towards treatment and prevention programmes, diverting resources away from productive investments and other essential areas. It is projected in a study conducted in 1998 that future economic costs of HIV/AIDS will amount to RM2O billion if current infection rates do not slow down (www.mac.org.my). Furthermore, HIV/AIDS deepens poverty as more of households expenditure is spent on medication and treatment. Cost of pricey health care is already out of reach for most, which will further impoverish poor or near poverty families if members are infected. As there are often more expenses when one in the family is infected, they are forced to meet multiplied costs. Family resources must be compromised, while savings are diverted towards medical treatment and eventually funeral costs. Households might borrow money, shoulder debts with high interest rates, search for additional income,


and also be forced to dispose of assets. The poorer the household, the greater the proportion of expenditure taken up by HIV/AIDS, and therefore, the greater the relative financial impact. HIV/AIDS evidently has a severe economic impact, at micro as well as macro levels. Yet, the future economic and social costs of not treating and providing medication will be much greater, and thus should be prevented. At the least, it can be lessened. Besides the continued research for a cure, prevention measures are also vital. The most effective would be to raise awareness and to combat social stigma about HIV/AIDS. Misconceptions stem from lack of information, or rather, a lack of interest to be informed. Instead, there should be more focus placed on empowering ourselves with the proper knowledge and understanding, so that a collective stand can be taken in our fight against HIV/AIDS. People should be informed adequately about HIV/AIDS, especially for the young and, in a way, the defenseless. Healthy behaviour patterns can only be established with proper knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, it is important to instill these patterns from young, as they are more susceptible and receptive to learning. Once prevalent from young, healthy conduct tends to be more enduring. It is also more effective to start from the beginning than to correct already established habits at an older age. Therefore, young people are the ones who are most able to bring about a change, particularly in the attitude and perception of the members of society. Public information and awareness campaigns should be held for all as these have a farther reach in general, not to mention in and out of school campaigns. As the largest group currently affected are those between the ages of 15 39, much of these preventive movements should be targeted at this group. A caring and supportive environment should be created and sustained so as to provide guidance to those in need. Youth-friendly services such as voluntary and confidential HIV counseling, testing services, and so on should be made readily available. If given the proper skills and tools, it would improve their self-confidence, ability to make informed choices, and to adopt safe behaviours. These skills include negotiation, conflict resolution, critical thinking, decision-making, and effective communication. Help should always be provided to those in seek of it, particularly in helping them to become responsible for their own actions and health. As the saying goes, Prevention is better than cure, especially when there is no known cure for AIDS. Yet. But there is always hope.


Ahadi Iskandar b Ismail (2nd Prize)

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is barely a micron in size, yet its impact has been so devastating, it has shattered the world. For the past two decades, HIV/AIDS has killed more than 20 million people across the globe. Although AIDS does not discriminate, a majority of its victims are the most productive members of society - as is evident in Malaysia, where the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS are aged between 15 and 39 In a nation like ours that is still struggling to achieve our goals of sustainable development, HIV/AIDS would probably be a very dangerous saboteur to the machines of our socio-economic progress, by targeting our communitys greatest asset - its human resource. The most apparent effect of HIV/AIDS on our society is caused by the reaction of society towards the whole scenario. Stigma towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) has existed in our community ever since the disease made its presence felt in the early 1980s. Sex workers, homosexuals and drug users have always been targets of serious discrimination and hatred, and societys sentiments towards these people has become even worse since the outbreak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Malaysia. Therefore, it is this disapproval of people living with HIV/AIDS that creates an unbridgeable gap between different groups of society. People tend to ostracize those living with HIV/AIDS and label them with names such as sinners and the trash of society. In a time when they need support the most, PLWHAs have been put under serious scrutiny, humiliation, and have even been deserted by family and friends. Even though it is possible for PLWHAs to live a reasonably long and happy life, any hope of such a dream is diminished not by the virus, but by society itself. Education is undeniably the most essential weapon any country might have to ensure a better future for its people against HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, it is in this area of society where HIV/AIDS can deal its worst blows. Some countries in Africa report that school enrolment has fallen by 20-36% due to AIDS or orphanhood. Children whose parents are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS might have to drop out of school in order to support the family or because of discrimination and emotional distress. This only worsens the situation, as it would mean that they are even more at risk of malnutrition, abuse, and sexual exploitation. They are also even more susceptible to contracting HIV since they are not provided with the knowledge to prevent them selves from contracting the virus. However, what is worse is that they are denied the chance to pursue their ambitions and dreams. The world would also be at a loss, seeing that these children - who are deprived of their right to an education - may be the same ones who could one day kind a cure to HIV/AIDS. The loss of teachers and administrative staff to this disease can easily cripple out education system. Seeing that even today we are experiencing a slight drop in the number of teachers available, it would be quite impossible to cope with a steady loss of educators, especially the more experienced ones, to HIV/AIDS. Eventually, there will be less professionals in the market to ensure development, and even more people on the


streets, forced to do anything, even activities which might expose them to HIV/AIDS, to make ends meet. Young people are generally very curious about the world they live in, thirsting for knowledge and experience. Nevertheless, it is this curiosity which, if aimed in the wrong direction, may cause them to try risky things such as drug abuse and unsafe sex, without the proper knowledge of protecting themselves from HIV/AIDS. If young people continue to be infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, the downfall of the nation is inevitable. In a country like ours, where the mere participation of young people in drug abuse or sex is already unspeakable, most young people who find themselves infected with HIV may be disowned by their families and rejected by friends. HIV/AIDS would prevent these young people from obtaining a proper education, yet at the same time they might also be unable to support themselves since they do not have the qualifications to get jobs. At a time in their life where things are most confusing, and without the support of adults, the discrimination they receive would be unbearable. It would be no wonder if most would attempt suicide, seeing that society seems to hold no place for them. Alternatively, they may be forced to hit the roads, engaging in sex work or drug abuse, thus making conditions even worse for them and for society as a whole. Those who are more influential might even cause others to emulate their behavior, thus spreading the whole trend. The business sector is becoming more aware of how HIV/AIDS is affecting the economic growth. The basic concept to be understood here is that since HIV/AIDS targets the most productive age range in society, it is also targeting the very gears and cogs that make up the intricate machinery of progress- the workforce. Absenteeism amongst employees may worsen, especially when accompanied by other factors, such as discrimination at the work place. Studies done shown that absenteeism caused by HIV/AIDS can account for as much as 25-40% of company costs in East African businesses. Those infected by HIV may be too ill, or - because of discrimination - too discouraged to go to work. Alternatively, co-workers might fear the worker with HIV/AIDS, thanks in large part to stigma and misinformation, and choose not to attend work. Whatever the case, one thing is certain; workforce morale and production in the workplace is greatly lowered by HIV/AIDS. An even worse hit to companies would be when they lose professionals. Experience is hard to come by and in most cases expert employees are indispensable. This loss would especially be felt among small and medium sized industries, the core of most economies, including ours, where good employees are hard to come by. Other than that, new and inexperienced workers are also at a loss, seeing that they are unable to benefit from the advice and guidance of veteran colleagues. Tourism is an essential industry for many countries in the struggle towards a more stable economy, and not to mention to boost the countrys pride. Malaysia has always been a popular tourist destination, even today, although there have been rumours of terrorism and the recent outbreak of SARS in this region. Nevertheless, if HIV/AIDS is not


kept under serious control, it has the potential to maim this industry. The AIDS epidemic threatens many of the public services and necessities of a country, ranging from the most basic such as water, sanitation, and health, to those critical to ensure a thriving tourism industry such as transportation and telecommunications. As a result, the government would have to spend less time concentrating on the tourism industry, and more time on the provision of essential social services. Other than that, a prevalence of HIV/AIDS within a society also repels potential tourists from affected countries, seeing that discrimination and stigma towards the people living with. HIV/AIDS is a global problem. In the long run, a declining tourism industry will disrupt a nations economic growth as well. However, all is not lost. Throughout the world a myriad of solutions and plans are being hatched and implemented to overcome the HIV/AIDS dilemma. As is apparent from the 2002-2003 World ADS Campaign, tackling the problem of stigma, discrimination, and violation of human rights is paramount. Effort from influential members of society, such as politicians, intellectuals, entertainers, sports figures, religious figures and the like to provide non-judgmental and exact information about HIV/AIDS to the public is highly essential in order to change the mindset of the community as a whole. Sufficient and continuous promotion and campaigning against bigotry and stigma towards marginalized groups of society can also be channeled through the media in order to amplify the distribution of information through to the masses. Most of the outreach should also focus on the rural and remote communities, where the lack of information is the most severe. The war against discrimination must also be fought by the victims of the stigma themselves. People living with HIV/AIDS must prove themselves as functioning members of society by continuing to lead productive and healthy lives. Society must also help them realize their potential by encouraging them and not alienating them. Family members and friends of people living with HIV/ADS have a vital role in supporting them and providing them with much needed love and affection, not by turning their backs on them. However, if these people are expected to expose themselves for the sake of defending their rights, there must be laws and methods of protecting them from further harm and discrimination once their identities are known. Young people must also be encouraged to participate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They should be allowed the right to be heard and to express their opinions and viewpoints without much scrutiny. By involving the young people, we give them a sense of responsibility and much needed confidence to play an active part in ensuring a better future for the country. We should also train peer educators as a method to further reach out to the youth community. Proper training of these peer educators might allow the right sort of information to be relayed, dispelling myths and erroneous information about sex, drug abuse, and also HIV/AIDS. This method of entrusting young people with responsibility


has already been implemented in other countries throughout the world. From hosting radio programmes in Nepal to becoming field counsellors regarding drug abuse in Poland; they are proving that youth is not wasted on the young. Since the effect of HIV/AIDS on the economy is not as obvious as its impact on society, it is most important to distinguish the way the epidemic weakens society from other possible angles such as weak governance and political instability. It is possible that currently the impact of HIV on economic growth is underestimated, since many factors such as the long term economic effect of knowledge and skills distribution distortion is still uncertain. Suffice to say, more research on the nature of the relationship between HIV/AIDS and the economy needs to come underway. Nevertheless, what is most important in the growth of any economy is to have trust in the government and to believe that they protect the citizens best interests, since HIV/AIDS has a way of weakening this trust in most societies. This is evident in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS where governments are struggling to gain the trust of the people. Companies must also play a more active role in dealing with this epidemic. To ensure growth and development, the workforce must always be prioritised. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has provided a comprehensive guideline for enterprises and workers to follow upon for acting against HIV/AIDS in the workplace. This code of practice outlines the rights and responsibilities of the government, employers and workers in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This will allow them a better understanding of the epidemic, thus increasing the chances of them preventing it. Furthermore, companies should invest in intervention programs in the workplace and also allow for a greater involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS. This will allow them to continue contributing their expertise, while reducing the stigma and discrimination held against them. The war against HIV/AIDS is a treacherous one to endure, nevertheless it is one which must be fought. It might not end tomorrow or next year, but with perseverance and good faith, it can be dealt with. In the long run, what we should reflect upon is how this epidemic has made the whole world come together to deal with a common problem something which rarely happens in our lives today - thus giving us a glimpse of hope for a future where we can forget our petty disagreements and differences. Who would have thought that a virus, barely one micron in size would be able to do all that?


Anwar bin Omar (Finalist)

Malaysia terus melangkah perkasa mengharungi transformasi dunia hari ini. Kemerdekaan yang dicapai 46 tahun lamanya dijadikan teras dan azimat pembangunan negara. Gagasan 2020 mahupun kalimat keramat Malaysia Boleh menjadi inspirasi agung menghadapi globalisasi dan liberalisasi dunia mendatang. Namun selaku negara kian membangun seiring negara-negara dunia yang lain, Malaysia nyata tidak bebas sepenuhnya dan ancaman mahupun cengkaman musuh; baik danri aspek pembangunan ekonomi, politik mahupun sosial. Krisis ekonomi 1997 yang melanda rantau Asia serta peristiwa 11 September 2001 masih menghantui sektor ekonomi Malaysia. Di kala Malaysia yang pernah dinobatkan selaku Harimau Asia ekoran pembangunan ekonomi yang begitu pesat sekitar 1990 - 1997 (Keluaran Dalam Negara Kasar, KDNK Malaysia pernah mencecah angka 7.5% setahun) akhirnya turut tersungkur akibat dua senario yang turut mengubah seluruh iklim ekonomi dunia. Selain itu Malaysia turut menerima tempias ekoran wabak SARS ( Sindrom Akut Pernafasan yang Teruk) yang menyaksikan pemulihan ekonomi negara turut terbantut. Namun sebenarnya terdapat satu masalah yang dahulunya dianggap kes minoriti kian mengancam ekonomi dan agenda sosial Malaysia. Sindrom Kurang Daya Tahan Penyakit (AIDS) mahupun virus HIV diramalkan bakal menggugat daya saing Malaysia di arena antarabangsa. Dengan perangkaan sejumlah 45,000 rakyat Malaysia dan 23.27 juta rakyatnya (2000) disahkan menghidap epidemik ini sesungguhnya langkah pengawasan dan pengawalan bijak harus dilakukan dengan segera. Dari sudut ekonomi KDNK Malaysia dijangka mengalami pertumbuhan 4.5 peratus pada tahun 2003 setelah diselimuti kelembapan ekonomi sejak krisis kewangan 1997. Beberapa dasar baru telah dirangka selaras untuk menjana pertumbuhan ekonomi negara. Antaranya penumpuan fokus pada industri perkhidmatan serta berteraskan teknologi maklumat. Begitu juga mengenai penglibatan pelabur asing (Foreign Direct Investment) dari luar negara diharapkan akan kembali aktif dalam merencana ekonomi Malaysia. Menurut Timorty Garland, Presiden Dewan Perniagaan Amerika-Malaysia (Amcham) terdapat beberapa ciri unik yang menstabilkan ekonomi Malaysia secara umum. Antaranya sumber manusia yang muda dan berpendidikan serta dasar kerajaan yang pro-perniagaan. Selain pergantungan terhadap FDI kerajaan Malaysia sendiri sedang merangka program pembangunan ekonomi berterusan berteraskan industri kecil dan sederhana (IKS) serta menggalakkan kehadiran ramai usahawan dalam dunia perniagaan. Sesungguhnya Malaysia adalah sebuah negara yang kian pesat membangun seiring matlamatnya menjadi kuasa maju pada tahun 2020. Selain keunggulan ekonomi, Malaysia turut tersohor di serata dunia berasaskan struktur sosialnya yang unik. Hidup berbilang bangsa dalam aman dan harmoni serta masih mengamalkan budaya hidup warisan zaman. Kepelbagaian budaya serta kerukunan hidup bersatu padu menjadi tiang teguh ke arah perpaduan serta pembangunan Malaysia secara kolektif. Secara teori jelas


Malaysia adalah sebuah negara yang terpengaruh dan bakal mengalami kesan langsung jikalau berlaku sesuatu krisis ataupun penyebaran penyakit khususnya terhadap sektor ekonomi negara. Sesuai dengan status Malaysia sebagai negara sedang membangun, pembangunan berteraskan sumber tempatan dan dimajukan oleh anak watan menjadi alternatif pembangunan terbaik. Namun dapat kah kita bayangkan jikalau jumlah 45,000 penghidap HIV/AIDS yang kini hanya mewakili 0.2 peratus rakyatnya meningkat dan terus membanjiri Malaysia. Walaupun dengan angka sekecil ini, Malaysia adalah negara kelima di rantau Asia Pasifik dasi segi kadar jangkitan HIV/AIDS! Adakah kita semua harus menunggu sehingga Malaysia menjadi penyumbang terbesar kepada jangkitan HIV/AIDS yang kini dihidapi sejumlah 42 juta orang di seluruh dunia sebelum langkah sewajarnya harus diambil? Amnya tenaga sumber manusia tempatan amat diperlukan dalam pembangunan ekonomi Malaysia yang seterusnya merangsang kestabilan sosial dan politik tanah-air. Dengan pertumbuhan populasi 2.6 peratus setahun, Malaysia seharusnya mempunyai tenaga kerja yang mencukupi dalam semua aspek kerja pembangunan menjelang detik 2020. Namun kerajaan Malaysia telah mengisytiharkan dadah sebagai musuh utama negara dalam mengejar kejayaan nasional. Hampir 10,000 penagih dadah baru dikesan setiap bulan pada tahun 2002 dan negara membelanjakan lebih RM 2 billion ringgit setahun bagi kos rawatan dan pemulihan penagih dadah. Perkongsian jarum suntikan dalam penagihan dadah merupakan faktor utama jangkitan HIV/AIDS di Malaysia. Menurut laporan dan World Summit on Sustainable Development di Johannesburg 2002, HIV/AIDS adalah penyumbang utama ke arah kekurangan tenaga kerja, membantutkan pengeluaran industri serta pasaran pengguna dan pasti menggugat kekayaan dan kemakmuran negara. Dalam segala aspek pembangunan, Malaysia amat memerlukan sumbangan anak tempatan. Sistem pendidikan yang sistematik serta pelbagai kemudahan pembelajaran diharapkan dapat melahirkan ramai tenaga kerja mahir negara. Namun usaha murni itu pasti terjejas jikalau dadah lebih memikat anak-anak muda Malaysia. Jelas di tangan belia dan muda-mudi Malaysia masa depan negara dipertanggungjawabkan. Sekiranya epidemik HIV/AIDS terus menular, sumber tenaga manusia akan berkurangan. Rakyat asing diambil bekerja bagi menjana ekonomi negara. Akhirnya kekayaan negara tidak di kecapi sepenuhnya rakyat tempatan. Selain itu ekoran kekurangan tenaga kerja, pengeluaran negara khususnya dalam bidang industri berkurangan menyaksikan pertumbuhan ekonomi mahupun KDNK Malaysia merudum sekali-gus kerajaan gagal melaksana projek pembangunan untuk kegunaan rakyat ekoran pulangan ekonomi yang semakin berkurangan. Dari segi aspek sosial, selain penyalahgunaan dadah, rakyat Malaysia turut terjerumus dengan seks bebas mahupun seks songsang yang turut menyumbang ke arah jangkitan HIV/AIDS. Pergaulan bebas terutama di kalangan muda-mudi serta terpengaruh dengan budaya hidup Barat menjadi faktor utama jangkitan HIV/AIDS menerusi medium hubungan seksual di Malaysia. Jelas sekali gaya hidup yang menyumbang ke arah jangkitan HIV/AIDS ini sedikit sebanyak merubah budaya dan tradisi hidup masyarakat Malaysia yang rata-rata masih berpegang teguh pada ajaran agama dan amalan budaya.


