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Hong Kong Aids Foundation

The Hong Kong AIDS Foundation (Traditional Chinese: 香港愛滋病基金會) is a non-governmental charitable organization established by a group of volunteers in 1991. Its current chairman is Dr. Leong Che Hung, GBS, JP (Traditional Chinese: 梁智鴻). When the Foundation was founded, public understanding towards AIDS was limited and misconceptions about AIDS (e.g. AIDS is a contagious disease) were common, leading to widespread discrimination against patients infected with AIDS. Recently, the Foundation has a full-time staff of 13 but relies heavily on over 300 volunteers to maintain services such as telephone hotlines, blood testing and counselling, and support programmes for people living with AIDS.

Mission

The Foundation aims to enhance public awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to limit the spread of HIV infection in the community. It also provides a wide range of services for AIDS patients and their families. It is hoped that by educating the general public and by improving their understanding of the subject, AIDS cases can be reduced and the infected can receive support from the community.

Its slogan states:

"The March of AIDS Identifies No Boundary."
.

Overview of HIV/AIDS in Hong Kong

Cumulative HIV/AIDS statistics in Hong Kong 1984 - June 2006

HIV/AIDS prevention in Hong Kong

  • HIV/AIDS prevention programmes in Hong Kong are underpinned by the concerted efforts of the government as well as non-government organizations. The government has setting-specific HIV prevention programmes targeted to some priority populations. These settings include schools, prisons, methadone clinics and Social Hygiene Clinics.
  • The Red Ribbon Centre (Traditional Chinese: 紅絲帶中心) is a community-based AIDS education, resource and research centre under the government, which incorporates a collaborative approach to partner with the community and to support community-based initiatives. The main activity areas include promotion of awareness of HIV and acceptance of people living with HIV/AIDS, targeted intervention and capacity building. The Red Ribbon Centre has cooperated with various organizations to create the Community Calendar on HIV Prevention and Care, which helps to record AIDS related activities in the community.
  • A number of AIDS-specific non-governmental organizations have contributed to the HIV prevention work locally, besides the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, examples are AIDS Concern, Teen AIDS, the Society for AIDS Care and St John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre In 1999-2002, the Advisory Council on AIDS has initiated the Community Planning Process, which involved public health agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations to prioritise actions in the vulnerable communities in Hong Kong.

Strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and control in Hong Kong

There are four basic strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and control in Hong Kong.

  • To prevent HIV/AIDS transmission by providing transmission-related information and education to the general public so as to bring about behavioral modification, early detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • To relieve physical and psychological sufferings of the HIV/AIDS infected by means of the AIDS care programmes.
  • To understand the dimensions and impact of HIV/AIDS in Hong Kong, and to conduct epidemiological surveillance studies and monitoring regularly so as to obtain useful and accurate information about HIV/AIDS distribution in the community.
  • To encourage international partnership as well as collaboration with the community in order to bring about a coherent and constantly updated method of prevention and control.

Work of the Foundation

The Foundation's work emphasize on providing support services to those in need. Development and provision of training programmes for AIDS frontline workers are also provided.

The Foundation has various approaches to achieve its founding mission, such as support services, outreach programmes supported by foundation-trained peer educators (volunteers or people who come from target groups), education programmes and workshops, questionnaire surveys, sex education, publicity and fund-raising events, publications as well as through collaborations with other organizations.