Golongan muda-mudi serta belia adalah tonggak harapan negara bagi mewarisi kepimpinan negara. Adalah kerugian besar kiranya kumpulan belia ini tidak mengamalkan pegangan budaya dan agama serta tidak mempunyai jati diri masyarakat Malaysia sekali-gus terdedah kepada ancaman HIV/AIDS. Biarpun kesan terhadap ekonomi dan sosial Malaysia ekoran peningkatan penghidap HIV/AIDS amat mengancam kemandirian pembangunan Malaysia, namun langkahlangkah bijak dan praktikal harus dilaksanakan bagi membendung rakyat Malaysia terutamanya sekitar usia 15-24 tahun yang boleh dianggap golongan remaja terus menjadi mangsa jangkitan HIV/AIDS. Pelbagai cadangan serta saranan digembelengkan bersama, baik dari pihak kerajaan mahupun inisiatif badan-badan bukan kerajaan. Kerajaan Malaysia khususnya menekankan aspek pendidikan sebagai saluran utama memberi pendidikan, pengetahuan serta informasi kepada golongan remaja. Kerajaan berpendapat dengan ilmu pengetahuan rakyat mampu membezakan baik buruk sesuatu perkara dan ini turut diapplikasikan dalam kes HIV/AIDS. Cadangan pendidikan seks (sex education) di dalam sistem pembelajaran peringkat sekolah bakal dibincangkan secara mendalam di peringkat jemaah menteri. Di samping itu Kementerian Belia dan Sukan (KBS) giat menjalankan aktiviti seperti Rakan Muda, Extreme Games Challenge serta Kempen Remaja Sihat Tanpa Merokok bagi mempromosikan gaya hidup sihat khususnya di kalangan belia. Kehidupan ceria dan sejahtera dicanangkan sebagai langkah menangani pelbagai masalah sosial melibatkan keruntuhan akhlak yang turut menyumbang ke arah penyebaran wabak HIV/AIDS. Antara langkah yang diambil adalah Kempen Keluarga Bahagia serta Rumahku Syurgaku yang diharapkan dapat membanteras gejala sosial khususnya di kalangan remaja di samping mengeratkan hubungan kekeluargaan di dalam masyarakat. Jelas sekali di sini peranan keluarga amat dititikberatkan dalam menangani sebarang isu nasional. Di samping itu badan-badan bukan kerajaan seperti Majlis AIDS Malaysia (MAC) bertanggungjawab mengambil inisiatif bagi membendung penyebaran wabak HIV/AIDS melalui program-program seperti Live and Let Live Campaign bagi menghapuskan diskriminasi serta cemuhan masyarakat terhadap pesakit HIV/AIDS. Di samping itu, MAC turut berusaha menjamin kualiti kehidupan bagi pesakit HIV/AIDS serta membela hakhak kemanusian sama rata bagi para pesakit. Usahasama antara badan kerajaan dan badan dunia seperti United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) melalui Deklarasi Ketua Negara-Negara ASEAN dan pelaksaan memorandum persefahaman untuk tindakan bersama mengurangkan peratusan jangkitan kes baru HIV/AIDS di antara negara ASEAN merupakan antara titik tolak usaha bersepadu kerajaan Malaysia yang nyata serius menangani epidemik HIV/ADS ini. Selain usaha kerajaan, hubungan keluarga, badan-badan bukan kerajaan(NGO) serta badan dunia, golongan belia sendiri harus mengambil langkah proaktif bertujuan mengurangkan jangkitan wabak di masa mendatang serta prihatin dan mengubah tanggapan masyarakat terhadap HIV/AIDS. Golongan belia harus mengamalkan hidup ceria dan sihat tanpa dadah serta mempunyai jatidiri yang mantap, menangkis anasir


buruk yang mampu menjerumus ke arah HIV/ADS. Remaja harus menjadi model yang baik terhadap rakan sebaya melalui perhubungan dan pergaulan yang harmoni. Psikologi remaja menunjukan bahawa golongan ini mudah terpengaruh dan gemar mencuba perkara baru, sehubungan dengan itu para remaja harus menggunakan pendekatan nasihat dan menjadi teladan ke arah kehidupan yang sihat serta bahagia. Golongan remaja dikurniakan badan yang cergas serta minda yang cerdas. Nikmat ini harus digunakan dengan aktif melibatkan diri dalam program-program berfaedah yang dapat membangunkan potensi diri seperti aktiviti bersukan dan Cabaran Malaysia Boleh. Program-program seperti ini bukan sahaja mengisi masa lapang para remaja bahkan mampu menjulang kredibiliti remaja serta mengharumkan negara di serata dunia. Remaja harus mengambil pendekatan berfaedah dalam menangani masalah kehidupan mereka. Berbincanglah sesama rakan mahupun ahli keluarga terdekat bagi mencari jalan penyelesaian bukannya dengan mengambil dadah atau terlibat dalam kegiatan tidak bermoral seperti seks bebas. Remaja adalah golongan yang dahagakan kasih sayang dan bimbingan baik dan rakan sebaya mahupun perhatian keluarga. Adalah menjadi tanggungjawab remaja dan pihak keluarga secara kolektif menyedari hakikat ini bagi membolehkan rakan remaja kita yang lain menikmati hidup yang sihat dan ceria. Aspek yang kurang dibicarakan namun amat signifikan adalah mengenai usaha mengurangkan seterusnya melenyapkan diskriminasi serta prejudis ke atas pesakit HIVIAIDS terutamanya di Malaysia. Sesuai dengan ajaran agama dan pegangan terhadap nilai-nilai kemanusiaan yang tinggi, masyarakat seharusnya mengubah tanggapan serong terhadap kehidupan mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS(PLWHA). Mereka juga adalah manusia biasa yang berhak menikmati hak-hak seorang manusia. Mereka juga perlukan perhatian dan kasih sayang. Maka marilah kita bersama-sama membuang prasangka dan prejudis terhadap golongan PLWHA demi kehidupan mereka yang lebih sempurna di samping orang tersayang. Sayangilah mereka seperti kita menyayangi diri kita sendiri. Renungkan sejenak apakah kejayaan kita selaku bangsa merdeka akan pupus angkara ancaman HIV/AIDS. Mahukah kita anak cucu kita kelak gagal membela bangsa akibat bahana HIV/AIDS. Terlalu manis kemajuan kita punya Menara Berkembar Dua, punya litar lumba bertaraf dunia, digelar pula Harimau Asia kerana perkasanya ekonomi kita. Namun jikalau hidup kita tiada pedoman, jatidiri gagal dibina. HIV/AIDS pasti tidak mengenal mangsa. Bersamalah kita berganding bahu mewujudkan sebuah kehidupan ceria dan bahagia tanpa HIV/AIDS. Tekadkan azam kita sempena Hari AIDS Sedunia yang bakal disambut 1 Disember nanti supaya kita semua hidup ceria tanpa AIDS!!!


Ho Yi Duan (Finalist)
A study prepared by researchers for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) shows that the Asia Pacific region accounts for 20% of new HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infections worldwide. In 2002, one million people in this region contracted HIV, and half a million perished because of the epidemic. The crisis is magnified by the fact that the population group most affected by HIV/AIDS is young people the future leaders, the economic driving force, and the social pillars of the society. Malaysia is not spared from the malady in Malaysia itself, the largest group plagued by the disease is between the ages of 15 39, which consists of 59% of its 20 million population. HIV/AIDS can wreak havoc on the socio economic structure of our country, and if left unchecked, may lead to a dreadful catastrophe, socially and economically. A possible collapse in the socio-demographic structure of our country is a major threat posed by the AIDS epidemic. In Africa, it is forecast that 40-60 million pregnancies will be terminated and 5-10 million infants will die annually due to HIV infection1. This calamity is not impossible for Malaysia if we remain in the same state of apathy towards HIV/AIDS, we face the risks of following the footsteps of the African countries. The social impact of HIV/AIDS comes in the form of drastic changes in the demographic measures such as reduced life expectancy, heightened infant mortality rate and mounting youth death rate. As the young people make up more than half of the whole population of Malaysia, the blow will be hard if these demographic changes occur. Just like the report of the World Bank Study says that AIDS could wreck a society in three generations, we may face a triple-whipping from AIDS the demise of our young population, the loss of new generation due to high infant mortality rate, and the great burden of an aging population. The repercussions of the changing demographic patterns due to the spread of HIV/AIDS is most strongly felt in terms of loss of human capital and labour force. Young people are the most economically active group they supply valuable human capital, contribute to a productive labour force, and constitute a large portion of the consumers market with their tremendous purchasing power. The fact that these young people make up the largest proportion of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) is saddening. Precious human capital such as knowledge, job skills, insights and experiences accumulated over the years are pitilessly annihilated by AIDS, resulting in a deterioration in the productivity of the labour force. Also, AIDS - related deaths decimate the work force and lead to acute labour shortages in various economic sectors, which in turn causes other economic consequences. It cannot be denied that HIV/AIDS has the potential of paralysing the labour force our most valuable factor of production in the economy and society. The social costs of the AIDS epidemic also put intense pressure on the national budget. An escalating number of HIV/AIDS cases mean soaring medical expenses. A look at the cost for a typical AIDS treatment (RM 57 000 per annum)2 can give us a hint on the astronomical figures the government spends on health expenses to combat AIDS. The large shift in government spending towards AIDS expenses and away from other expenditures, can be devastating. Lower government spending on education will result


in a dysfunctional education system and slow down labour skills accumulation; reallocation of resources and capital from other sectors greatly reduces profitable investment, and a constant national budget deficit caused by heavy spending on HIV/AIDS is certainly not a healthy sign for our economy. In short, a lopsided national budget is very dangerous to both our social and economic equilibrium. From the macroeconomic perspective, the HIV/AIDS epidemic will degenerate our countrys economic growth and even crumble our whole economic system if it is left uncontrolled. The correlation between the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and declining economic growth is supported by facts and statistics the UNESCAP research estimates that HIV/AIDS will reverse annual economic growth by as many as two percentage points in the worst affected countries.3 In Africa, where AIDS has hit the hardest, existing estimates range between a decline of 0.3 and 1.5 percent in GDP growth annually4. For a developing country like Malaysia, a negative economic growth will be a red-alert situation. As our national GDP falls, household spending power decreases, savings rates become lower, total investment plunges, and hence the aggregate demand that fuels our economic growth shrinks considerably. The vicious cycle of low income low savings low investment low productivity can lead to an economic downward spiral towards our doom. If we do not act now to stop the spread of the epidemic, soon we will encounter the same woes as faced by the AIDS-plagued countries poverty, low standard of living, heavy debt on AIDS expenses and economic depression. HIV/AIDS is a multi-faceted, complex set of problems that erode the social and economic infrastructure of our country. Unless all stakeholders give a concerted AIDS-prevention effort, the scope and magnitude of the epidemic may become overwhelming and crush our social and economic system. In the efforts of preventing HIV infection among young people, a sound policy framework needs to be devised. In my opinion, the most effective approach to mitigate the devastating socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on young people is through education, prevention, care and support. A sensitive approach which integrates prevention and care aspects is essential as HIV/AIDS concerns human sexuality, drug use and youth psychology. Instead of spending millions for the medical treatment, we should focus on raising awareness and adopting preventive measures; rather than marking the stigma and discrimination that surrounds the disease, we should create a supportive and compassionate environment that cares for PLWHAs. In the conservative environment of Malaysia, HIV/AIDS is seen as a sensitive issue that is seldom talked about openly. To break the underlying silence and denial about the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic, we need to encourage HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Regular exposure to HIV/AIDS information like sexual health, condom education, and drug abuse issues can raise awareness about the disease. Around the globe, movements are set up to promote HIV prevention among youth Youth Alert programme in Malawi, HEART campaign in Zambia and Vozmissobi Take it with you youth campaign in Russia. Malaysia too needs a youth movement in response to HIV/AIDS, set up by young people, for young people. The movement should not focus solely on dissemination of knowledge, as mere provision of information does not


guarantee effective behaviour change. It should take an active role to promote preventive measures such as abstinence and refraining from pre-marital and unsafe sex by instilling traditional values, religious teaching, psychological counselling and peer support. Equipped with the right resources and support, young people can make responsible health-related decisions. Besides education and prevention, concern and support is also vital to care for the PLWHAs. HIV/AIDS is not just a medical problem, but also a complex issue that brings anguish, stigma and discrimination to the PLWHAs and their families. While efforts must be made to create broader access to affordable pharmaceuticals and medical technologies to combat HIV/AIDS, we must not neglect the need to cater to the softer side of the problem generating a sympathetic environment to eliminate stigma and discrimination, strengthening social welfare response through counselling and voluntary testing services, and encouraging a community- based response by all sectors of society to reach out to the PLWHAs. No country should stand alone in fighting the AIDS epidemic. AIDS issues have to become a global commitment, not just an isolated struggle of individual countries. As the HIV is a virus that knows no border and gives no quarter, a global effort that transcends geographic, ethnic, religious, social and economic boundaries needs to be rallied. The Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) is a good initiative that leads the global response to the virus. More formations of partnerships and global networks ought to be established to mobilise young people all around the world to join the fight. A united participation in the battle against AIDS will be greater than the sum of its individual efforts. In conclusion, the growing crisis of HIV/AIDS demands urgent attention to alleviate and eradicate the socio-economic impact on our country. Participation and brainstorming among young people should be encouraged and our young people should be empowered to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a broader perspective, young Malaysians should also join the global forefront in the warfare against AIDS. Young people, with their vigour, passion and resourcefulness, can act as a powerful force to change the global landscape of HIV/AIDS. United, young people can make a difference in society, in the country and in the world.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1. Projected African population statistics by MRC Reproductive Biology Unit, University of Edinburgh Centre of Reproductive Biology, United Kingdom, 2000. 2. Brazils fight for cheaper AIDS drugs by Shasta Darington, NST 2001 3. UNESCAP study on South-East Asias AIDS problems, 2002. 4. ING Barings research on the Economic Impacts of AIDS on South Africa ,2000


Ivy Ho Jia Min (Finalist)

Penyakit AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) atau sindrom kekurangan ketahanan badan terhadap penyakit-penyakit ialah sejenis pandemik yang telah merebak ke seluruh dunia serta meragut berjuta-juta nyawa. Sehingga hari ini, ubat penawarnya masih belum ditemui. Virus HIV berjangkit kepada manusia dan merebak menerusi darah, hubungan seks ataupun menerusi perkongsian suntikan jarum daripada pembawa virus tersebut. Penyakit tersebut membawa kesan ke atas ahli masyarakat yang paling produktif di Malaysia dan didapati bahawa jumlah jangkitan HIV yang paling tinggi ialah di kalangan mereka yang berusia 15-39 tahun. Oleh itu, impaknya ke atas negara kita sangat besar sekiranya kumpulan ini terus dijangkiti virus HIV terutamanya dan segi ekonomi dan sosial. Serangan penyakit AIDS memang banyak membawa gangguan kepada kesihatan tubuh badan dan juga membawa maut. Penyakit ini bukan sahaja membawa keburukan kepada kesihatan manusia, malah membawa kesan negatif ke atas ekonomi negara. Usaha untuk mengawal penyakit berbahaya ini memerlukan perbelanjaan kos perubatan yang banyak. Penyakit ini bukan sejenis penyakit biasa yang dapat dikawal dengan hanya mengambil suntikan dan memakan ubat. Di sebaliknya, usaha penyelidikan yang rapi hendaklah dilakukan untuk memastikan puncanya jangkitan penyakit ini. Seterusnya, pelbagai cara akan dicuba dan dilakukan untuk mengawal penyakit tersebut. Oleh sebab negara kita tidak mempunyai doktordoktor pakar yang dapat melaksanakan kajian tersebut, maka negara kita terpaksalah mengimport doktor-doktor pakar yang berpengalaman dan negara lain seperti Jepun, Amerika Syarikat (AS), China dan Australia supaya mereka dapat memberi bantuan dalam usaha kita menangani masalah penyakit ini. Jadi, perbelanjaan yang banyak diperlukan untuk pengimportan kepakaran doktor-doktor dan luar negara. Peningkatan taraf ekonomi negara kita menjadi semakin perlahan disebabkan oleh perbelanjaan kos yang tidak sejajar dengan keuntungan negara. Jadi, terjejaslah kestabilan ekonomi negara. Selain itu, alat-alat perubatan yang berteknologi moden dan canggih juga amat diperlukan seperti semasa menjalankan pembedahan. Ubat-ubatan yang dapat memberi kesan juga sangat mahal. Keadaan ini akan turut membawa masalah kepada keluarga yang kurang berada sekiranya salah seorang daripada ahli keluarganya dijangkiti HIV. Di samping itu, kerajaan juga perlu membelanjakan sejumlah wang yang besar untuk menghantar doktor-doktor tempatan yang berkelayakan untuk melanjutkan pelajaran mereka ke luar negara. Malaysia merupakan negara yang mengalami perkembangan yang sangat pesat sama ada dalam bentuk pertambahan bilangan penduduk ataupun dalam bentuk ekonomi. Memandangkan pembangunan negara Malaysia yang begitu pesat dalam tempoh masa yang singkat, terdapat ramai pekerja asing dari Indonesia, Filipina serta Vietnam yang berpindah ke negara kita dengan tujuan mencari pekerjaan. Pertambahan bilangan orang asing juga bermakna risiko penduduk tempatan dijangkiti HIV semakin meningkat. Terdapat beberapa kes yang berkaitan dengan sesetengah warganegara Malaysia yang dijangkiti HIV oleh pendatang asing dilaporkan. Hal demikian telah menimbulkan perasaan takut dan risau para pelabur asing yang kaya dari negara-negara China,


Amerika Syarikat, Jepun dan Korea untuk melabur di negara kita. Maka jelaslah bahawa peluang pekerjaan turut menurun secara perlahan-lahan. Sehubungan itu, kadar pengangguran di negara juga semakin meningkat dan ini mengakibatkan kemiskinan di kalangan penduduk bertambah dan seterusnya taraf hidup merosot. Keadaan ini secara langsungnya akan menjejaskan kestabilan ekonomi negara. Tambahan pula, kekurangan peluang pekerjaan akan menyebabkan sesetengah projek yang telah dibincangkan akan diselesaikan dalam tempoh yang ditetapkan itu tidak dapat dilaksanakan dengan lancar. Contohnya, monorail transit yang telah mula beroperasi baru-baru ini telah mengambil tujuh tahun untuk disiapkan. Sebenarnya, projek ini dijangka akan disiapkan dalam masa kurang daripada tujuh tahun. Keadaan ini berlaku kerana negara kita mengalami kemerosotan ekonomi yang serius pada tahun 1997 dan menyebabkan pelaksanaan projek tersebut ditangguhkan. Secara keseluruhan, negara kita menghadapi masalah untuk mengeluarkan kos perbelanjaan yang begitu tinggi dengan kosnya kira-kira RM 1.18 bilion untuk menyiapkan projek ini semasa kemelesetan ekonomi berlaku. Langkah-langkah pembangunan negara yang tidak lancar akan menjejaskan ekonomi negara. Selain itu, kekurangan peluang pekerjaan akan menjadikan penerimaan cukai oleh kerajaan berkurang juga dan ini mengakibatkan tiada keuntungan untuk negara. Industri pelancongan turut menjunam. Hal ini disebabkan pelancong asing tidak berani melawat negara yang kebanyakan penduduknya terdiri daripada mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Pelancong-pelancong akan meragui penduduk tempatan tersebut. Di samping itu, mereka turut bimbang akan keselamatan diri mereka apabila melawat negara tersebut. Pendapat pertama terhadap negara tersebut ialah masyarakat tempatan mempunyai tahap kesihatan yang rendah dan ini mesti dikaitkan dengan taraf kehidupan yang rendah, kemoralan serta pegangan agama masyarakat tempatan lemah kerana saluran utama jangkitan HIV ialah berkongsi jarum semasa menyuntik dadah dan perhubungan seks dengan pelbagai pasangan. Oleh demikian, imej yang buruk tertanam dalam hati pelancong. Imej baik negara tersebut telah terjejas dan minat serta keyakinan pelancong terhadap negara tersebut turut menjunam kerana mereka tidak dapat memikirkan apa-apa yang menyeronokkan terhadap negara tersebut dan keselamatan mereka turut tidak terjamin. Pelaburan asing juga akan berkurang. Pelabur asing tidak menaruh keyakinan yang tinggi terhadap ekonomi negara yang mempunyai banyak PLWHA. Pelabur asing bimbang produktiviti kilang mereka akan terjejas jika mengambil penduduk tempatan sebagai pekerja. Pelabur asing akan mengambil kira kesihatan pekerja dan segi fizikal dan mental, memandangkan masyarakat belia tempatan yang kebanyakannya HIV-positif ataupun golongan belia sudah gagal melayakkan diri. Sebuah kilang yang dapat mengeluarkan barangan yang berkualiti memerlukan pekerja yang cergas, pintar serta bertanggungjawab. Justeru, pelabur asing tidak menaruh harapan yang kukuh terhadap


golongan belia negara tersebut. Selain itu, pelabur asing turut takut keadaan sosial masyarakat yang tidak stabil akan menjejaskan keuntungan mereka yang diperoleh daripada pelaburan. Dalam bidang sosial, sistem pendidikan turut merosot disebabkan oleh pertambahan kes-kes HIV dari setahun ke setahun. Sebenarnya, kerajaan telah membelanjakan berpuluh-puluh ribu ringgit demi meningkatkan mutu dan kualiti pendidikan di negara kita. Kerajaan juga merancang untuk mengadakan persidangan berhubung isu-isu pendidikan semasa di peringkat kebangsaan dan antarabangsa. Akan tetapi, kesemua ini mungkin terbengkalai akibat jangkitan HIV yang semakin menular di kalangan masyarakat Malaysia. Akibatnya, kerajaan menanggung beban yang amat tinggi disebabkan oleh rancangan-rancangan yang penting ini. Pencapaian akademik pelajarpelajar negara kita mungkin akan bertambah buruk dan seterusnya sistem pendidikan negara kita tidak akan mendapat pengiktirafan oleh negara-negara yang lain lagi. Selain itu, sukan di negara kita juga terjejas akibat kes-kes HIV yang merebak di kalangan pelajar-pelajar sekolah ini. Pelajar-pelajar ini mempunyai potensi dan bakat dalam bidang sukan. Berdasarkan keputusan pertandingan Majlis Sukan Sekolah-sekolah Malaysia (MSSM), didapati ramai bakat baru ditonjol oleh pelajar-pelajar negara kita. Dengan ini, harapan negara untuk muncul sebagai sebuah negara yang terkenal di arena sukan antarabangsa bukanlah impian lagi. Hal ini telah dapat dibuktikan melalui pencapaian negara kita meraih sepuluh pingat emas dan berada di tangga keempat dalam sukan Komanwel 1998. Akan tetapi, disebabkan HIV yang merebak di kalangan pelajar-pelajar, mereka tidak akan dapat menonjolkan bakat sebagai ahli sukan yang mungkin akan mengharumkan nama Malaysia di peringkat antarabangsa. Jangkitan HIV juga datang daripada berkongsi jarum semasa menyuntik dadah serta mereka yang mempunyai hubungan seks dengan pelbagai pasangan mengakibatkan terjadinya pelbagai jenis jenayah. Contohnya perbuatan seperti mencuri, membunuh, merogol dan sebagainya. Seseorang pengguna dadah mestilah mengambil dadah secara berterusan tetapi oleh sebab dadah yang sangat mahal serta mereka tidak berupaya bekerja, maka mereka terpaksalah mencuri wang untuk membeli dadah. Selain itu, mereka yang tidak dapat mengawal diri mungkin merogol sesiapapun tanpa memikirkan kesan buruknya. Oleh itu, keamanan dan kedamaian negara pun terjejas. Bagi mereka yang dijangkiti HIV, mereka akan tersisih daripada orang lain tidak kira ahli keluarga atau masyarakat. Bukan itu sahaja, ahli keluarga PLWHA itu akan dipandang rendah oleh masyarakat. Dalam keadaan ini, hubungan antara masyarakat akan berkurangan, dan seterusnya akan menyebabkan perpaduan di kalangan masyarakat merosot. Selain itu, bagi pengguna dadah, mereka akan menjauhkan diri mereka dengan masyarakat. Pada masa yang sama, masyarakat tidak pedulikan mereka yang mengguna dadah tetapi sebaliknya menganggap mereka adalah sampah masyarakat. Oleh yang demikian, perpaduan masyarakat akan merosot.