Support services

  • AIDS Helpline - This service has been receiving an increasing number of calls from around 2000 in 2001/2002 to around 3000 in 2005/2006. Trained volunteers provide services such as telephone counselling, risk assessment and emotional support to those in need. This service is available in Cantonese, Mandarin as well as English.
  • HIV Antibodies Test - This is a free of charge and confidential blood test for HIV/AIDS during which volunteers with nursing background help take blood samples for testing. It served from around 200 people in 2001/2002 to a double number of people in 2005/2006. Follow-up service and pre-/post-test counselling will be provided as well. If necessary, blood tests for close relatives can also be conducted.
  • Services for AIDS Patients - These are regular gatherings organized by mutual support groups, which aim to provide a relaxed atmosphere for AIDS patients to share in order to re-building their self-confidence. Social workers on duty will provide counselling services for the patients and their families. For patients with physical disabilities, home or hospital visits can be arranged upon request.
  • Referral Service - The Foundation extends it services by giving AIDS patients referrals to different specialists which include lawyers, insurance consultants, clinical psychologists, etc., in case patients seek professional advice on medical, legal or insurance issues.
  • Financial Assistance - The Foundation offers PWA Support Fund for patients with financial needs or family members of the AIDS deceased.

Education programmes

The Foundation believes that education can cultivate one's mind and thus, lead to behavioural changes. It also believes that education can combat ignorance from where misconceptions and discrimination stems. What they are aspirating, in this sense, is 'prevention is better than cure' and the following programmes are aimed to increase the awareness and knowledge of the general public.

  • Community-based Publicity and Education on HIV/AIDS - Activities in forms of fair day, open forum, questionnaire, survey, exhibition, seminar and contest are held.
  • 'Train the Trainers' Education Activities - The 'AIDS and the Workplace' talks aim to enhance public awareness of HIV/AIDS infection among co-workers and to formulate AIDS-related workplace policies.
  • Library of the Foundation - Its library has been providing service since 1994 with a collection of materials on subjects like AIDS, sex education, Chinese medicine, counselling, health education and medical treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and so on. More Chinese resources and materials are provided after the opening of Chinese HIV/AIDS Centre in 1999.

Target-specific programmes

Besides the various basic support services mentioned above, the Hong Kong Aids Foundation undertook difficult projects that targeted specific groups of people in our local community that are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. These activities were carried out with the help of many volunteers as some of these activities were carried out at a place convenient for these target groups, such as at gay bars for men who have sex with men, at clinics for drug abusers and at border checkpoints and bus stations for cross-border travellers.

1. Men who have sex with men

Misconceptions that AIDS is a 'gay disease' brings injustice and pressure to the gay community. Therefore AIDS education among gay communities is very important and the Foundation has started a project to promote sexual health for gay men called 'Project Men D' which aims to alleviate the labelling and facilitate the prevention of AIDS among this group. Various programmes are held under this project, including education and counselling service, training peer educators, outreach service, workshops, etc. In the year 2005/2006, 700 gay men participated in its monthly workshops, around 7000 were visited through outreach services and educational materials were distributed at 34 gay venues.

2. Drug Abusers

Aids can be spread by sharing needles during drug injections, therefore drug abusers are one of the Foundation's target group. Various programmes are organized by the Foundation to target this group, listed as follows:

  • 'Sunshine after the rain' interactive workshop - to provide opportunity for participants to share their worries and concerns with the participation of around 1,000 drug abusers in the year 2005/2006.
  • 'CareReach' AIDS outreaching scheme - educate drug users or street sleepers about AIDS and distribute tissues, condoms, towels with messages of prevention of AIDS. The outreach team will also help people stop injection and share needles.
  • 'Love-reach project' - training ambassadors to educate drug abusers in Methadone clinics on HIV. Some of the ambassadors are past drug abusers who have successfully quit drugs, providing a platform for ex-drug abusers and current drug abusers to share their experiences. 11 ex-drug users were trained in the year 2005/2006 who conducted 86 visits to Methadone clinics.

3. Youth at risk

Many adolescents regard AIDS risk as unrelated to their lives, but according to a survey of 1,700 adolescents, up to 70% engage in high-risk behaviours like casual sex. The Foundation therefore holds sex education talks regularly for youth service organizations and it is recorded that there were 188 youths attending in the year 2005/2006. Workers also meet the teenagers regularly to form an intimate relationship and it is hoped that teenagers can discuss sex and AIDS openly without embarrassment.