Untuk mengatasi masalah ini, peranan sesetengah pertubuhan amat penting, contohnya Majlis AIDS Malaysia dan PEMADAM. Mereka sering mengadakan kempen, ceramah dan memberi panduan tentang langkah-langkah pencegahan kepada rakyat dan semasa ke semasa. Hal ini dapat menimbulkan kesedaran masyarakat tentang isu penyalahgunaan dadah yang timbul pata masa kini. Pertubuhan Rakan Muda pula berperanan sebagai tempat untuk golongan remaja menyertai pelbagai aktiviti luar yang mencabar dan menyeronokkan seperti mendaki gunung, berkayak, street soccer dan bermacammacam lagi. Justeru itu, mereka dapat menggunakan masa terluang dengan berfaedah berbanding segelintir yang hanya membuang masa melibatkan diri dengan kegiatan negatif seperti merokok, melepak dan menyalahgunakan dadah. Di peringkat sekolah, diwujudkan kelab Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya serta khidmat kaunseling yang khusus untuk membantu dan membimbing para pelajar yang bermasalah. Dengan ini, mereka diharap dapat kembali ke arah hala tuju yang betul. Selain itu, undang-undang yang berkaitan dengan kesalahan penyalahgunaan dadah wajar diperketatkan. Dengan kes dadah yang semakin menjadi-jadi saban hari di negara kita, mungkin sudah tiba masanya bagi kerajaan untuk melaksanakan hukuman yang lebih berat lagi kepada penjenayah yang didapati bersalah. Langkah ini penting untuk menyedarkan orang ramai betapa bahayanya kesan dadah ke atas mereka dan seterusnya tiada sesiapa yang akan berani untuk melakukan jenayah berkaitan dadah. Di samping itu, kerajaan harus lebih kerap menjalankan rondaan serta operasi mengejut ke atas tempat-tempat strategik yang didapati menjadi sarang penjualan atau pengedaran dadah seperti pusat-pusat hiburan. Kawalan yang lebih ketat oleh pihak kastam juga penting untuk membendung aktiviti menyeludup dadah yang kian berleluasa dan luar negara. Ibu-bapa merupakan penggalak terpenting kepada anak-anak mereka dalam sesebuah keluarga. Bak kata pepatah, melentur buluh biarlah dan rebung nya. Anak-anak harus dididik sejak kecil lagi. Penerapan fahaman agama dalam setiap pengajaran sangat penting supaya anak-anak membesar di sisi Tuhan Maha Esa. Dengan ini, mereka akan menaruh perasaan takut dan setiap tindakan mereka terkawal secara tidak langsung. Justeru, mereka tidak akan melibatkan diri dalam perbuatan berisiko tinggi. Sementelahan itu, ibu-bapa harus sentiasa meluangkan masa untuk berinteraksi dengan anak-anak dan memahami segala rintihan dan masalah yang dihadapi oleh mereka. Keluarga juga berperanan untuk mendedahkan segala keburukan gejala AIDS kepada anak-anak dan menasihati mereka untuk mengelakkan anak-anak daripada menagih kasih di luar. Hal ini kerana mereka akan lebih terdedah kepada jangkitan HIV. Pihak sekolah memainkan peranan yang amat penting dalam usaha membasmi AIDS di kalangan golongan muda terutamanya pelajar-pelajar. Sekolah bagaikan rumah kedua kepada para pelajar manakala guru mereka ialah ibu-bapa angkat. Oleh itu, para guru juga bertanggungjawab menyemaikan nilai-nilai moral kepada pelajar-pelajar. Salah satu cara yang langsung ialah memberikan pelajaran seks kepada para pelajar kerana


pergaulan bebas merupakan salah satu cara utama pelajar menjangkiti HIV. Pelajaran seks tidak harus terhad kepada pengetahuan biologi, tetapi haruslah merangkumi semua aspek sosialnya. Pelajar haruslah dididik tentang cara-cara untuk melindungi diri daripada penyakit berbahaya ini. Selain itu, guru-guru juga haruslah lebih peka terhadap keperluan pelajar dan masalahmasalah peribadi yang mungkin dihadapi. Mereka haruslah sentiasa memberi bantuan sama ada dalam bentuk nasihat, bimbingan atau kaunseling. Apabila punca masalah peribadi pelajar dapat diatasi, ini mungkin akan mengelakkan mereka daripada terlibat dalam gejala sosial seperti penagihan dadah. Justeru, mereka tidak akan terdedah kepada jangkitan HIV. Dengan ini, ternyata jelaslah bahawa tanggungjawab pihak sekolah adalah amat penting dan tidak boleh diabaikan demi menjamin masa depan golongan muda yang bebas daripada AIDS. Masyarakat juga haruslah menjalankan tanggungjawab mereka bagi mengatasi masalah AIDS. Masalah AIDS bukanlah masalah individu atau keluarga semata-mata. Malah masalah ini memberi kesan yang besar kepada masyarakat dan negara. Sebagai permulaan, sikap tidak ambil peduli harus dikikis. Sebaliknya, kita sebagai anggota masyarakat haruslah bertindak. Antara caranya ialah menubuhkan persatuan yang memberi sokongan kepada golongan muda dalam pelbagai bentuk perkhidmatan seperti kaunseling, mengadakan kempen kesedaran di kawasan setempat dan bantuan mencari pekerjaan. Sebagai anggota masyarakat yang bertanggungjawab, kita perlu juga bersikap proaktif apabila menyedari bahawa golongan muda kita harus bertindak mengatasinya dengan segera. Contohnya, apabila melihat kumpulan pengguna dadah, kita haruslah bertindak memberitahu pihak berkuasa. Tindakan ini bertujuan mengelakkan pengguna dadah daripada mempengaruhi remaja lain dan juga agar mereka dapat diberi pemulihan. Sehingga masyarakat menjadi lebih prihatin dan proaktif, masalah AIDS tidak akan dapat diatasi. Kesimpulannya, HIV/AIDS memberi kesan yang besar ke atas ekonomi dan masyarakat Malaysia. Ia menyebabkan ekonomi negara merosot akibat penurunan kumpulan produktif tersebut, kerana kumpulan tersebutlah yang menggerakkan ekonomi negara. Selain itu, masalah sosial akan meningkat akibat daripada penghidap penyakit tersebut yang tersisir daripada masyarakat dan keluarga. Mereka akan berasa diri mereka tersisir daripada masyarakat dan semakin jatuh ke dalam kancah jenayah. Untuk menghalang ini daripada berlaku, kesedaran di kalangan rakyat haruslah wujud supaya membantu dan memberi kasih sayang kepada mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS.


Meera Supramaniam (Finalist)

The recent SARS outbreak was a wake up call for many people; governments were all suddenly worried about the health of the nation, protective measures were taken, governments all over the world took action, yet the scope of the disease, where 8422 people were infected, out of which 916 people died, is nothing compared to AIDS. Worldwide there are 42 million People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHAs) (2002) and about 3.1 million people died of the epidemic in 2002 alone. The numbers say enough, why then isnt there the kind of global mobilisation for the AIDS epidemic as there was for SARS? Arent PLWHAs just as important as SARS patients, isnt the epidemic more worrying because of the numbers involved and as the typical age group of PLWHAs are between the ages of 15-39? Countries all over the whole are losing the most productive part of their society to AIDS, yet we keep quiet, why? With SARS everyone was loading up on vitamins and surgical masks, but with HIV/AIDS how do you prevent it? Does anyone even bother to find out? May be not. Despite the numbers, many of us still feel that it wouldnt happen to us. Particularly in an Asian society like Malaysia, the fact that some of the modes of transmission of the virus are taboo subjects in our society, ensures that the whole epidemic becomes taboo by association. There is this common notion that people with HIV/AIDS are either a) drug users or b) have multiple sex partners and if not then they are probably c) gay. The evils of society. Hence as long as you are an upright citizen and are not (a), (b) or (c), HIV/AIDS will of course never be a problem to you, and since most Malaysians are again not (a), (b) or (c), therefore, HIV/AIDS is not a problem for Malaysia. So then what are the numbers? Are they wrong, are the 52,000 cases, probably more, in Malaysia completely fictitious? Those cases are very real and the numbers are increasing daily, and no matter how much we close our eyes and hope that the epidemic will just go away, it wont. Pretending we dont see it will actually make it worse. By making HIV/AIDS a taboo subject, were preventing People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHAs) from seeking treatment and from obtaining the support and care which they will need as the illness progresses. But most of all by not accepting the AIDS epidemic and PLWHAs, we subject them to denial as well. By denying the epidemic and the support needed by PLWHAs we are in fact asking them to deny the fact that they are HIV positive, that theres nothing different, no changes to be made, no precautions to be taken, life can go on as usual. That denial, not (a) or (b) or (c) is what spreads the epidemic. That denial is what kills the most productive group of our society. For a growing country like Malaysia, this is essential as we are still very much dependent on the size of our labour force. Not only does the epidemic take this group, it also shifts the burden of care back to the older generation, their parents. Much money is then spent on the complications that take hold of a person with a compromised immune system. Working days are lost on sick leave, the economic burden of the family increases. On a global scale, patents for much of the retroviral drugs also belong to overseas companies hence increasing the amount of money flowing out of the country. But as this only affects 1% of our population, perhaps that shouldnt be too drastic a concern for now. What is a


concern is that with care, many HIV-positive people can lead productive lives, if only they are allowed to. But this means access to medication and mostly acceptance. How many employers do you know who will knowingly employ a HIV positive person? Yet if they do, not only will the economic burden of the family be lessened, it will help the person with HIV regain his dignity, to feel like a productive member of society rather than relying on relatives or the government. We cant pretend not to see because the epidemic is here to stay. As with SARS, what needs to be done is for the people of Malaysia to voice out that they demand the AIDS epidemic be dealt with, that it is something they are concerned about and care about. That they want provisions to be made so that PLWHAs arent segregated or stigmatised against. As with SARS, the government will only comply if the people of Malaysia take the initiative and show that this cause is important for them. But speaking is easy, execution is another issue. In reversing the tide of HIV/AIDS, we have to come out of the closet, to quit pretending that the AIDS epidemic and some of it modes of transmission arent happening in our country. The rising rate of premarital sex and sex with multiple partners among our teens, drugs abuse, are just some of the factors that need to be attended to as much as HIV/AIDS. They all need to be addressed in a vocal, honest manner. But doing so requires going against the grain, it requires a change in society that we are not comfortable with. Many say that it is the young people that can bring about change. They can, but why should they do it alone? The severity of the epidemic requires all Malaysians to take a good, honest look at our country, our principles and then decide what is really important. Maintaining social niceties, conforming, or facing the fact that we are losing our sons, daughters, and grandchildren because we like seeing our world through rose-tinted glasses.


Ng Sin Ni (Finalist)
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) merupakan peringkat akhir penyakit berjangkit yang disebabkan oleh sejenis virus yang disebut HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) yang melemahkan daya ketahanan manusia. HIV/AIDS merupakan satu gejala yang menghantui hampir semua negara di dunia pada abad ke-21 ini. Penyakit ini tersebar luas di merata-rata tempat di seluruh dunia sehingga membawa kesan ke atas ahli masyarakat yang paling produktif. Di Malaysia, jumlah jangkitan HIV yang paling tinggi adalah di kalangan mereka yang berusia 15 hingga 39 tahun. Menurut Kementerian Kesihatan, jangkitan HIV boleh berlaku melalui hubungan seks yang tidak selamat, berkongsi jarum semasa menyuntik dadah, jangkitan daripada ibu kepada anak semasa mengandung, bersalin atau menyusu, serta pemindahan darah. Penurunan sumber tenaga buruh merupakan salah satu kesan negatif yang disebabkan oleh HIV/AIDS. Individu yang HIV-positif mungkin tidak boleh menjalankan aktiviti harian secara rutin di tempat kerja mereka. Hal ini kerana mereka sentiasa meminta cuti sakit yang berpanjangan dan selalu tidak hadir yang boleh menyebabkan kesan langsung terhadap produktiviti. Selain itu, mereka cepat letih dan mungkin kurang maya apabila melakukan kerja mereka. Apabila tenaga kerja terancam, ini akan memberi kesan buruk kepada negara tersebut sama ada dari segi politik, ekonomi dan sosial. Jangkitan HIV telah berleluasa di kalangan remaja sejak kebelakangan ini. Remaja cukup dominan dengan naluri ingin tahu dan ingin mencuba menyebabkan mereka terlibat dengan penggunaan dadah. Penyalahgunaan dadah oleh remaja telah membawa virus HIV/AIDS. Demi mendapat rawatan, pembawa virus HIV sanggup terjerat dengan unsurunsur negatif seperti merompak, mencuri, menculik dan lain-lain untuk memperolehi wang. Sesetengah remaja sanggup mencederakan keluarga mereka untuk mendapatkan Wang. Hal ini telah menyebabkan kadar jenayah meningkat. Sistem pendidikan juga merupakan sesuatu yang penting kepada negara. Sistem pendidikan yang berkesan dapat melahirkan lebih ramai orang yang berjaya yang dapat meningkatkan pendapatan negara, contohnya, kelahiran lebih ramai usahawan akan membawa banyak perubahan dalam bidang perniagaan kerana usahawan dikenali sebagai seorang yang kreatif dan inovatif. Hal ini tidak akan berlaku jika AIDS berleluasa di negara kita kerana kebanyakan golongan yang terlibat ialah antara 15 hingga 39 tahun dan merupakan tanggak negara. Mereka tidak dapat belajar atau bekerja dengan bersungguh-sungguh. Salah satu kesan ekonomi yang berlaku ialah pelaburan asing menurun. Hal ini dilihat di negara yang dikenali sebagai tempat yang menghadapi wabak AIDS yang teruk seperti Afrika Selatan, Namibia dan lain-lain disisihkan daripada menjadi sasaran pelabur. Hal ini secara langsungnya akan menyebabkan pelaburan asing menurun. Seorang pelabur biasanya akan membuat pelaburan ke atas tempat yang didapati menguntungkan dan bukannya tempat yang terdapat penyakit atau berlakunya peperangan. ini adalah kerana mereka percaya bahawa tempat tersebut akan mengurangkan produktiviti.


Kini, industri pelancongan merupakan industri yang akan meningkatkan pendapatan negara. Jika penyakit ini semakin berleluasa, maka industri pelancongan akan mengalami penurunan. Hal ini kerana pelancong-pelancong asing tidak akan berani datang ke tempat yang telah mempunyai atau merupakan pembawa kepada penyakit AIDS. Hal ini kerana AIDS merupakan salah satu penyakit berbahaya yang tidak dapat diubati. Pelancong-pelancong tersebut bimbang akan membawa balik penyakit tersebut ke negara asal atau dihalang untuk balik kerana mereka merupakan pembawa HIV. Peningkatan HIV/AIDS di kalangan penduduk Malaysia antara umur 15-39 tahun telah meningkatkan pelbagai kos. Dengan itu, antara kos yang dimaksudkan ialah kos perubatan, kos penyelidikan, kos tempat tinggal, kos media masa dan sebagainya. Melalui itu, kos perubatan dan kos penyelidikan untuk mencari perubatan baru bagi HIV/AIDS adalah mahal dan hanya akan mendatangkan kerugian ke negara kita sendiri. Selain ini, kos tempat tinggal yang melibatkan pembinaan satu kawasan tempat tinggal untuk pesakit-pesakit ini dan mengupah jururawat-jururawat melibatkan perbelanjaan yang besar. Oleh itu, penggunaan wang untuk kos-kos tersebut menyebabkan kerajaan Malaysia tidak dapat menggunakan wang tersebut untuk membangunkan negara yang lebih baik. Pihak guru di sekolah sepatutnya mendedahkan masalah HIV/AIDS kepada pelajar agar mereka tahu betapa bahayanya penyakit ini. Nilai-nilai sosial yang murni juga harus diterap oleh pelajar-pelajar kerana hal ini akan memupuk amalan yang teratur di kalangan mereka. Mata pelajaran tertentu seperti Sains dan Biologi di sekolah wajar diubahsuai untuk memuatkan aspek pendidikan seks dan penyakit yang berkaitan. Dengan pendidikan yang mendalam, masalah HIV/AIDS sudah pasti dapat diatasi kerana seseorang itu tidak akan berani melakukan perkara terkutuk seperti perhubungan seks yang tidak selamat dan penggunaan dadah. Pegangan agama yang kuat amat penting untuk mengatasi masalah HIV/AIDS. Agama seseorang akan mengajar semua orang nilai-nilai murni dan menyedarkan kita tentang dosa dan pahala. Keimanan yang kuat akan membentuk benteng rohani yang utuh. Agama juga akan membantu untuk mengawal nafsu buas supaya tidak akan melakukan hubungan seks yang tidak selamat. Contohnya, agama Islam mengharamkan hubungan seks dengan pelbagai pasangan. Muslimin wajib melalui pernikahan yang sah sebelum boleh tinggal bersama. Hal ini dapat membantu membendung penyebaran HIV/AIDS. Peranan ibu bapa amat penting dalam mengatasi HIV/AIDS. Asuhan dan kawalan ibu bapa dapat mengelakkan anak-anak menjadi runtuh dan liar. Kasih sayang keluarga pula dapat membantu anak-anak menghadapi masalah hidup. Kawalan ibu bapa akan membantu generasi muda agar mereka tidak mudah diracuni fahaman negatif dan terlibat dalam kegiatan yang membolehkan HIV/AIDS merebak, seperti menyalahgunakan dadah. Ibu bapa harus mengetahui segala aktiviti yang dijalankan oleh anak-anak mereka. Latar belakang kawan-kawan mereka juga harus diketahui agar mereka tidak akan mempengaruhi anak-anak dengan pemikiran negatif.


Pihak kerajaan dan pihak swasta serta pihak media masa seharusnya menyedarkan masyarakat akan bahayanya HIV/AIDS. Penyakit ini juga boleh dicegah sekiranya masyarakat sedar bahawa HIV/AIDS sangat berbahaya. Bagi menyedarkan masyarakat, Kementerian Kesihatan harus banyak mengadakan ceramah, risalah dan kempen tentang penyakit ini. Kempen kesedaran dengan slogan AIDS membawa maut boleh diadakan di mana-mana tempat termasuk di luar bandar. Kempen dilakukan melalui televisyen, surat khabar, radio atau Internet. Pihak kerajaan perlu bertindak tegas terhadap pengedar dan pengguna dadah agar penyalahgunaan dadah dapat dicegah dan sekali gus jangkitan HIV dapat dikurangkan. Pihak kerajaan seharusnya bertindak mengharamkan kegiatan pelacuran untuk mencegah jangkitan HIV daripada merebak. Pemeriksaan terhadap pelancong dan buruh asing adalah penting kerana sesetengah mereka juga pembawa HIV, contohnya di Thailand, di mana pelancong barat telah menjadi pembawa virus HIV kepada pekerja seks di Thailand. Tempat-tempat hiburan malam yang terlibat dalam pengedaran dadah dan pelacuran wajib ditutupkan. Hukuman yang lebih berat perlu dikenakan terhadap sindiket perkerja-perkerja seks dan pelanggan mereka. Bagi pengedar dan pengguna dadah pula, perlu dikenakan hukuman mati. Penangguhan menderma darah merupakan satu langkah terawal yang diperkenalkan dalam usaha memerangi jangkitan HIV/AIDS. Pendermaan darah daripada kumpulan berisiko tinggi seperti pengguna dadah dan pekerja seks boleh merebakkan virus HIV. Oleh itu, pihak hospital perlu memastikan darah yang dipindahkan adalah bebas daripada virus HIV. Semua sampel darah perlu disaring. Ujian-ujian khas perlu dilakukan untuk menjamin kualiti darah. Di Malaysia, ujian antigen HIV dan ujian pembilangan sel-T telah diambil untuk mencegah penyakit ini. Perancangan dan strategi promosi kesihatan AIDS perlu diadakan di peringkat negeri dan negara untuk memberitahu masyarakat umum fakta-fakta nyata tentang bagaimana HIV merebak dan akibatnya. Kementerian Kesihatan boleh menggunakan kemudahan sedia ada, iaitu klinik perubatan di bandar dan desa serta hospital-hospital di seluruh negara untuk menyedarkan orang ramai akan bahaya jangkitan AIDS. Langkah ini dapat mengurangkan ketakutan dan menjelaskan taksiran yang tidak tepat mengenai HIV/AIDS. Ini juga dapat mendorong kumpulan yang berisiko tinggi supaya mengubah kelakuan mereka dan mengurangkan aktiviti yang menyebabkan penyebaran jangkitan HIV. Usaha mencari vaksin bagi menentang virus HIV patut dijalankan oleh pakar perubatan. Kesimpulannya, HIV/AIDS dijangkiti oleh pelbagai lapisan masyarakat. HIV/AIDS merupakan penyakit yang berbahaya yang belum ada ubatnya. Oleh itu, langkah pencegahan yang bijak perlu dilakukan sebelum penyakit ini merebak. Selain itu, pihakpihak yang bertanggungjawab wajar berganding bahu memerangi HIV/AIDS dengan mendidik orang ramai tentang bahaya penyakit maut ini.


Nordiyana bt Norani (Finalist)

AIDS atau Sindrom Kurang Daya Tahan Melawan Penyakit merupakan satu penyakit moden yang disebarkan oleh sejenis virus yang dikenali sebagai HIV atau Virus Kurang Daya Tahan Manusia. HIV/AIDS adalah berbahaya dan meruntuhkan sistem daya tahan badan manusia terhadap penyakit. Ia menggerunkan manusia di seluruh dunia ini kerana ia mengancam kelangsungan tamadun manusia. Malah, HIV/AIDS telah merebak secara meluas sehingga menjadi penyakit yang membimbangkan. Seseorang yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) merupakan ancaman kepada manusia tanpa mengira status seseorang itu kerana virus HIV akan menyerang dan melemahkan sistem daya tahan badan seseorang sehingga maut akibat jangkitan daripada kuman-kuman lain. Kini, kes-kes HIV dan AIDS semakin hari semakin meningkat. Menurut kajian dan anggaran Pertubuhan Kesihatan Sedunia (WHO) sehingga tahun 2002, bilangan yang dijangkiti HIV/AIDS berjumlah kira-kira 42 juta orang. Bayi baru lahir yang dijangkiti HIV juga meningkat menjadi 1 juta orang. 80 peratus melibatkan negara-negara membangun termasuk Malaysia. Natijahnya banyak rakyat Malaysia terkorban akibat kehadiran penyakit ini terutamanya di kalangan masyarakat yang paling produktif. Di Malaysia, jumlah jangkitan yang paling tinggi adalah di kalangan mereka yang berumur dalam lingkungan 15 tahun hingga 39 tahun. AIDS umpama musuh dalam selimut kerana memberi pelbagai implikasi kepada sesebuah negara. Apa yang amat dikhuatiri ialah implikasi yang boleh membantutkan pertumbuhan sosioekonomi dan pelbagai kesan negatif akan timbul pada masa kini dan juga pata masa akan datang. Jika kita lihat dari sudut ekonomi memang ada kebenarannya. Umum mengetahui bahawa ekonomi Malaysia sejak kebelakangan ini semakin berkembang pesat dan nama Malaysia di pasaran ekonomi dunia semakin gah. Akan tetapi kemungkinan besar ekonomi negara akan terjejas kerana ketakutan pihak luar terhadap status kesihatan rakyat Malaysia. Sektor pelancongan akan terjejas kerana kekhuatiran pelancong untuk melancong ke destinasi-destinasi tertentu yang berkemungkinan berlaku penularan HIV/AIDS. Kesinambungan dan itu WHO dalam kajiannya telah menjelaskan bahawa ramai penduduk di sebuah negara jiran iaitu Thailand telah di jangkiti HIV/AIDS. Kesannya industri pelancongan Thailand terbantut. Senario tersebut turut memberi tempias kepada ekonomi Malaysia yang juga bergantung kepada industri ini. Justeru tidak keterlaluan jika dikatakan bahawa sektor pelancongan di Pulau Langkawi turut mengalami nasib yang sama seperti Thailand jika hal ini tidak dibendung. Selain daripada sektor pelancongan, sektor perindustrian juga akan turut terjejas berikutan ancaman HIV/AIDS. Menurut kajian Kementerian Pendidikan, bilangan pekerja industri yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS adalah yang kedua terbanyak selepas penganggur. Bilangan pekerja industri yang menghidapi penyakit ini ialah sebanyak 2,424 orang atau 5.1 peratus. Manakala, angka kematian akibat penyakit-penyakit yang berkaitan dengan AIDS ialah sebanyak 317 orang atau 4.8 peratus. Risiko yang akan dialami oleh kerajaan Malaysia ialah kehilangan tenaga kerja yang ramai sama ada pekerja mahir atau separuh mahir.


Pata tahun 1991 MIDA melaporkan bahawa sektor perindustrian mencatat pertumbuhan ekonomi pada kadar 11.5 peratus. ini telah menyumbangkan 28.7 peratus kepada KDNK negara. Berdasarkan perangkaan ini memang tidak dinafikan bahawa perindustrian merupakan elemen penting dalam merealisasikan kemajuan negara. Bayangkan seandainya 2,424 orang pekerja industri hidup dengan HIV/AIDS, bagaimana kelak Malaysia akan muncul sebagai negara maju dengan menjadikan perindustrian sebagai pemangkin utama? Ekoran daripada implikasi-implikasi yang dialami oleh sektor-sektor di atas secara tidak langsung turut menggoncang industri pelaburan. Para pelabur luar bimbang dengan fenomena ini. Para pelabur tidak lagi berminat untuk melabur dalam industri pelancongan, perhotelan, pembinaan, perindustrian, perikanan dan pertanian kerana bidang-bidang ini turut terjejas kesan daripada HIV/AIDS. Berdasarkan kajian PROSTAR di tiga kawasan di negeri Kedah terdapat sebanyak 40.1 peratus nelayan telah dijangkiti HIV. Senario ini dipandang serius oleh pihak pelabur dan pastinya akan melembapkan pasaran pelaburan negara. Kita bimbang juga hal ini berlarutan ekonomi Malaysia akan terjejas teruk. Sekiranya wabak AIDS terus merebak, kerajaan terpaksa mengeluarkan belanja yang besar untuk membendung penyakit ini seperti mengadakan kempen pada setiap masa, menjalankan pemeriksaan yang rapi ke atas mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS, membeli ubat-ubatan serta terpaksa membayar gaji yang lumayan kepada pakar perubatan tempatan dan juga antarabangsa yang menjadi penasihat dan penyelidik dalam memerangi epidemik ini. Tidak kurang juga kos kerajaan dalam mengambil pekerja asing untuk bekerja di Malaysia ekoran daripada kekurangan tenaga kerja dan sumbangan rakyat dalam pelbagai sektor pekerjaan. HIV/AIDS turut memberi kesan sosial kepada individu, masyarakat dan negara. Mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS akan dipandang hina dan masyarakat lain akan memandang serong serta wujud prasangka terhadap mereka. Akhirnya akan berlakulah stigma dan diskriminasi terhadap mereka. Nilai-nilai murni dan adat ketimuran yang selama ini menjadi kemegahan dan pegangan kita akan hancur akibat prasangka tersebut. Tiada lagi belas kasihan dan simpati, yang ada hanyalah cemuhan akibat daripada kejahilan masyarakat yang tidak memahami akan fakta-fakta tentang virus HIV dan penyakit AIDS. Masyarakat seperti ini tidak mampu melahirkan masyarakat yang maju pada masa hadapan kerana masyarakat yang maju dan berwawasan adalah tiang negara dan bakal peneraju negara kelak. Penularan penyakit ini akan meruntuhkan kepercayaan negara luar terhadap kemampuan negara dalam memerangi HIV dan AIDS. Imej negara akan terjejas teruk ekoran daripada ramai rakyatnya yang menghidapi penyakit in Negara-negara luar akan memperlekehkan dan menunding jari terhadap kerajaan yang tidak mampu mengawal dan memerangi wabak AIDS ini. Prinsip dan dasar yang kerajaan lakukan akan dipertikaikan oleh semua pihak. Begitu juga dengan pandangan-pandangan pihak luar yang negatif terhadap negara kita, Oleh yang demikian, perkara-perkara seperti di atas haruslah diperangi kerana ia telah membebankan pihak kerajaan dan segi perbelanjaan terhadap ekonomi dan pembangunan sosial.


Penghinaan tersebut bukanlah hanya ditanggung oleh negara dan lebih malang lagi sekiranya ia berlaku kepada individu-individu tertentu. Contohnya jika seorang wanita hamil dikenal pasti sebagai HIV-positif, maka anak yang akan dilahirkan nanti turut akan dihina. Semasa mengandung, sewaktu kelahiran atau semasa menyusu, terdapat risiko bayi akan dijangkiti virus HIV, dan bayi tersebut terpaksa menahan kesengsaraan dan paling malang kerana ia hanya akan menunggu maut. Oleh itu masyarakat tidak seharusnya berterusan mengutuk dan mencaci mereka. Kembalikanlah perasaan simpati, bina sikap positif dan bajailah semula kasih sayang antara kita. Kesan sosial lain ialah Malaysia mungkin akan menghadapi masalah yang besar iaitu kekurangan generasi pewaris apabila ramai remaja dijangkiti HIV. Golongan remaja sesebuah negara berfungsi sebagai pemangkin kemajuan negara. Sebilangan besar rakyat di Malaysia terdiri daripada golongan remaja. Jika golongan ini dijangkiti maka pada siapa lagi dapat kita harapkan untuk membangun negara? Remaja adalah pelapis yang mesti memainkan peranan dalam pertumbuhan ekonomi negara. Remajalah yang menggerakkan jentera perindustrian, pelancongan dan perhotelan kerana permintaan untuk guna tenaga amat meluas di kalangan mereka. Oleh itu, langkah-langkah perlu diambil untuk menghalang penyakit ini daripada berlaku. Langkah-langkah yang berkesan dapat dijalankan jika punca penyebaran dapat dikenal pasti terlebih dahulu. Langkah-langkah sewajarnya adalah dengan menyedarkan orang ramai betapa bahayanya HIV//AIDS. Individu itu sendiri juga wajar mengelakkan diri daripada hubungan seks yang kurang sihat. Contohnya, pihak individu haruslah mengelakkan diri daripada hubungan atau amalan homoseksual mahupun hubungan biseksual yang tidak selamat kerana perbuatan ini adalah berisiko tinggi dan mungkin membawa jangkitan HIV. Elakkan hubungan seks dengan pekerja seks kerana risiko dijangkiti HIV adalah lebih tinggi secara perbandingan. Langkah kedua ialah dengan mengelakkan diri daripada pemindahan darah dengan sejauh mana yang boleh. Hal ini kerana, virus HIV juga merebak melalui pemindahan darah yang kemungkinan mengandungi virus tersebut. Sebagai contoh, pesakit hemofilia yang sering memerlukan pemindahan darah daripada seseorang penderma haruslah memastikan cara yang berkesan dan selamat sebelum menjalankan pemindahan, iaitu memastikan darah penderma itu tidak tercemar dengan kumankuman ataupun virus. Sewajarnya, WHO haruslah bertanggungjawab dengan mempergiatkan usaha di seluruh dunia untuk mengesan penderma darah yang tercemar untuk mengurangkan risiko merebaknya penyakit berbahaya ini. Pengguna dadah merupakan pihak yang kemungkinan besar melakukan kegiatan yang berisiko tinggi seperti berkongsi jarum suntikan, lalu mendedahkan mereka kepada jangkitan HIV Oleh itu, pengguna dadah haruslah mengelakkan tabiat menyuntik dadah dan melakukan perkongsian jarum. Hal ini kerana kira-kira 17 peratus daripada mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS dijangkiti HIV melalui cara suntikan. Alat-alat penembus kulit lain seperti jarum jarum tattoo dan akupunktur hendaklah dibersihkan terlebih dahulu untuk mengelakkan jangkitan virus HIV sebelum ia digunakan. Secara umumnya, kita haruslah mengelakkan kulit kita daripada ditembusi sebarang jarum melainkan jika amat diperlukan.


Sementara itu, usaha sama daripada pelbagai pihak seperti pakar-pakar perubatan di peringkat antarabangsa dalam bidang virologi dan imunologi amat diperlukan dan harus digalakkan. Contohnya, WHO telah mengembelengkan tenaga para saintis di dunia untuk terlibat dalam usaha-usaha penyelidikan dan mempercepatkan proses penemuan bagi mencari vaksin yang boleh mengubati HIV/AIDS. Para doktor dan saintis di negara kita juga terlibat dalam usaha sama ini. Namun setakat ini, hanya ubat yang dikenali sebagai Zidovudine (AZT) yang telah dicipta dan digunakan. AZT hanya mampu merencatkan aktiviti kuman ini daripada terus merebak kerana ia bukan untuk menyembuhkan mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS. Strategi yang mendalam boleh disusun dan dikaji semula untuk memerangi AIDS. Peranan pihak kerajaan juga penting dalam memerangi AIDS dengan bijak dan penuh tanggungjawab. Kerjasama pihak kerajaan dan masyarakat amatlah perlu kerana kesedaran sahaja tidak mencukupi. Pengetahuan agama dan pendidikan moral yang diajar haruslah ditekankan. Hal ini kerana pegangan agama dan iman yang kuat dapat mengelakkan diri daripada terjebak dalam apa jua kancah yang tidak berguna dan tidak bermoral. Pihak kerajaan juga wajar memperkenalkan pendidikan seks sebagai satu matapelajaran yang diajar di sekolah. Namun, penelitian dan perbincangan yang mendalam perlu diadakan sebelum sebarang keputusan itu dilaksanakan. Kerajaan juga melalui pihak-pihak berkuasa harus memantau dari semasa ke semasa kegiatan-kegiatan yang dilakukan oleh pihak-pihak hotel yang turut menyumbang peningkatan penyakit ini melalui kegiatan pelacuran. Ada sesetengah pihak yang menawarkan perkhidmatan seks tanpa mengetahui atau memeriksa status kesihatan pelanggan atau pekerja seks itu sendiri. Selain itu pembekal-pembekal pekerja seks murahan atau dengan kata lain bapa ayam juga harus diperangi habis-habisan. Satu lagi langkah yang boleh dicuba ialah menggalakkan pelajar yang terdiri daripada remaja menyertai persatuan-persatuan yang berdaftar. Ini untuk mengelakkan mereka daripada terjebak ke dalam kancah kebejatan moral. Penubuhan Kelab PROSTAR pada tahun 1996 dan Rakan Muda harus dipuji. Program ini sedikit sebanyak memberi faedah dan pendedahan remaja terhadap Virus HIV. Program ini juga telah melatih golongan remaja untuk melayan mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS dengan bijak tanpa menyinggung perasaan mereka. Remaja yang melalui program ini berperanan sebagai teman bagi golongan remaja dan mendidik mereka secara halus agar mengamalkan cara hidup sihat. Kempen mengenai pencegahan HIV/AIDS secara besar-besaran wajar dilakukan dari semasa ke semasa supaya dapat memberi kesedaran yang cukup kepada masyarakat. Usaha yang dilakukan oleh UNESCO dalam mengadakan Penyelidikan Pencegahan wajar dicontohi oleh setiap negara. Hal ini kerana, ia adalah satu usaha yang positif supaya tujuan murni ini dapat dilakukan. Kempen cara hidup sihat yang telah dijalankan perlu diteruskan. Kempen-kempen ini bertujuan memberi pendidikan kepada masyarakat. Kesimpulannya, semua pihak harus mengembeleng tenaga bagi menangani penularan HIV/AIDS di Malaysia. Ini kerana HIV/AIDS merupakan penyakit yang bersifat pandemik


dan dijangka akan menjadi lebih serius pada masa hadapan. Oleh itu, tindakan yang menyeluruh daripada semua pihak amat perlu untuk memerangi kegetiran dan mencegah penyakit ini daripada terus membunuh.


Ooi Tze How (Finalist)

AIDS atau Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome akan menyebabkan sistem keimunan seseorang terjejas sehingga seseorang itu terdedah kepada pelbagai ancaman penyakit dan jangkitan lain, kerana badan dan sel-sel lain di dalamnya tidak terdaya lagi melawan serangan jangkitan. Virus yang menyebabkan AIDS ialah virus HIV yang mula-mula dikesan pada tahun 1980-an. Virus ini terbahagi kepada dua iaitu HIV-1 dan HIV-2. Virus HIV-1 merupakan punca berlakunya penyakit AIDS di kalangan individu yang terlibat dalam kegiatan homoseksual lelaki dan penggunaan dadah secara suntikan. terutama di Amerika dan Eropah. Di Afrika, walau bagaimanapun, HIV-1 lebih mempengaruhi kegiatan heteroseksual. Virus HIV-2 pula dikesan pada tahun 1985. Walaupun virus ini mempunyai ciri yang sama dengan virus HIV-l tetapi virus ini mempunyai sifat yang tersendiri, terutama dari segi bentuk bahan protein dan glikoprotein yang terdapat padanya. Virus HIV cenderung menyerang sel-sel T manusia yang terlibat dalam sistem imun. Oleh sebab itu, sistem keimunan seseorang yang H1V-positif akan terjejas seperti yang disebut di atas. Golongan yang giat melakukan aktiviti berisiko tinggi yang menyebabkan mereka cenderung dijangkiti HIV adalah mereka yang tergolong dalam lingkungan usia 20-40 tahun di mana aktiviti seks masih aktif. Walaupun lebih ramai orang lelaki yang didapati terlibat, paling membimbangkan adalah anak gadis serta wanita di dalam lingkungan usia yang masih boleh hamil. Kemungkinan seorang ibu merebakkan HIV kepada anak kandungannya adalah sangat tinggi. Sewaktu kelahiran, apabila bayi terdedah kepada darah ibu, ini boleh juga menyebabkan bayi di jangkiti HIV. HIV juga didapati boleh merebak melalui susu ibu. Jangkitan HIV boleh merebak melalui cecair lain dalam badan seperti air mazi dan juga cecair faraj. Oleh itu, hubungan seksual yang tidak selamat, sama ada secara homoseksual atau heteroseksual akan menyebabkan jangkitan HIV. HIV/AIDS disyaki berlaku apabila terdapat tanda-tanda tertentu seperti demam sertamerta atau tanpa sebab (demam akut merupakan penyakit mononucleiosis), cirit-birit, kulit mengelupas atau cenderung berdarah. Kelenjar-kelenjar limfa di badan juga menjadi bengkak dan membesar, mencirikan sistem limfa turut terjejas. Keadaan ini biasanya dapat diperhatikan di antara tiga hingga empat belas hari. Sungguhpun demikian, tanda-tanda lain seperti kurang berat badan, keletihan berpanjangan, berpeluh malam, radang otak (encephalitis atau meningitis) boleh juga berlaku. Walaupun begitu, tanda-tanda ini selalunya muncul pada saat-saat terakhir setelah seseorang itu dijangkiti, menyebabkan pengesanan awal sukar dilakukan. Oleh itu, kebanyakan daripada mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) hanya menanti kematian kerana mereka tidak berdaya sekali untuk mengatasi penyakit tersebut. World Health Organisation (WHO) menganggarkan bahawa terdapat sebanyak lebih kurang 42 juta orang yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS di seluruh dunia. Di Malaysia. Kementerian Kesihatan melaporkan bahawa setakat bulan Disember 2002, penyakitpenyakit yang berkaitan dengan AIDS telah menyebabkan 5424 orang Malaysia mati manakala 7,218 orang menghidapi AIDS dan 52,000 orang dijangkiti HIV Seramai 19 orang akan mendapati diri mereka HIV-positif setiap hari. Angka sebenar dijangka lima kali ganda lebih banyak daripada angka yang dinyatakan di atas. Terdapat kemungkinan bahawa seorang dalam kumpulan dua ratus orang rakyat Malaysia adalah HIV-positif.


Kebanyakan jangkitan HIV di Malaysia berpunca daripada penyalahgunaan dadah dan kegiatan seks secara heteroseksual. Cara-cara lain juga didapati menjadi punca berlakunya jangkitan HIV di Malaysia. Cara-cara tersebut ialah jangkitan ibu kepada anaknya dan jangkitan melalui darah tercemar atau darah yang ada virus HIV. HIV/AIDS ini bukan sahaja mendatangkan bahaya, tetapi juga membawa kesan-kesan negatif. Kesan-kesan tersebut boleh datang dalam bentuk ekonomi dan sosial. Dari segi kesan ekonomi, HIV/AIDS akan menyebabkan kemerosotan ekonomi Malaysia kerana jangkitan HIV kerap didapati di kalangan mereka yang berusia 15-39 tahun. Golongan ini merupakan tenaga pekerja yang produktif dari segi ekonomi dan menyumbang kepada taraf ekonomi keluarga, masyarakat dan negara. Jika kebanyakan mereka ini dijangkiti HIV mereka akan hilang keupayaan untuk bekerja. Dengan demikian, banyak sektor akan terjejas kerana kekurangan tenaga pekerja. Sektor yang paling teruk terjejas ialah sektor pembuatan yang sememangnya memerlukan tenaga buruh yang banyak untuk memastikan kilang-kilang mengeluarkan produk pada setiap masa. Masalah ini akan menyebabkan kekurangan kemasukan wang asing dan pelabur-pelabur yang banyak terlibat dalam industri pembuatan. Ekonomi Malaysia sekarang banyak bergantung kepada sektor pembuatan dan jika keadaan di atas berlaku, maka ekonomi negara akan terjejas. Dalam sesebuah keluarga di mana salah satu atau kedua-dua ibubapa menghidapi HIV/AIDS, anak-anak akan menjadi anak yatim dan secara perlahan-lahan mereka akan berhenti sekolah. Keadaan ini akan menyebabkan generasi sekarang tidak mampu mewariskan pengetahuan dan kemahiran kepada generasi yang berikutnya. Oleh itu, sumber tenaga buruh akan berkurangan pata tahun-tahun yang berikutnya. Selain itu, imej negara akan terjejas jika jumlah kes HIV/AIDS kian meningkat. Pelancong-pelancong asing akan menjauhi negara kerana risiko dan peratus jangkitan yang tinggi. Kedua-dua keadaan di atas akan menyebabkan KKN negara menurun. Kajian pada tahun 1998 menunjukkan bahawa negara Malaysia akan membelanjakan RM 20 bilion jika kadar jangkitan pata masa ini tidak dikurangkan. Dalam konteks sosial pula, HIV/AIDS akan menimbulkan perasaan yang negatif di kalangan masyarakat. Diskriminasi, ketakutan, prejudis dan tersalah tafsir terhadap HIV dan AIDS akan memisahkan institusi masyarakat. Kebanyakan orang akan menjauhi mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS, menyebabkan perhubungan komuniti sesebuah masyarakat terjejas. Semua orang akan terjejas, sama ada keluarga atau kawan. Negara Malaysia akan menghadapi bahaya kerana integrasi kaum merupakan punca negara mampu mencapai pelbagai kejayaan hingga kini. Pendidikan merupakan aset penting bagi masa depan sesebuah negara, termasuk Malaysia. Sistem pendidikan akan tergugat kerana HIV/AIDS akan meragut nyawa guru, pelajar dan ibubapa yang memegang peranan penting dan utama dalam sistem pendidikan.


Langkah-Iangkah pencegahan boleh dilakukan untuk menghalang masalah ini daripada berlaku. Cara-cara penyelesaian dapat diimplikasikan melalui pendidikan. Pada masa ini, pencegahan adalah langkah yang paling mudah dan bijak untuk menyelesaikan masalah HIV/AIDS. Media massa digunakan untuk mendidik rakyat tentang HIV/AIDS. Artikelartikel yang dipaparkan dalam surat khabar akan menyampaikan mesej-mesej penting mengenai HIV/AIDS kepada masyarakat. Rancangan televisyen yang berkaitan tentang HIV/AIDS harus lebih kerap disiarkan manakala radio juga boleh memainkan peranan. Internet merupakan satu lagi cara yang baik untuk mendidik masyarakat tentang HIV/AIDS. Laman-laman web yang berkaitan dengan HIV/AIDS harus direka supaya rakyat boleh mendapat maklumat tentang HIV/AIDS pada bila-bila masa. Kempenkempen kesedaran harus giat dianjurkan untuk mengubah tabiat hidup harian orang dewasa. Alat-alat pencegahan seperti kondom merupakan cara alternatif untuk mengelakkan jangkitan HIV. Hospital dan pusat perubatan harus diperbanyakkan untuk memastikan terdapat cukup kemudahan untuk merawat mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS. Pihak kerajaan harus bekerjasama dengan pihak luar untuk menjalankan kajian tentang penyakit ini. Puncapunca jangkitan HIV seperti penyalahgunaan dadah harus dibanteras oleh kerajaan dengan secepat mungkin untuk menghalang penularan HIV/AIDS berlaku. Walaupun undang-undang tegas telah digubal oleh kerajaan untuk membanteras penyalahgunaan dadah, masih terdapat segelintir orang yang melakukan perbuatan itu. Langkah lain harus diambil oleh kerajaan untuk menyelesaikan masalah ini seperti operasi yang lebih kerap oleh pihak polis dan pengenalpastian sarang-sarang penagih dadah. Kerajaan juga harus memberi khidmat kaunseling kepada mereka yang terlibat secara tidak langsung dalam kegiatan yang berisiko tinggi supaya perasaan takut, cemas atau kecewa dapat diatasi. Ancaman HIV/AIDS akan wujud sekiranya masalah hii tidak diselesaikan. Kerjasama antara semua pihak yang terlibat seperti pihak kerajaan, badan bukan kerajaan dan masyarakat amat penting untuk mengatasi masalah HIV/AIDS di Malaysia. Langkah yang proaktif harus diambil dengan segera supaya masalah HIV/AIDS dapat dihentikan dan bukan dibiarkan begitu sahaja. Dengan itu, keadaan masyarakat dan negara tidak akan terjejas dan Wawasan 2020 yang divisikan oleh negara dapat dikecapi.


Rozana bt Hj Abdullah (Finalist)

Wabak AIDS memberi kesan yang amat mendalam di seluruh pelusuk dunia, sekaligus menampilkan sifat-sifat baik dan buruk dalam diri seseorang. Perkara yang paling baik yang boleh terjadi adalah apabila setiap individu bersama-sama bersatu padu berjuang mengatasi masalah penafian dan kesangsian dan menyediakan khidmat sokong bantu dan penjagaan bagi mereka yang HIV-positif atau menghidap AIDS (PLWHA). Perkara yang paling buruk yang boleh terjadi adalah apabila individu diabaikan dan dipulaukan oleh suami-isteri atau pasangan mereka, kaum keluarga dan masyarakat, dan di diskriminasi oleh bukan sahaja seseorang individu, bahkan juga sesebuah institusi. Semenjak penemuan HIV dan AIDS, pelbagai respons diberikan oleh masyarakat takut, penafian, pengabaian dan diskriminasi. Diskriminasi telah menular dengan begitu pantas, memarakkan perasaan kerisauan, kesangsian dan prasangka terhadap golongan yang benar-benar terjejas dan terlibat, serta mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS. Namun, Malaysia merupakan negara yang mempunyai jumlah jangkitan HIV yang agak tinggi dan terdiri daripada mereka yang berusia antara 15-39 tahun. Walaupun banyak kajian yang dijalankan, ia gagal menghasilkan ubat ataupun vaksin AIDS. Justeru, HIV/AIDS tersebar luas di seluruh dunia, malah mendatangkan kesan ekonomi dan sosial terhadap negara kita. HIV/AIDS banyak mendatangkan kesan yang negatif, terutamanya kepada ekonomi dan sosial ke atas Malaysia. Ini termasuklah keadaan ekonomi yang tidak stabil. Kerajaan terpaksa menanggung kos rawatan penyakit ini serta pusat pemulihan seperti Pusat SERENTI yang telah menelan belanja sebanyak berpuluh-puluh ribu, malah mencecah sehingga beratus-ratus ribu ringgit. ini disebabkan oleh harga ubat serta pil-pil rawatan yang tinggi kerana kebanyakan ubat-ubatan diimport dan luar negara. Walaupun penyakit ini masih belum menemui penawarnya lagi, namun kerajaan masih mengeluarkan belanja yang tinggi untuk merawatnya. Tambahan pula, kerajaan menubuhkan lebih banyak pusat pemulihan khas bagi penyakit ini. Ruang tanah yang boleh dimanfaatkan bagi mereka yang tiada rumah telah digunakan untuk pesakit ini. Selain itu, HIV/AIDS juga menyebabkan daya pengeluar tenaga buruh tidak produktif. Bagi pekerja yang HIV-positif, mereka sering meminta cuti sakit kerana mengalami demam panas, selesema dan pelbagai lagi. Tahap kesihatan yang rendah ini menghalang pengeluaran hasil yang maksimum. Walaupun kita menikmati teknologi canggih dengan penggunaan robot dan mesin, penggunaan tenaga buruh masih lagi diperlukan. Ini menyebabkan ekonomi negara semakin menurun kerana masalah ini yang kian meruncing. Tambahan pula, pesakit-pesakit ini tidak boleh menyumbang tenaga yang maksimum memandangkan tahap kesihatan mereka yang tidak mengizinkan. Ekonomi negara kita juga bergantung kepada sektor pelancongan. Tetapi HIV/AIDS yang semakin menular di negara kita telah menggugat industri pelancongan negara. Apabila negara telah dibanjiri dengan mereka yang hidup dengan HIV/AIDS, maka pelancong akan berasa takut malah memandang negatif terhadap sesebuah negara itu. Sebagai contoh negara Thailand dan Afrika. Kegiatan pelacuran berleluasa malah ramai di kalangan masyarakat negara menghidapi HIV/AIDS. Ini akan menyebabkan sektor


negara menghidapi HIV/AIDS. ini akan menyebabkan sektor pelancongan negara tersebut tergugat serta ekonomi negara tidak stabil. Terutamanya bagi negara yang ekonominya bergantung kepada pelancongan. Manakala keruntuhan rumah tangga merupakan kesan sosial akibat penyakit HIV/AIDS ini. Sebagai contoh, bagi suami yang menghidapi HIV/AIDS akan menyebabkan penceraian kerana tindakan agresif serta tekanan si suami akibat penyakit ini. Mereka yang dijangkiti HIV akan merasai diri mereka diabaikan dan didiskriminasikan di dalam rumah mereka sendiri. Apabila berlakunya penceraian, keadaan ini akan menimbulkan impak yang negatif kepada anak-anak terutamanya yang masih kecil. Mereka akan terbiar dan diabaikan apabila hilang kasih sayang daripada ibu mahupun ayah. Apa yang lebih teruk lagi adalah mereka disisihkan oleh rakan-rakan di sekolah kerana ayah mahupun ibu mereka menghidapi HIV/AIDS ini. Pelajar-pelajar sekolah berasa takut dijangkiti apabila berkawan dengan anak PLWHA ini. Anak-anak yang meningkat remaja pula akan mengambil langkah mudah dengan mengambil dadah serta melakukan seks rambang untuk mengatasi tekanan mereka. Selain itu, kadar kelahiran bayi yang dijangkiti HIV juga meningkat kerana ibu yang menghidap penyakit ini. Keadaan ini membimbangkan negara, kerana ketandusan generasi muda untuk menerajui negara. Di samping itu, PLWHA juga mempunyai pergaulan yang terbatas. Mereka akan disisihkan oleh ahli keluarga, rakan sekerja, malah di pusat penjagaan kesihatan dan jiran tetangga. Keluarga lazimnya merupakan pihak yang paling penting dalam memberi penjagaan rapi bagi mereka yang sakit. Kasih sayang, kefahaman, penjagaan dan dorongan yang diberikan kepada anggota keluarga yang HIV-positif akan dapat membantu memberi harapan dan semangat untuk meneruskan kehidupan. Walau bagaimanapun, tidak semua anggota keluarga memberikan reaksi yang positif. PLWHA tidak dibenarkan berinteraksi dengan anggota keluarga terutamanya anak kecil. Bertambah sedih lagi apabila mereka disisih atau diarah meninggalkan rumah keluarga kerana tidak sanggup dipulaukan oleh masyarakat. Manakala di tempat kerja, majikan akan memberi pelbagai alasan untuk memberhentikan mereka atau tidak membenarkan mereka bekerja. Kadang kala, diskriminasi boleh berlaku di tempat yang sepatutnya memberikan penjagaan dan dorongan, iaitu di hospital. Misalnya rawatan perubatan dilambatkan atau diberhentikan. Malah pesakit tidak diberi perhatian sepenuhnya oleh kakitangan hospital. Langkah pencegahan terawal yang diperkenalkan dalam usaha memerangi jangkitan HIV ialah penangguhan penderma darah. Penderma darah dan kalangan mereka yang mengamalkan perbuatan berisiko tinggi seperti berkongsi jarum untuk menyuntik dadah boleh menyebarkan virus HIV. Oleh itu, penggunaan selamat darah yang didermakan di semua hospital adalah penting. Semua sampel darah perlu disaring. Ujian ELISA perlu dijalankan untuk menjamin kualiti darah. Di Malaysia, beberapa langkah diambil seperti ujian antigen HIV dan ujian pembilangan sel-T


Penyaringan darah juga diwajibkan di semua hospital kerajaan dan swasta. Penyaringan rutin kumpulan berisiko tinggi seperti banduan, pengguna dadah, pekerja seks dan pesakit yang sentiasa mendapatkan rawatan perubatan perlu dijalankan untuk mengenal pasti pembawa HIV Langkah-langkah ini penting dalam mengawal jangkitan HIV dan seterusnya AIDS. Sebagai contoh, kerajaan Johor telah mengambil langkah yang drastik dengan mengenakan ujian darah atau saringan bagi pasangan yang ingin berkahwin. Kempen kesedaran juga adalah langkah kerajaan untuk mengatasi masalah ini. Ini termasuklah perancangan dan strategi promosi kesihatan HIV/AIDS perlu diadakan di peringkat negeri dan negara untuk memberitahu masyarakat umum fakta-fakta nyata tentang bahayanya HIV, cara HIV merebak dan akibatnya. Ini dapat mengurangkan ketakutan dan menjelaskan tafsiran tidak tepat mengenai HIV/AIDS. Keadaan ini juga dapat mendorong kumpulan yang berisiko tinggi mengubah kelakuan mereka dan mengurangkan aktiviti yang menyebabkan penyebaran jangkitan HIV Stesen radio dan televisyen serta akhbar harus memainkan peranan penting dengan menyiarkan berita tentang punca dan kesan HIV/AIDS. Secara umumnya, penyakit ini merebak melalui hubungan seks yang tidak selamat di antara individu dalam kategori homoseksual, heteroseksual dan biseksual. Jadi, promosi penggunaan kondom sebagai satu cara pencegahan amat sesuai dijalankan oleh pihak media masa. Selain itu, kurikulum mata pelajaran sains dan biologi di sekolah wajar diubahsuai untuk memuatkan aspek pendidikan seks dan penyakit yang berkaitan dengannya. Pendedahan secara realistik tentang tabii virus, cara jangkitan dan kesan penyakit ini perlu ditonjolkan. Orang ramai perlu didedahkan kepada HIV/AIDS melalui forum dan ceramah yang dikendalikan oleh badan seperti Majlis AIDS Malaysia, pertubuhan sukarela dan pakar-pakar perubatan. Selain itu, pihak kerajaan harus memainkan peranan melalui Kementerian Kesihatan dengan menggunakan kemudahan infrastruktur yang sedia ada, iaitu klinik perubatan dan desa serta hospital-hospital di seluruh negara untuk menyedarkan orang ramai akan bahaya jangkitan HIV/AIDS. Bahagian-bahagian khas perlu disediakan dengan kelengkapan yang sesuai untuk memerangi penyakit ini. Pihak perubatan kerajaan dan swasta juga wajar melawat semua kawasan yang mempunyai aktiviti pelacuran dan sarang pengguna dadah. Kaedah-kaedah pencegahan patut diberikan kepada pekerjapekerja seks supaya mereka tahu bahaya HIV/AIDS dan cara mencegah jangkitan penyakit ini. Secara tuntasnya, HIV/AIDS mendatangkan kesan buruk kepada ekonomi dan sosial serta boleh membawa maut kepada mangsanya. Maka, tabiat orang ramai perlu dikawal supaya jangkitan penyakit HIV/AIDS dapat dikurangkan. Orang ramai perlu didedahkan tentang ancaman penyakit ini kerana tidak ramai yang sebenarnya mengetahui cara menghadapinya. Oleh itu, pihak yang bertanggungjawab wajar berganding bahu memerangi HIV/AIDS dengan mendidik orang ramai tentang bahaya penyakit maut ini.


Topic 3
Young people aged between 15 24 all over the world are vulnerable to HIV infection due to many social and economic reasons. Yet, young people of this age possess the power to be the strongest force for change in the course of the epidemic. Young people have the energy, optimism, enthusiasm, creativity and compassion to prevent new cases, care for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and destigmatise the epidemic. How can young people take an active role in preventing the future spread of HIV/AIDS, and changing the stigma and discrimination that surrounds the epidemic? Di seluruh dunia, golongan muda di antara usia 1524 tahun sering terdedah kepada jangkitan HIV disebabkan pelbagai faktor sosial dan ekonomi. Namun demikian, golongan muda memiliki kuasa untuk mengubah arah hala epidemik ini Golongan muda mempunyai tenaga, semangat positif kreativiti dan perasaan kasih sayang yang boleh digunakan untuk menghalang kes-kes jangkitan baru, untuk menjaga mereka yang positif-HIV serta keluarga mereka, dan mengurangkan stigma yang membelungi epidemik mi. Bagaimanakah golongan muda dapat memainkan peranan dalam menghentikan jangkitan baru di masa hadapan, dan mengubah stigma yang menyelubungi epidemik ini?


Jonitha Sumithri Nadarajah (1st Prize)

~ Young twigs may be bent, but not old trees ~ Dutch Proverb The sweltering temperature soars to 39C in Nairobi, Kenya. A 16-year old teenage girl, Mwangaza, walks down the busy street with her head bent and her heart troubled. Her name means light in Swahili, but she feels as though the light in her life has grown dimmer. Her father has banned her from attending school. He claimed that they had no money and she would be better off helping her mother at home with the five other children. His loud angry words still vibrated through her head. Even after pleading with him, he gave a loud Hapana, meaning NO. Mwangaza knew that the only way out of the poverty pit that she was in was through education. And yet the only possible door providing escape from poverty had been rudely shut in her face. Too engrossed in her troubles, she accidentally bumped into someone. She looked up and saw a middle-aged man with a leery smile. He offered her much more than an apology. He offered her money and a whole new life in exchange for companionship, so she thought however what he really gave her switched the light out forever in her life. He gave her AIDS. Mwangazas case is just one of the many ways that young people throughout the world are being affected by AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In the urban cities of the United States of America, its because of unprotected intercourse. In the overpopulated streets of India, its unscrupulous prostitution. In Russia, its the uncontrollable drug use. The staggering figures of 7.3 million young women and 4.5 million young men with HIV/AIDS in the age range of 15-24 tell us that the young are terribly at stake. With these staggering figures, preventive measures have been drafted out and are being implemented throughout the world. Young people have sex. Surveys done show that during the ages of 15-19 is when most teenagers experiment with their sexuality. Regardless of the economic affluence of the country, whether rich or poor, young adults (aged 10 24) are engaging in sex before marriage. However much the older generation is cringing at this, especially in conservative communities, this unchangingly remains a fact. Holding true to the saying that prevention is better than cure, the most effective way of preventing AIDS is the delaying of sex till an older, more mature age. Biologically, the bodies of girls below the age of 15 have not fully matured. Thus, if they were to indulge in sexual activity at this age, the possibility of the inner linings of the vagina being damaged is greater. This would also lead to easier spread of the HIV virus. At a mature age, young adults would be more informed about safer sex, thus practicing methods of protection, the most common and cheap method being the use of condoms. This can be seen in Kwazulu, Natal, South Africa, where young people at 19 years of age are more likely to use a condom during sexual encounters compared to those who are below 14. This is because, in this example, at 19, one has better judgement and is more informed compared to a 14-year old.


Who is more apt at providing a guiding hand in this matter than parents, elders in the extended family, and teachers in schools? 50 sex education programmes around the world found that young people are less likely to have sex after being informed properly about sexual and reproductive health. Thus no sex, no AIDS. Information about HIV/AIDS should be made easily accessible to young people. Not everyone needs to know that Luc Montagnier in the Pasteur Institute in Paris made the first successful isolation of the AIDS virus in May 1983. Or that this deadly virus attacks one type of T-cell that is essential for the normal functioning of the immune system. What they do need to know are the ways of protecting themselves against this virus. There is no one formula that works for all cultures in the world. Different approaches need to be worked out for each country, as there are social norms and taboos to conform to. A largely effective way is through the education system. As some young people leave school at 15, it is essential that this knowledge be provided to them early in their education. A larger audience can be reached through the mass media. Programmes catering to issues regarding teenagers can be used to spread the awareness of HIV/AIDS. In Malaysia, one such programme is 3R(Respect, Relax and Respond). Although generally catering to women, it does spread information to those in school and out of school. Also, in Egypt, Youth Whisperers, an interactive teen show provides preventive measures, interviews with experts and quizzes to increase community awareness. Discrimination is a ghost with many forms. Moving companies refusing to provide services, as in a case reported in the USA in 1995. No one talks to you in school or sits with you during lunch. Turned down for a job for someone much less qualified. Discrimination hurts most at the receiving end. The brunt of it is inflicted upon People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHAs). In some cases, these forms of discrimination can be fought against in a court of law. However, many suffer in silence. In fear of contracting the virus, people do hurtful things in their obliviousness. To change the stigma and discrimination that shrouds this epidemic can only be through awareness. People need to come to terms that HIV only can spread through semen and vaginal secretions, sharing of hypodermic needles and transfusion of infected blood. It does not happen by sharing eating utensils or by merely speaking to someone. The sad fact remains that however much effort is put in to removing this shroud of ignorance, there will still be a general discrimination against PLWHAs. This is when PLWHAs need to turn to each other for support in the long run. It is difficult for others to understand the trauma of the time bomb that they are living with. By forming groups in school or their community, they can reach out to each other and lend a listening ear and a helping hand. They need to do useful activities for the community and not just sit back and expect the sympathy of others. To gain respect from others, they must first respect themselves. One such group is The Network created in the UK to bring together PLWHAs in the UK. Young people who have an understanding of HIV/AIDS need to include PLWHAs in their circle of friends. It is when the public sees for


themselves that PLWHAs are not aliens, but in fact very much human, is when the shroud will fade away... .slowly. Coming back to Mwangaza in the beginning. She never knew that sex could lead to HIV infection. All she wanted was a little bit of money to support her schooling. Although she had heard vaguely about HIV/AIDS from her friends, she thought that you could tell if someone had HIV/AIDS merely by looking at them. About a month or two after meeting that roan, she felt a slight fever with headache and tiredness. Discarding it as normal flu, she continued schooling after managing to convince her father that she had started working. She learnt about AIDS when they had a special seminar in the assembly yard one morning. After hearing this, she checked her HIV status at the free checking service that they were providing. Upon receiving the results and realising that she was HIVpositive, she cried. If only she had heard this seminar earlier... if only.

References: 1. http://www.undp.org.my/programme/docs/YP_AIDS_Opp_Crisis.pdf Young people and HIV/AIDS: Opportunity in Crisis 2. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/hivinf.htm Symptoms of AIDS 3. A-level Biology W D Phiffips and TJ Chilton, Page 144 4. http://www.undp.org.my/programme/docs/AIDS_UPDATE2002_Dec.pdf AIDS Epidemic update


Shiela A Otieno (2nd Prize)

We live in a world plagued with many ills; a world teeming with violence and hatred, buried under human beings wrestling for supremacy. In this age of terrorism and nuclear weaponry, famine and war, medical standards are almost at their peak, with answers to ailments ranging from headaches to cancerous growths, and drugs available to even slow the aging process. In a world where one can almost be able to choose between life and death comes the dreaded Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Many young people have the notion that AIDS is only a disease for homosexuals, drug users and sex workers. This however, is not the case. It hurts me to know that in a recent report released by UNAIDS, an estimated 11.8 million people aged 15-24 are living with HIVIAIDS, and half of all new infections worldwide occur among young people. In most countries, at least 28% of all IUV-positive people are aged 15- 25. This means that a huge chunk of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) are young people. As the old adage goes, Prevention is better than cure, so we should look towards protecting ourselves from contracting the virus rather than merely waiting for a cure.1 Since young people are a major slice of the cake that makes up the infected community, they are the ones who should take initiative to turn the tables around and make a difference. The AIDS epidemic is eating away at the heart of societys future by taking away its most precious and most productive asset young people. Leaving a small percentage to reconstruct the walls that have been left in ruins and build the world of tomorrow. If we take an active role in addressing the AIDS dilemma today, surely there will be hope for tomorrow. Not only for an AIDS-free society but a morally upright one built on the backbone of responsible human beings taking initiative and carving out a new mould to improve their world and create a new haven for those that will follow after them. We all know that in order to prevent HIV infection we must protect ourselves. Although there are many anti-retroviral drugs in the market and vitamin supplements that are being used to enhance immunity and improve the health of infected persons, hence allowing them to live longer, there is still no cure for AIDS. The first step is HIV/AIDS and sex education. People will always be curious about what they dont know. Therefore at the beginning of puberty, parents, teachers, relatives and older peers should talk about sex and HIV/AIDS to teenagers. Information about how HIV is contracted and how to prevent HIV infection should not be hidden from anyone who is curious to know. Parents tend to be embarrassed and dance around the topic of sex in the home. If home is the place where we spend the most time, then it is only logical and fair that we learn this sensitive subject from there. Older siblings and relatives should also contribute to telling younger family members about sex and teaching them not to be ashamed of their sexuality but to respect it. We as young people should begin workshops and seminars that inform other young people about HIV/AIDS and sex. Young people can be shy among adults and some questions are difficult to ask. These are regarding sensitive matters such as ____________________________________________________________________________________


homosexuality, lesbianism, oral sex and even masturbation. Workshops and seminars run by other young people will help them to be able to open up and share their views without intimidation and also enable them to discuss with people who understand them and think on the same wavelength as they do. During these workshops, demonstrations on how to use condoms and other contraceptives as well as the distribution of literature explaining the dangers of unprotected sex should be practised. In this age of computer technology and media monopoly, we need to make the subject of safer sex appealing to young people. It is imperative that interesting movies and documentaries are made by young people for young people to pass on the message that HIV/AIDS is real. Computer games that emulate the process of protecting yourself from HIV/AIDS, such as killing the virus and preventing the virus from infecting the player should be created. Young people need a bit of excitement in the course of education and this is only one of the ways that can be used to make people aware that AIDS kills and at the same time be a source of fun and enjoyment. Lastly is the big brother approach. Older young people who are aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS should school those younger than them and teach them why unprotected sex is dangerous. Also people who are already infected should tell other people about the pains of being infected. Sometimes when you hear somebodys story, it is easier for you to identify with their situation and hence employ their advice in your life. Young people are very perceptive and what they hear usually makes an impact on them. It is said that a leader can only be one step ahead so this way, young people understand HIV/AIDS better and thus can eradicate the stigma that society places on HIV-positive people. You may say that one small person can only do so much and may ask how a young person like me can get the world to listen. The story of a young South African boy who stole the hearts of millions with just an ounce of determination is foremost in my mind; Nkosi Johnson is a hero by many standards and in his efforts to promote HIV/AIDS issues, touched more than one heart. A young boy born with HIV he lived to the astounding age of 11 years with the virus. His touching speech at the opening ceremony of the 13th International AIDS conference in Durban left tears in many eyes and hope in many hearts. Probably the longest surviving child infected with HIV, Nkosi went around carrying his message to the African multitude and later on the population of the world. New cases of HIV-infection have decreased visibly since he began his sojourn and still continue to drop. Nkosi also opened a home for ailing babies and their mothers, named Nkosis Haven, in the year 2000. In 2001, after he passed away, his foster mother, Gail Johnson, started another one to follow in the footsteps of what this young hero began. Before the year 2010, the sponsors expect there to be a minimum of five Nkosis Havens around South Africa. Nkosis dream was to eradicate the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS as well as teach about the ills of the same. In the same way we can assist the world and those who have taken it upon themselves to destroy the stereotypes that many have concerning HIV and AIDS.


During the open HIV/AIDS workshops like the ones I mentioned, infected persons should come to share their experiences and also advise young people on the ways one can get infected. This will open up the minds of young people. Especially if they can see people who are HIV-positive and are still healthy. This will show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Because it is possible to work, play and interact with infected people without getting infected. Secondly, they should learn to support those who are being stigmatised. This can be done by joining HIV/AIDS support groups and even by standing by a friend when they get infected. Every small gesture counts. Just showing someone else that you are associating with an infected person can make their life easier by making others aware that there is nothing wrong with doing the same. Some people say that a smile can make even the most painful ache go away; visiting PLWHAs who need to know that it is not the end, being friends with PLWHAs helps almost as much as if you were handing them a cure. Everyone loves knowing that someone else is there to listen and to appreciate them for who they are and not what they are. PLWHAs are no different, they need love too. The last and best way to remove the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS is to stay safe and preach safe. One should not wait to get the virus so that they can talk to others about staying safe and avoiding promiscuity and the other causes of HTV/AIDS. If we all take the initiative to protect ourselves and protect those who love us by staying safe, then we will one day be rid of AIDS. In conclusion, AIDS is a reality and the sooner we all discover that we are the ones who determine whether we live or die, the sooner we will be able to start and maintain a moral society which is healthy too. In the words of Nkosi Johnson, Care for us and accept us we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else, dont be afraid of us, we are all the same! Change begins with you. Only you can choose to change what is wrong and determine what is right. I choose change. Do you? Reference: 1. http://www.unaids.org/html/pub/Publications/Facts-SheetO2/Fsimpact_en_pdf.htm


Cassie Perpetua Forsythe (Finalist)

We Are The World There comes a time when we heed a certain call When the world must come together as one There are people dying And its time to lend a hand to life The greatest gift of all We cant go on pretending day by day That someone, somewhere will soon make a change We are all a part of Gods great big family And the truth, you know, Love is all we need Send them your heart so theyll know that someone cares And their lives will be stronger and free As God has shown us by turning stones to bread So we must all lend a helping hand We are the world, we are the children We are the ones who make a brighter day So lets start giving Theres a choice were making Were saving our own lives Its true well make a better day Just you and me When youre down and out, there seems no hope at all But if you just believe theres no way we can fall Let us realise that a change can only come When we stand together as one - Michael Jackson

The lyrics of this particular song has left me with no choice but to share its contents to make more obvious the whole scenario of the relevance of how we as the younger generation should react towards the call to relate to People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) as you will see later in the development of this essay. But to start with, I have to honestly say that it is the typical attitude of most people to regret what they have done. The same goes for the many people who in the past and present have contracted HIV The amount of stigma and discrimination faced varies from each individual but in most circumstances the PLWHA is penalised unnecessarily. Even though they may have made mistakes in the past, that doesnt give us the leeway to treat them any differently. This is the best time for us to lend a hand by helping them live through their time left on earth.


This special group of people should be given the privilege to try a new avenue in life as their living string becomes shorter day after day. The most difficult period is the first six months as conflicts are multiple and severe with the new exposure. It is really sad to witness these people in suffering. Most of them definitely regret what they have turned themselves into. All they would need now is to be given the encouragement to go on living life to the fullest. Sometimes we should look into the mirror and ask ourselves why is it we cant accept PLWHAs. Its not as if anyone could see from their physical appearance that they have HIV. The most saddening part is when their family members disown them. How is it that some families are able to accept and walk around with their gay son? What about walking around with a person who has Downs Syndrome? Naturally one wouldnt feel inferior or embarrassed to be seen with them. So why is it that PLWHAs are treated differently? We know very well that HIV cannot be contracted through physical contact, caring, communicating with or even befriending the person. After watching a documentary based on the Community Centre for PLWHAs in Batu Arang, Selangor, I felt overwhelmed with empathy towards the PLWHAs. These were among the many who have been literally forsaken because of their condition. What really made me reflect on my position was what one particular volunteer said, To be touched means to be accepted in spite of having HIV. Once you have it (HIV), its like gradually digging your grave. Since I have had exposure to and been around a group of people who are mentally retarded, I do not have any feelings of discomfort or disgust when having physical contact with them. So I suppose that being with a PLWHA wont make me reconsider my actions. I dont believe that we should isolate them. Just put yourself in their position and think how you would like to be treated. You not need think of a relevant argument, like saying that well since I asked for it, I shall live with it. Thats what one would probably say about the disease, but how about coming to reality and learning how to cope with it. It is not a one-way motivation as you will see. Quoting again a client at the community centre as he says, Im not afraid of death, but the feeling of being rejected. As ideal living beings, we should be the ones who are there to support these victims of circumstances. Who are we to judge them and punish them for what they going through? Be bold, be different! It takes two to make a difference and it has to start somewhere. As individuals, we can take initiative by getting involved in welfare organisations, societies, support groups or movements that are in aid of PLWHAs which are plentiful even within Malaysia. Sometimes instead of just being a behind-the-scene charitable individual, actual physical assistance and a practical attitude would be of much help. Just imagine, the reason that some people are willing to donate blood in spite of being scared of needles is the encounter of seeing Thalassaemia patients. Wouldnt it hit you a thousand-fold if you were to see them knowing that they depend on your kindness and generosity for blood? Likewise, PLWHAs cry out for companionship. On our part, we dont have to lecture them or advise them about their situation, just be by their side to let


them know that there is still hope and let them leave this world with a wholesome feeling without rejection. There is nothing to lose but more to gain through helping PLWHAs. It could be a selfdiscovery for some; each person represents a world in us. A world not possibly born until they arrive. And it is only be this meeting that a new world is born (Anais Nin). Im sure each and every one of us has come to a point in life where we are desperately in need of a buddy; with no denial we need them in our lives. They are our mentors, listeners, the shoulder we can cry on in times of despair. Besides that, gathering PLWHAs in a support group helps to encourage them, and helps them cope with the disease as they are in the midst of people facing the same situation. Chiturumani, a PLWHA said reaching out to others with HIV/AIDS has helped her live with the virus. It makes me believe that tomorrow there will be someone out there who will care for me. Lets do some basic evaluation. HIV can be contracted through various ways, from the infamous sharing of needles when taking drugs, having unprotected sex, through blood transfusions and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery and breast-feeding. Thank God that in most cases where HIV is transmitted through family, the PLWHAs welfare is still taken account of by the family members. But how about those who contracted it through other means? Women who work as domestic labourers are cheated, exploited and sexually abused. Some of them do part time sex work, as wages are low and they need to send money back home. Most of them contract STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) due to sexual abuse and unsafe sex. These are the unfortunate souls who are left alone. Suddenly they are treated as outcasts, as if people need to keep away from them. We are not viruses, said Adam Powell, a Norwegian PLWHA. We are humanity. (Associated Press-27 June 2001) To synthesize this major element, it is crystal clear that we play an important role in contributing to the change of mindset of the world which currently still discriminates and finds it hard to accept PLWHAs as they are. We are living in a more mature and knowledgeable era, and thus this should be the reason that we can perceive and handle this matter with a wider perspective and not narrow it down to what our forefathers have done. It only takes a spark to get a fire going and true enough, if we try and practice spreading this TLC (tender loving care) spell, itll make a better place for you and me.

God sends each person onto this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak your message, Or sing your song, Or offer your act of love


Harpreet Kaur Bhal (Finalist)

The year 1981 will be remembered for many things. It is the year NASA launched their first Space Shuttle, Prince Charles married Princess Diana and MTV played its first music video. But perhaps the most lasting memory of that year would be the first reports of a new fatal disease, the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, better known as AIDS. It has been 22 years since then but the epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. Through the years we have witnessed children dying in their mothers arms, common people having their lives robbed from them and countless tears being shed by all who have come into contact with HIV and AIDS. Although the disease has no cure, much can be done to prevent its spread and to protect those who are suffering in silence due to discrimination. Young people, with all their youthful exuberance, have the potential to make a difference here. They are important because young people aged between 15 and 24 are themselves the most vulnerable to HIV infection. These young people are the voice of tomorrow with the power to shape the future. To prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS young people need to tackle the problem at its root. One of the ways the virus spreads is when infected drug users share needles with other drug users. Therefore, to prevent the problem at its source, young people need to promote healthy living. Young people who have led a drug-free life should be proud and be able to speak of their achievements in remaining unfazed by drugs. If they do so by speaking to small focus groups in schools and community centres, it may discourage other young people from taking up the habit. HIV can also be contracted through the transfer of bodily fluids during sexual intercourse. However, the risk can be greatly reduced if condoms are used. Young people should emphasise on this fact in order to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. These young adults must be able to talk about condoms and sexual intercourse with more ease. It is not merely about cultural taboos anymore. Promoting condoms could help save lives. Due to the fact that young people themselves are vulnerable to HIV infection, they would feel more comfortable speaking to people their own age about sensitive issues like HIV/AIDS in relation to drugs and sexual health. This peer-to-peer help will be hugely beneficial in combating the epidemic. Therefore young people should volunteer in telephone helplines and offer counselling to their peers. A system could be drawn up where callers have the option to speak to people from their own age group for help. The problem with this system is that young people may not be qualified to give expert advice to the callers. However, if enough young people volunteer for this type of service, training could be provided for them. Young people can help counter the spread of HIV/AIDS by educating fellow young people on facts about the illness. Although many young adults today have considerable knowledge on the disease, there are people out there who still panic and worry about contracting the disease in daily activities, for example through sharing toilets. These misconceptions need to be set right and young people should stress on how HIV is


contracted and what the preventive measures are. This should be targeted at services that young people use, like magazines, school newspapers and radio stations, to make sure that the message gets across. To hinder the spread of the illness, young people should set an example for others in their age group. HIV/AIDS has no cure but there are certain lifestyles that if avoided, could reduce the risk of contracting the disease. For example, having multiple sex partners increases the risk of HIV infection. Young people should set an example to their peers by not only promoting a healthy and moral lifestyle but by also practising such lifestyles themselves. On the other hand, the potential problem here is that nobody has the right to be the judge of what is moral and what is not. If someone has a slightly different approach to morals, it does not mean he or she is wrong. However, the public will easily accept the concept of morals put forward by the young people if it does indeed prove to be the healthy way. Due to the fact that the epidemic touches on many sensitive issues, there is stigma and discrimination associated with those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. When the disease was in its infancy, it used to be known as the disease of homosexuals. Even though it is now evident that anyone can get infected, certain vulnerable groups still suffer in silence due to the shame and prejudices that society brings on to them. Young people, being the hope of tomorrow, could help counter this negativity by having a tolerant and open-minded attitude towards infected people and vulnerable groups alike. We live in very advanced times but the mindset of people seems to be moving backwards. Young people should actively campaign to stop discrimination of vulnerable groups by getting involved in the local movements for fairer human rights laws or get involved on a global scale through international organisations. Young people could help reduce the discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS by being the force in creating awareness and educating the public about it. The illness is something that is hard to talk about, but young people need to get over that barrier and show the public that the only way to fight the disease is to embrace it. Only with knowledge can discrimination be wiped out. There are people who still do not know that HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and that there is a difference between being HIVpositive and actually developing AIDS. HIV/AIDS has always been made out to be a freakish disease but the truth is that there are many other diseases that are just as dangerous. If young people gather their voices to dispel the ignorance, the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS could stop. An excellent way to do this is to organise awareness weeks in schools and colleges. Guest speakers could be invited to give talks on the subject and answer questions on the epidemic, leaving the public with a greater knowledge of the illness. The intolerance surrounding HIV/AJDS could also be reduced if young people disassociate it with just poverty and third world countries. HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic. It cares not for race, religion, colour or wealth. Young people need to stress that anyone and everyone is at risk when it comes to this disease. Young people possess the open


mindedness that is sometimes lacking in the older generation and this must be put to good use by creating awareness about how whole nations are destroyed because of the discrimination that others attack PLWHAs with. To fight HIV/AIDS citizens of the world have to come together and young people should emphasise that this sort of discrimination will only serve to worsen the situation. The epidemic has already affected millions of people and millions more live each day with the risk of contracting HIW There has been enough suffering and ignorance. It is now time to take a step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The young people of today have the potential to make a difference and no matter how small the effort may seem, it makes a big difference in the life of someone who is fighting each day against HIV/AIDS. Let us look to tomorrow for a bright future, which starts with the young people of today.


Lim Wen Phei (Finalist)

HIV/AIDS is not an easy issue to broach. In conservative societies, the close relationship between HIV/AIDS and sex has deemed the former a taboo topic. In the medical arena, HIV/AIDS remains a tough case to crack as it is still an incurable disease. In nations worldwide, HIV/AIDS has become a substantial hindrance to socio-economic progress. To put everything in a nutshell, HIV/AIDS is a time bomb which ticks away slowly, albeit surely. To what extent are young people affected by HIV/AIDS? Global statistics have revealed that more than 50% of those newly-infected with FIIV are between the ages of 15-39. It is estimated that more than 11 million people of this age range are living with this disease, and while we are at that: about 6000 people are infected with H1V daily. And how prepared are we against these shocking revelations? Only a fraction of these individuals realise that they are infected. Grave misconceptions like believing mosquito bites to be a mode of HIV transmission, are still harboured by young people in developing nations where the spread of HIV is at its fiercest. In some countries, knowledge of HIV prevention among young people is as low as 1%. So much for preparation against HIVIAIDS. With these statistics and facts, we can draw a conclusion: young people are a strong, influential factor behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Those who engage in unsafe sex or inject drugs could become infected with FIIV. Young people also play the role of information mediums among their peers. Young people in humanitarian societies are the fighters against this epidemic, whereas those orphaned by HIV!AIDS are victims of this tragedy. It is evident that young people are implicated and involved at every level of this epidemic. Hence, the fight against HIV/AIDS must also start from this group. If the people of a country are considered to be greatest assets of a nation, then youths are most certainly the capitals of these assets. These words spoken by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, are extremely relevant in the crusade against H1V/AIDS: For us to win a thorough battle against HIVIAIDS, a well-rounded effort must be initiated by young people themselves. Ignorance, being a prominent stumbling block in this battle, should be diminished to make way for a generation of street-savvy, well-rounded young people in the case of HIV/AIDS related issues. Currently, we are faced with a grave situation: There are still young people, especially in economically-weak nations who are armed with startlingly little knowledge on HIV/AIDS. Even in developed countries like the United States, young children still have the misconception that cigarettes and alcohol lead to HIV/AIDS. Therefore, this ignorance must be abolished with the use of a powerful weapon: education. Sex education is not taboo! This message should be spread loud and clear by young people to other young people. Let young people be providers and recipients of such information. In a situation where HIV/AIDS is threatening their lives and their future generations, we can no longer afford to debate over the issue of the credibility of sex education. The glaring fact is: with proper handling, sex education enables young people to understand themselves


physically and emotionally, and with this understanding, they will be able to know why and how HIV/AIDS is threatening mankind. Decisions as to the right time to speak to children about coming-of-age and HIV/AIDS is vital and should be executed by all parents. Educational institutions play an indispensable role as a reliable source in introducing this subject to children, tweens and teens. Voluntary and non-governmental organisations too can provide such education to young people, and education to the general public on how to talk to young people on these issues. It should be pointed out too, that peer education is particularly powerful as a tool for executing such programmes. Young people think on the same wavelength - and this fact should be made use of appropriately. Peer education will provide a comfortable atmosphere for sharing of information that is considered taboo in their respective societies, minus the awkwardness and the influence of conservative social connotations. End the stigma and discrimination - for good. It is high time young people change their perception and the perception of their communities towards People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). With the extensive coverage that this epidemic has received for the past two decades, we should know too well by now that HIV/AIDS is not a dirty issue, it should not be swept under the carpet and stigmatising PLWHAs will aggravate the severity of the situation. Learning to accept and respect PLWHAs is a first step - before going on to support and care for PLWHAs. Only with this positive mentality will young people be able to help their HIV-positive friends come out from behind closed doors without facing painful stigma and discrimination. Young people living with HIV/AIDS too, should be given a voice - let them come out from behind the doors and onto the streets to talk to their fellow counterparts, friends and peers of the HIV/AIDS threat that they are facing. Let these young ones be outstanding models of society, and let them be of service to their people. With this step, young people will spread an important message: PLWHAs are people deserving equal respect and rights as any one else; PLWHAs are capable of serving the community and contributing to a nations growth and PLWHAs, basically, are ordinary people, therefore HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone. The people, in return should reciprocate this by giving due respect, understanding and support - thus ending stigma and discrimination. Youth-friendly programmes should be organised by young people and implemented to attract the interest and participation of their peers in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Road shows, for instance, are often frequented and hugely popular- they are able to attract the right target audience (young people), and they can reach a large number of people at a time. Other such programmes include carnivals, festivals, and charity walks- anything that will attract fellow young people to come out and take part. The bottom line is: Get out and spread the word. Allow young people to be the organisers this time round- they, after all, understand and know how to attract the attention of their friends the most. Let them be the ones informing their families, friends, teachers and fellow brethren about the HIV/AIDS problem we are facing, and how everyone can stop it. In this way, participation among


young people is increased, roles are diversified and young people can function better as driving forces behind changing the face of HIV/AIDS in our society. Provision of voluntary services to PLWHAs and their families, especially if young people are among them, can be offered by young people. This act conveys another strong message - that we are not afraid of PLWHAs, we can live with and take care of them, and we cannot get HIV/AIDS by taking care of them. This act shows that we are not only telling the people to do it, we actually mean what we say. Young people should be pioneers who open doors for the people to open up their hearts and actually stretch out their hands to help PLWHAs. HIV/AIDS is no longer an unspeakable issue (it never was). It is very real, very much existent and alive among us. It transcends religion, creed, sexual preference and social background. These characteristics make this epidemic all the more dangerous, and all the more should young people, the pillars of the nation, sit up and take this epidemic seriously. With good faith, a positive attitude and continuous efforts, there is nothing that young people cannot overcome in this crusade.


Premila Arumugam (Finalist)

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the immune system and causes Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. This statement may appear to be a simple medical statement for many of us. However when the same statement is reworded to say HIV attacks the immune system and causes AIDS, it will be no longer a medical term but a fear factor for everyone. These two words that come hand in hand are known as an extremely serious disorder that results from severe damage to the bodys defenses against disease. Even though HIV/AIDS was born in 1981, in this era of sophisticated medical and surgical developments, it still remains incurable. Statistics from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) indicate the scope of the catastrophe among young people, where, everyday 7,000 more young people become infected, about five per minute. Young people are much more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than older people are because their social, emotional and psychological development is still incomplete; they tend to experiment with risky behaviour, often with little awareness of danger. In fact latest studies indicate that AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death among young adults, aged 15 to 24. That is why it is really important for young people to learn about HIV/AIDS: What is it? How to protect yourself and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS? How to treat People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs)? HIV is a virus that lives only in body fluids. Body fluids that have been proven to spread HIV include blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Mostly it is transmitted through blood transfusions, unprotected sex and sharing of needles when injecting drugs, as well as from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. More young people are now having unsafe sex and with more partners and more of them are getting infected simply by ignoring the usage of condoms for a very short-term pleasure! Once young people have equipped themselves with knowledge of this virus and its prevention methods they can carry on addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic among their communities. In Malaysia, young people can gain easy access to information on this disease from the resource center or the web page of the Malaysian Aids Council. Basically they can initiate their force, reaching their peers by writing articles on HIV/AIDS for their school newspaper, college magazine and even office newsletter. These written messages play an important role in educating them formally. Apart from this, young people can also be creative in addressing this issue. They should organize sketches, choral speaking, debates, essay writing competitions and quizzes that carry the HIV/AIDS theme as this indirectly keeps the young people informed about this serious issue while showing their talents and having fun. Furthermore the young people of todays generation are moving fast towards the cyber world via the usage of the Internet. This can be a good opportunity to connect young people from different countries to share their knowledge and experiences to fight HIV/AIDS, as this is a global issue. Through various web activities, young people can explore myths and correct misconceptions, conduct research and discuss how they can prevent HIV/AIDS in their own lives and communities.


However, feeding information alone is not sufficient for young people. It is very vital for them to have more interactive and practical activities to increase the understanding of what being at risk means and to expose them to strategies that work to prevent HIV infections. They can opt to participate or even volunteer in training and workshops organised by AIDS support organisations. For example they can contribute their energy by volunteering as facilitators in AIDS awareness workshop or exhibitions conducted by the Malaysian Aids Council. These workshops usually provide an opportunity to openly discuss the fears and questions surrounding HIV/AIDS and also strategies that reinforce a young persons right to say No! Although there is a clear opportunity for effective prevention methods for young people to embark on, it all depends on their active support and involvement, as it is the key in addressing the epidemic. Prevention is necessary for future spread of new cases but how about those already living with HIV/AIDS? HIV-related stigma and discrimination remains an enormous barrier to preventing further infections, providing adequate care, support and treatment and alleviating the impact of HIV/AIDS. Fear of discrimination often prevents people from seeking treatment or from testing to find out if they are infected or not because of the paranoia of the reactions of others. HIV/AIDS is usually perceived as a punishment for immoral behaviour, therefore once they are labeled as PLWHAs, they lose their jobs, are expelled from schools and universities and are rejected by their family circles and friends. So how can young people make progress in overcoming this stigma and discrimination? How can they change peoples attitudes to HIV/AIDS? All people are thinking of is that it is a deadly virus, but there is a lot more to know about this disease than this. Again, the only way is to educate them about this virus and focus on the ways it is contracted in order to protect themselves and avoid their constant paranoia about PLWHAs. More importantly young people should play an active role in taking care of PLWHAs and those who are affected by HIV/AIDS. Young people can lend their services, skills and talents to any AIDS support organisation or be a volunteer counsellor for PLWHAs. These organizations provide intensive training for volunteers especially on the way to handle PLWHAs emotionally. For example, young people who join as counsellors can provide simple advice to the PLWHA, like not to donate blood or organs and to use condoms in any sexual encounter, If the person infected is someone close to them they should enroll for a home care course if possible, as they can learn the right skills to take care of someone at home and how to manage special situations. However young people who are engaged as a volunteer or social worker should practice confidentiality, as it is very important for the PLWHAs, because they believe that once a person knows that they are HIV-positive their lives will definitely change tremendously. They often approach the volunteers after being abandoned by their own family and friends, therefore they tend to build trust with the volunteers during their sharing sessions. Since HIV/AIDS is remains incurable, more costs are incurred for scientific research in order to save the infected people all around the world as soon as possible. Even the treatment for HIV/AIDS is very expensive due to the nature of the sickness. Young people


can help the AIDS support organisations to reduce the financial burden by organising fundraising activities in theft communities. For example they can have treasure hunt competitions in theft residential area or organise bowling tournaments for their college or office where all proceeds can be channelled for research towards finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. Institutional and other monitoring mechanisms can enforce the rights of PLWHAs and provide powerful means of mitigating the worst effects of discrimination and stigma. However, no policy or law alone can combat HIV/AIDS-related discrimination. The fear and prejudice that lies at the core of HIV/AIDS discrimination needs to be tackled at the community level and definitely young people remain the major source to address this epidemic. AIDS recognises no color, sex, or origin. It infects and affects people of all ethnic backgrounds and no one is immune to this disease. Therefore we all need to realise that HIV/AIDS is out there and we need to get educated about it.


Robert Nicholas Lopez (Finalist)

AIDS is no longer a catastrophe waiting to happen. It is a catastrophe already unfolding. All over the world the number of HIV infections is increasing at a rate so great that neglecting the issue completely or even trivialising its significance is almost tantamount to passing a death sentence on a large percentage of the worlds population. How a disease largely preventable has been allowed to spiral seemingly out of control to become one of mankinds greatest challenges has flummoxed health officials and academicians everywhere. However, spending time looking back at where we went wrong and what could possibly have been done better in regards to dealing with HIV/AIDS would be an exercise in futility. What is needed instead is for committed and decisive action to be taken to combat this pandemic. Everyone can, and needs to play a role in the war on AIDS, not least the young people of the world. The worlds young people are at the greatest risk of being infected with HIV. Of those newly infected with HIV currently, more than half fall into the 15-24 age group. A lack of knowledge about the disease and how it spreads is what the alarming prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young people can be most ascribed to. This ignorance, aligned with the carefree, almost reckless, nature typical of adolescents makes for an ominous concoction. For the majority of people, sexual activity begins during the teenage years. The younger they start, the more likely are these adolescents to have multiple, or worse, high-risk partners, and to compound the problem, the less likely they are to practise safer sex. Also, the curiosity symptomatic with youth may lead young people to experiment with drugs and thus expose themselves to the risk of HIV infection through the sharing of needles. It is clear therefore that to mount a successful challenge towards eradicating AIDS, young people need to be the central focus, both in terms of increasing their awareness of the disease as well as in getting them to channel some of their boundless energy and idealism into this important cause. For young people to play a role in preventing the future spread of HIV/AIDS, they first need to be equipped with adequate knowledge about the disease themselves. The seeds of awareness of this disease and its potential implications need to be sown, ideally, in schools. The more young people know about AIDS and its modes of transmission, the less chance there is of them attempting risky behaviour. Besides this, being armed with knowledge of the disease will empower them to play a role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Some adults are of the opinion that providing adolescents with information about sex will serve only to whet their appetite for the real thing. A review of more than fifty sex education programmes globally has, however, found that young people are more likely to delay sexual activity and to practice safe methods once they do start, when provided with correct information about reproductive health. A lot of the worlds pop culture is determined by what young people consider to be trendy and fashionable. Their range of influence stretches from clothes to wear to places to eat. Bearing this in mind, steps need to be taken to engage the youth of the world to use some of the influence they wield to remove the stigma and shame which is often associated with HIV/AIDS. Many still view HIV/AIDS as a consequence of some form of prior misdeed that the Person Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) had committed. Though


this may be true in some cases, there is a large proportion of PLWHAs who acquired the disease through no fault or irresponsible act of their own. To stereotype all HIV-positive persons as morally reprehensible people would thus be a grave injustice. Young people could therefore be instrumental in changing the mindset of the public towards PLWHAs. They could play a role in educating people about all modes of HIV transmission. They can also dispel myths about the disease and in so doing cut down on discrimination against PLWHAs. Much of the ignorance and apathy young people exhibit towards AIDS is attributable to the fact that they are often excluded from participating in the various programmes whose aim it is to eradicate HIV/AIDS. But the irony is that young people have so much to offer in this field. They are eager to learn and are full of energy, and given proper guidance, can be of enormous benefit in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This is especially significant in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among young people. Young people find it easiest to connect and communicate with their peers. Therefore, having young people who are knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and are able and willing to inform their peers about it is more likely to have a positive impact in diminishing the incidence of HIV infections among young people. To be sure, it has to be noted that in some places young people are already actively involved in AIDS prevention. In Nigeria, for instance, young female apprentices are trained as peer educators and then return from these workshops to talk about HIV and the risks of unprotected sex to their peers. Similarly, in Poland, young people have been trained as field counsellors who go out to popular youth hang-outs to educate their peers about drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. In todays fast-paced, ever changing world, it is the every man for himself maxim that rings truest. This has led to a population of people whose primary aim it is to attain success and material wealth, often at the expense of things more important. The worlds elderly and infirm are often neglected and left to fend for themselves. This was chillingly highlighted by the spate of deaths among abandoned, elderly people in France during the recent heat wave which hit that country. This is a trend that needs to be halted. Young people must be encouraged to spend time caring for the sick and elderly, including PLWHAs. Being in direct contact with PLWHAs will not only enlighten young people as to the anguish wreaked by this disease, it may also go a long way in preventing them from engaging in behaviour which carries the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS. Besides this, as the young become increasingly involved in caring for PLWHAs, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS can gradually be erased. This will lead to a greater tolerance and acceptance of PLWHA and will certainly result in decreased discrimination against them. Young people can, for example, be photographed having meals or shaking hands with PLWHAs, and pictures like this can serve not only to dispel the notion that direct contact with a HIV-positive person is hazardous, but also to let other young people know of the joy that spending time with a PLWHA can bring to ones self and more importantly, to the PLWHA.


The facts and figures regarding HIV/AIDS make for distressing reading. In twelve countries in sub-Saharan Africa, at least 10% of those aged 15-49 are estimated to be infected with HJV. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the corresponding figure is approximately one million persons. The majority of infections in these places are among young people aged between 15 and 24. The lack of knowledge about the disease is also appalling. In countries with generalised HIV epidemics such as Cameroon and Sierra Leone, more than 80 % of young women aged 15-24 do not have sufficient knowledge about HIV In Ukraine, although 99% of girls had heard about AIDS, only 9% could identify correctly the primary ways of avoiding sexual transmission. Misinformation about HIV/AIDS is another worrying phenomenon. Surveys from forty countries indicate that more than 50% of young people aged 15-24 harbour dangerous misconceptions about the transmission of HIV. In some countries it is believed that HIV can spread via mosquito bites and witchcraft. In other cultures, notably in Africa, it is wrongly believed that having sex with a virgin can cure a HIV-positive person. As dire as the situation seems, the world needs to come together and figure out ways to achieve a common good: the eradication of AIDS from our planet. It is indeed an achievable goal, although it will take the utmost dedication and careful implementation of campaigns, strategies and programmes. The young people of today need to heed the clarion call and shake themselves out of their slumber of inaction. They have to combat this devastating pandemic with all the resources they can command. Or else, the world which they inherit tomorrow could prove to be an AIDS-blighted wasteland.

Reference: Young people and HIV/AIDS: Opportunity in Crisis United Nations Childrens Fund, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and World Health Organisation, 2002


Sharmini Joy Ramani (Finalist)

I am devastated by the research articles Ive seen. Of course Ive always had some idea that HIV/AIDS was a serious epidemic that affected many people, the type I didnt come into contact with. Id seen images of little children affected by the virus, orphaned and miserable - but this was all in far away Africa. But the past few days of reading have dramatically changed my views. HIV/AIDS has hit people not only in the West or Africa- it is very close to home. In the Asia-Pacific region, an estimated 7.2 million people were infected with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2002. This is out of a worldwide total of 42 million. About 2.1 million young people, aged 15 to 24 are living with HIV/AIDS in this region. It is estimated that an additional 45 million people will become infected with HIV by 2010. More than 40% of these infections are expected to occur in Asia and the Pacific. Official Malaysian statistics say there have been 53,158 HIV infections since the epidemic began in 1986. There have been 7,554 cases of AIDS and 5,613 AIDS- related deaths. The Malaysian AIDS Council suggests the official figures should be doubled or tripled! So far most of Malaysias cases have been among injecting drug users, 18% of whom have been found to be infected. But the spread from this source has brought the number of heterosexual contacts from 834 in 2001 to 1,218 in 2002. Figures pale, in comparison to Africa where 30 million people are infected, and in some African countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbawe where 30% of the adult population has the disease. It may take 10 years for an HIV infected person to have symptoms of AIDS. The epidemic hit Asia 10 years after Africa. Hence HIV/AIDS is right now at a stage where it could explode as it did in African cities in the early 1990s. Densely populated countries like India and China will suffer most. Malaysia will not be spared either. No vaccine is in sight for HIV. Drugs alleviate misery but do not cure. Prices of Antiretroviral drugs are very high. Drug companies remain selfish and unsympathetic when others infringe on their patents to produce generic drugs at a fraction of the cost. When SARS breezed through Asia like some evil wind for three months, the economic repercussions were felt throughout the business community. Only 813 people died worldwide. But it has been reported that the GDPs of the affected countries will be 1% lower. What if 30% of our population developed HIV/AIDS? The economic and social consequences would be catastrophic! Steps are being taken to avert this frightening disaster. It has been increasingly recognized that young people must play a central rote in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Where the epidemic is less severe, addressing young people helps to ensure that they remain HIV-free. Experience suggests that to deal with HIV/AIDS effectively, a broad alliance of organizations in public health, education, development and public policy, working together with the private sector and NGOs must be forged. Programmes will have to focus on educating young people about HIV/AIDS. In countries where HIV/AIDS is already widespread, emphasis would be on curtailing its further spread, and on mitigating its effects.


Young people are known to be more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than the older population. Because their social, psychological and emotional behaviour is incomplete, they tend to indulge in risky behaviour, often not realizing the dangers. This risky sexual behaviour is part of adolescent rebellion, delinquency and experimenting in alcohol and drugs. Many adolescents lack information about HIV/AIDS because their society or culture prevents open discussion. Also peer norms strongly influence the young, and the loss of relationships, peer trust and acceptance can be too much to bear. Even if the young know about the risks, studies in Tanzania show that they think themselves invulnerable. It has been shown in studies done in Kenya, that the higher the educational level of the young people, the better their undertaking to protect themselves by using condoms. Not only are young people more likely to take risks, young women are more likely to acquire HIV/AIDS through unprotected sex. Women are already 2 to 4 times at greater risk because of the nature of the female genital tract. In young women the immaturity of the genital tract together with hormonal changes make it more susceptible to infections. Studies show that young people respond to their peers much better than to adults and figures of authority. Hence the best way to influence and educate young people is through peer education. Worldwide, peer education is becoming one of the most widely used strategies to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Young people are full of energy, optimism and less likely to be prejudiced. According to the Horizons Project, peer education involves the training and supporting members of a group, to effect changes in a given group, to produce changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviour at the individual level. Peer education can also create changes at the group or societal level. Of course, to be effective, peer educators should be linked to services that provide access to condoms, medical care, voluntary counselling and HIV testing. The message that is imperative to convey to young people is the importance of protective behaviour like delaying sexual debut, abstinence, and consistent condom use. Skills in refusing sex and drugs, or negotiating condom use should be imparted. While messages sent at the individual levels are the most effective, all opportunities from classroom to television should be used. Education has certainly reaped its rewards. Studies have shown that in Lusaka, Zambia for example, in 1996 35% of single young women said they were sexually active, whereas the figure for 1990 was 50%. In Tamil Nadu, India, the number of single, young men who reported having sex with casual partners declined from 50% in 1996 to 30% in 1998. In Uganda the age of sexual debut among women has risen by 2 years, a trend which is perhaps responsible for the 33% drop in HIV prevalence in pregnant women aged 15 to 19 years. Another important area in which young people can help is in destigmatising HIV/AIDS. This is essential so that people will come forward for testing, seek counselling, and make it easier to offer care and support. Live and let live is the slogan of the two-year World AIDS Campaign 2002-2003, which will focus on eliminating stigma and discrimination. The stigma from HIV/AIDS may even extend into the next generation, placing emotional


burdens on children who may be coping with the death of a parent due to AIDS-related illnesses. Who better to teach others to live and let live than young people! In a survey conducted by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, USA, 1 out of 5 people were found to have stigmatising attitudes towards HIV/AIDS. The survey also revealed that those who were misinformed about how HIV is spread were more likely to display a stigmatising attitude. Once again it is education that will destigmatise and help those with HIV/AIDS. Peer education will certainly help young people understand that HIV/AIDS is spread only through exchange of blood and body fluids, through unprotected sex and injecting with contaminated needles, not through the shaking of hands! It is important that homosexuals, sex workers and drug users be accepted as people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS despite religious beliefs. Many of them are forced to lead a double life, as in Malaysia. They cannot seek investigation and treatment or admit to their sexual preferences because of discrimination at home, the workplace and even in hospitals. Such young people coming out in the open to help their peers, will certainly help ease a lot of misery and pain suffered by homosexuals in our country. It is shocking that Malaysia together with many Islamic states tried to block a gay group from taking part in a United Nations round table discussion on AIDS. The Vatican as well as Islamic states oppose the West in singling out gays, sex workers and drug users as especially vulnerable groups. At an International Muslim Leaders Consultation on HIV/AIDS in Kuala Lumpur, an American Muslim woman delegate dared suggest that Islamic leaders do more than voice platitudes like do not commit adultery. According to their religion, Muslim women have to submit to their husbands, even if they are HIV-positive. In trying to diffuse the mayhem that followed, the young people there drew up a resolution and created a video presentation that was fair to all groups. Discrimination will end only with the younger generation! HIV/AIDS is an international problem and requires broad minds to solve problems. Globalisation, television and the Internet have exposed young people to various cultures and sexual inclinations. They should be the ones to act beyond religious prejudice to rid the world of AIDS. Young people are the life-blood of any nation. They have to take over as the aging population is phased out. They therefore cannot be wiped out by HIV/AIDS. It is in their hands to act as a force to change a world with AIDS!


Shobha Nambiar (Finalist)

There is a need to energise government and civil society -Desmond Cohen, HW and Development Programme, UNDP New York Fact: We constantly hear that HIV/AIDS is a very real issue with very real consequences. Fact: We read horrifying statistics about the number of people affected all the time. Myth: This automatically prompts us into making a difference in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and in reducing stigma and discrimination. The power that young people possess is something quite extraordinary. They have the unique ability to make a difference in ways that other sections of society can only dream of. Young people can play a role in preventing the future spread of HIV and in changing peoples mindsets, thereby reducing the stigma and discrimination which surrounds the epidemic in multiple ways. Young people have the energy and the enthusiasm to be one of the leading forces to energise government and civil society. Responses to a recent questionnaire on HIV/AIDS in Kuala Lumpur1 showed that people felt that programmes are ineffective partly because of poor participation of target groups, and poor responses to stigma. Discrimination can be defined as treating people unfairly and unjustly on the basis of their belonging, or being perceived to belong to a particular group. Stigma is the holding of derogatory or negative social attitudes or display of hostile or discriminatory behaviour towards members of a group on account of their membership of that group. The principal way for young people to make a difference is by educating other people. The message needs to be put across that HIV/AIDS does not spread, for example, by touching, or by sharing utensils; PLWHAs are not bad people; and HIV/AIDS does not mean the end of a persons happiness as they know it. Young people need to get this message across. Government Too often, the focus of youth participation in HIV/AIDS matters is confined to civil society participation. Although the community is an intrinsic element in solving the problem of discrimination and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, it is equally important for young people to take an interest in government and governance. It is necessary to understand that civil society measures work best with the support of the government. Granted, there are limits to youth involvement in government, however, there are certain loopholes, which need to be recognised: young people should be represented in local councils. Youth leaders should act as an intermediary and can advise local authorities on youth culture, and the best way to get the message across to young people, thus providing a fresh outlook on steps to be taken. The government is also important for young people to get the necessary training. Local governments should arrange for training programmes (which perhaps could be carried out by NGOs) for young people who are willing to be role models for the young people in their communities. These government-funded training sessions will equip young people with the right tools to educate their peers. Campaigns should involve secondary school, college and university students. The trained young people can in turn go into their communities and train other young people, enabling a ripple effect in the spreading


of knowledge across newly established networks of youth-run programmes founded by these community volunteers. The more aware young people are about our personal and community health and potential risks, the better able we will be to make informed, wise decisions in all areas of our lives.

Young people can also involve themselves in eliminating the risk of potential conflict between government and NGOs by being represented in intermediary committees such as the Malaysian AIDS Council. The bottom line is that young people can best further their role where there is interaction with national and local government. Spreading the Word With education comes awareness, and with awareness comes change. Radio, television and newspapers are important ways to educate the public about HIV/AIDS. Young people in advertisements have the ability to reach other young people more effectively. Its quite simple: a teenager on television discussing HIV/AIDS gets more attention from a fellow teenager than an adult would. HIV/AIDS awareness radio shows run by young people, done in different languages can also be an effective way of reaching young people in rural areas. Young writers should be encouraged to explore HIV/AIDS issues, and youth sections in national newspapers can provide reader-friendly means for communicating to the public that PLWHA should not be discriminated against, and treated with compassion. Newspapers need to encourage young people to write about their experiences with HIV/AIDS. Changing Mindsets From my personal experience, young people do not wish to make a difference in eliminating discrimination, preventing the spread, and correcting misconceptions of HIV/AIDS mainly due to the fact that they are embarrassed to. We live in a society where sex is a taboo word. Where children learn about sex from their peers and not from sex education in schools. Where people under the age of 24 are more sexually active than we think (or would like to think). The only way for young people to change mindsets is by being open about the issue, and not being afraid to talk about it. We need to start somewhere. The problem is that young people are staying away from the issue because of the stigma and discrimination attached to it. As a result, people get more ignorant and discrimination and spreading of HIV/AIDS continues. Its a vicious circle; one that will spiral out of control if young people do not start to make a difference. In the long run, mindsets will have to be changed. Young people can do this by helping in community mobilisation: forming groups, especially in schools, to educate other students. The Chiang Rai Youth Network in Thailand is a good lead to follow: youth leaders in anti-AIDS campaigns educate other young people about HIV/AIDS. The youth initiative is a learning process students become involved in caring for affected students in the community through interactions among teachers, students, parents and the community. Outreach, prevention of further spreading, education and peer support can be carried out by young volunteers. Immediate Responses Changing mindsets is a long drawn out process that requires time and patience. In addition, various methods can be used to provide a more immediate change.


Counselling services, run by young people, can be an effective way to help. Student volunteers to befriend PLWHA can be a helpful support system. The promise of anonymity is a good way to encourage young people to get answers. HIV/AIDS helplines run by young people could answer questions, or respond to doubts. Such groups need not solely be of service to young people alone, but to the community at large. The vitality and energy that young volunteers possess will be an example not only to their fellow young people, but also to the community at large. Adults may follow from the young peoples lead and organise their own awareness programmes and fund-raising event to aid the young peoples endeavours. Young people should use their religious societies and religion-based youth groups as a medium in which to spread awareness to other young people, where young PLWHA can be invited to speak in meetings. One World Globalisation and the worldwide web have made it easier for young people all over the world to unite. It is crucial for young people from different cultures and continents to learn from each other. Asian youth can learn from the Wests openness when talking about sex and the use of condoms to prevent further spreading of the virus, and perhaps we could share our experiences of religious grounding and family values. Openness is a must, and this should begin with young people themselves. Through solidarity young people can be more open about their sexuality. Here, the lead of global youth-driven action should be emulated, such as the Youth Community Outreach AIDS Society and Youth AIDS. Making that Change Discrimination and ignorance are often the result of a lack of understanding. As Jung said in Psychological Reflections: We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. Young people need to accept that there is a problem at hand that requires our attention, and although it is a difficult task, something can be done. We need to accept that people have to not only learn the facts, but also be truly educated and made aware to the point where they wish to learn even more, and then carefully take the necessary steps to provide immediate and long-term solutions.

Fact: Fact: Fact:

Knowing the statistics is insufficient. Young people need to be (and are capable of being) actively involved in making a difference. Young people have the power to change; the power to energise. This power lies within us.

1 Questionnaire by Regional Consultation on Good Urban Governance and Responses to HIV/AIDS; 27- 29 August 2001 2 The Watchdog (The Youth Coalitions Quarterly Newsletter, by youths for youths); 2001 3 Hollertz, Victoria (compiler): United Nations Development Programme, South East Asia HIV and Development Project. Mae Chan Workshop on Integrated Community Mobilisation Towards Effective Multisectoral HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care, May 2001. ____________________________________________________________________________________


Tan Sheng Yeeng (Finalist)

Are we supposed to stop the spread of AIDS now? *sjgh* Not another important role for young peopleI wish I had a time machine to transport me back in time where young people were still carefree and blissfully ignorant of the upcoming challenges of life, when such things were left to the grown-ups, and there was no such thing as AIDS. Of all the disasters and unfortunate things to happen to the world global warming, wars, and the well-publicised terrorist attacks.....and yet, the story of the most feared, still incurable and least understood disease AIDS has managed to remain quite inconspicuous. Why? Obviously due to the publics preconceived notion that this disease is most probably due to some shameful cause, and anyone who contracts this incurable disease deserves it and might as well die, and there isnt much anyone can do for them. Well, first of all, lets get the facts about HIV infection straight: HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus is by far, one of mankinds most feared viruses. It cleverly prevents our immune system from recognising and destroying it. At the same time, it slowly defeats our immune system, rendering our body vulnerable to all kinds of bacterial, fungal, and other viral attacks. How is HIV transmitted? Any contact made between HIV-infected blood or body fluids like semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk and an uninfected persons open wound or orifice has a high risk of cross-infection, making the particular person more likely to contract HIV. This includes any event of sharing needles, having unprotected sex, wounds inflicted by items with HIV infected blood on them, blood transfusions, and even the heart-breaking event whereby an innocent baby is infected by its HIV infected mother. There is no doubt that the social group which is more vulnerable and more frequently exposed to the HIV virus are those of the young people, aged 15-24. But the people of this age group are still schooling, you retaliate. Shouldnt they be focusing their free time and attention on their studies? In a fairy-tale world, this might be true. Sadly, in the real world, where both parents are working and have less time to spare for their children, where children become latch-key kids and can come home anytime they like; such children would develop new interests elsewhere be it drugs, video games, gangster group activities or whatever it takes to take their mind of their feelings of emptiness inside due to the neglect of their parents. Take note that people in this age group are also going through the teenage stage of selfdiscovery and are establishing their self-identity. The teenagers in this group are most likely to cave in due to peer pressure from their studies, and relationship problems. People aged 20-24 probably have a harder time in their jobs due to the recent economic downturn. All of which will financially, and emotionally pressure them. Those less stable will seek an inappropriate outlet to vent their frustrations like drugs, alcohol, and even indulging in unsafe sexual conduct. Whoa, you say, it seems like the young people of today are condemned to becoming prey to all the negative social influences. Is there no hope for our future generation? Of course there is still hope. Even as you are reading this, quite a number of teenagers in schools, colleges, or universities are getting active in their efforts to prevent the spread


of HIV/AIDS. Numerous talks, seminars, and even carnivals are held to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and how to stop the stigma and discrimination of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs). All of these efforts, in case you might not have noticed, are fuelled by the young people of this very age group. Who else, if not the young people of today that can influence all those teenagers whose lives have gone awry due to the pressures placed on them? Using young people to lead young people is a sure-fire tactic to get everybody back on track. One of the reasons is that only people of your age can truly understand what you are going through. Once we can relate to the teenagers, and can empathise with them, all our advice and teachings on HIV/AIDS are better accepted and more easily understood. Young people have the power to create a change in the world in order to rid it of AIDS. Young people are those who have the time, the energy and the enthusiasm to do things. Once properly channelled, their efforts would yield the most amazing results. Take our nations sports champions, Shalin Zulkifli, Wong Choon Hann and Nicol David; are they not the young people we are talking about just now? Did they not bring worldwide fame and recognition to our country? Yes, they did, and this proves that the young people can do a lot more than we give them credit for. All we need to do is to motivate these youngsters in order to unleash an abundance of creativity, optimism, and initiative to kick-start our battle against the long- known enemy called AIDS. How do we get a bunch of stubborn, unruly, and inexperienced young people to take an interest in preventing the spread of the AIDS epidemic? Well, first we have to realise that not all young people are stubborn and unruly. With proper guidance, we can easily get college and university students to educate the public, or their juniors in high schools about HIV and AIDS. This will not only prevent new cases of HIV infection, it will also help the public and the young people realise that those who contract HIV are still people they need love and attention. Thus, when everyone feels and empathises with the PLWHAs, the discrimination, the stigma, and the finger pointing will stop. What will come forward instead is the compassion, the understanding and the knowledge that all PLWHAs deserve a place in this world a chance to turn over a new leaf for some; and for others, the strength, and courage to survive this ordeal. People will no longer look the other way when PLWHAs are denied their rights or when they are oppressed by the ignorant. One very obvious responsibility we young people should take is to educate ourselves and those around us about the virus that causes AIDS how it affects our health, and more importantly, how it is transmitted. Consequently, each of us can implement safety measures to ensure that we dont contract the disease. When I say educate the people around us, that means our juniors and our parents, our friends, even pen pals everyone you know. Sure, that might get them suspicious about your HIV status instead, but the truth has to be told: more and more people are dying of AIDS-related illnesses and yet these glaring facts just get swept under the carpet each time.


Teenage girls and young ladies those who are educated, have a major role to play in helping those not fortunate enough to receive education or any warning at all about this enemy of mankind. This is urgent because the number of women with HIV has reached 50% of the global total. Although Malaysia is a country where people are treated equally despite their sex, when it comes to sexual intercourse, most women are ignorant as to the protection they should use and how the virus is actually transmitted. Young people can take an active part in providing sex education in order to help increase the level of awareness of HIV/AIDS. Besides, each young person should get involved in the activities their religious institutions organise, and help to spread the message about HIV/AIDS among those of their own religion. Using religious gatherings to do such things has shown to be effective in many places. No matter if you are a Muslim, Christian or a Buddhist; you can still help to reduce the incidence of stigma and discrimination among those of your own religion. Finally, young people should represent the community in helping to care for PLWHAs through many ways counselling, supporting them financially by collecting funds, or even just befriending them. Those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS will have hope when they realise that they are accepted and cared for by the community. Besides, people should realise that even babies and little children have become victims of this disease. Why should these innocent children be subjected to discrimination and unnecessary unkindness in their tender years? As the future leaders of our country and the world, we should spread the word about HIV/AIDS and stop the stigma. Hate the disease, not the diseased.


AIDS Acquired Immune (or Immuno) Deficiency Syndrome. A condition caused by the HIV, in which certain white blood cells (lymphocytes) are destroyed, resulting in loss of the bodys ability to protect itself against disease. AIDS is transmitted by sexual intercourse, through infected blood and blood products, and through the placenta. AIDS Related Complex. An early condition in which a person infected with HIV may suffer from such mild symptoms as recurrent fevers, unexplained weight loss, swollen lymph nodes and fungal infection of the mouth and throat. The common name for the drug zidovudine, which is used to treat people with the HIV virus. AZT was one of the first drugs used to slow down the rate of HIV reproduction, and is provided free at government hospitals in Malaysia.



CD4 (T4)cells A type of white blood cell that is important to the immune system in fighting infections. A CD4 test is done to check how many CD4 cells a person has per cubic millimetre of blood. A person with a healthy immune system will have a CD4 count ranging from 600 1 500. As HIV infection progresses, the CD4 count drops and the bodys ability to fight infection decreases. DDC, DDI HIV Drugs used in HIV therapy to slow down the rate of HIV-reproduction. Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The name of the virus that causes AIDS. A person can become infected with HIV through unprotected sexual intercourse, the use of HIV-infected needles and syringes, as well as mother-to-child transmission. See also AIDS. Tests that look for antibodies to HIV present in a persons blood. Malaysian AIDS Council. A non-profit umbrella organisation of 37 member non-governmental Organizations from various parts of Malaysia. The MAC has four broad roles: coordination and capacity building for its member NGOs for a more effective response to the epidemic in Malaysia; education and public mobilisation; advocacy; and care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Non-Governmental Organisation Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia. An infection of the lungs which can be life threatening for those infected with HIV. A non-govermnental organisation affiliated to the Malaysian AIDS Council which provides services to former drug users, including those who are HIV-positive. A non-governmental organisation affiliated to the Malaysian AIDS Council which provides educational, outreach, support and care services to gay men, commercial sex workers, drug users, transsexuals and people living with HIV/AIDS. Now known as PT Foundation. A person living with HIV/AIDS (to be used instead of AIDS sufferer or AIDS victim). Many people with HIV/AIDS can have relatively good health for years. They can and do lead happy lives. A support programme for people living with HIV/AIDS that is run by the PT Foundation. A person engaged in providing paid sexual services as part of a profession, either through circumstances, or by choice. Sexually Transmitted Disease. Any disease that is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Also called veneral disease.


NGO PCP Pengasih

Pink Triangle/ PT Foundation

Positive Living

Sex Worker STD

T-4 Cell Count See CD4 Viral Load The amount of HIV in the circulating blood. Monitoring a persons viral load is important because of the correlation between the amount of the virus in the blood and the severity of the disease. World Health Organisation. One of the seven organisations which make up the membership of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS.


Source: Malaysian AIDS Council and UNDP Regional HIV and Development Programme. South and North East Asia