4. Cross-border Travelers

The closer connection between Mainland China and Hong Kong speeds up the spread of AIDS. In order to curb AIDS from spreading, prevention and publicity work is a prerequisite. Therefore, enquiry counters are set in four border checkpoints (Guangzhou, Macau, Lokmazhou and Zhuhai).

5. Sex worker and clients

As sex workers are working in an unsafe environment, they have a greater risk of HIV infection. The attitudes towards the prevention of AIDS among the customers and operators are critical in preventing AIDS. To publicize the ideas of 'occupational safety and health', different workshops and programmes have been held. The "Sister Project" aims to provide aids education for sex workers and their clients which includes the activities below:

  • Training for Sister Health Ambassadors
  • Outreaching questionnaire and surveys- Sister Health Ambassadors will visit the sex worker in order to promote occupational safety and health .
  • 'Sister' Health Workshops
  • Education and publicity targeted at customers and owners of sex industry

Interviewed by "In Touch", one of the sex workers feels grateful about the Foundation's project. After talking to the volunteers, she understands more about the importance of using condoms and having safe sex.

Publicity programmes and fund-raising activities

The Foundation's publicity programmes include concerts, quilt displays, Chinese New Year Flower Fair and district activities. Its regular fund-raising activities include flag selling, fund-raising dinners, public film premiers, charity sales on streets or inside shopping malls. In its charity sale, the best selling item is "red ribbon" which is supposed to be a symbol of care and concern for AIDS. Since 1996, the Foundation has also started its annual AIDS Charity Walk for fund raising purpose.

Publications

With a view to promoting acceptance of and fair treatment for those affected by HIV/AIDS, the Foundation has compiled a Chinese documentary book entitled Never Again! (Traditional Chinese: 「筆載」歧視 -- 香港愛滋病歧視個案結集) in April 2006 and constantly publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled In Touch (Traditional Chinese: 觸覺)every January, April, July and October.

In Touch

In Touch (Traditional Chinese: 觸覺) is a newsletter published quarterly by the Foundation every January, April, July and October, which is regularly sent to members of the Foundation informing them latest development and activities of the Foundation. There is a section to which readers, AIDS patients, volunteers and community members can contribute articles on their personal experiences and insights.

Never Again!

Never Again! - A Hong Kong AIDS Foundation 15th Anniversary Commemorative Publication on Discrimination Against HIV and AIDS (Traditional Chinese: 「筆載」歧視 -- 香港愛滋病歧視個案結集) is a Chinese documentary book on AIDS discrimination published by the Foundation in April 2006. It puts together 9 real cases of AIDS discrimination from 1991 to 2006, in which readers can discover how the AIDS infected as well as their family members fought back against discrimination from outsiders. This book also reveals the hardship faced by the Foundation while it strives for equality for the AIDS infected throughout these years. So far 4000 copies of the book were published and distributed.

Real cases documented in Never Again! include:

  • A young boy expelled from school because of AIDS (1992) - 12-year-old young boy Ming contracted HIV after a blood transfusion, later on he was expelled by his school and was denied the chance to receive education.
  • A fitness club cancelled an AIDS patient's membership without proper reason (1992) - a health club banned an AIDS patient from entering the club again after discovering his positive HIV status. His membership was quickly cancelled without informing him. No proper reason, refund or compensation was made.
  • An employee sacked due to HIV infection (1993) - an employee was forced to leave his work after his medical history was being revealed. Another company pressured its employees to go through 'secret AIDS test' before taking up the job.
  • Private hospital rejected patients with AIDS (1993) - a private hospital refused to offer stay-in service to AIDS patients. The hospital also refused to perform any operations for AIDS patients.
  • Dentists advised by their association not to discriminate AIDS patients (1995) - AIDS patients complained that certain dentists refused to serve them with the reason that 'saliva will promote spread of aids'. The dentist association stepped out to urge dentists not to discriminate AIDS patients.
  • Survey revealed 23% of social workers refused to serve AIDS patients (1997) - some social workers refused to conduct 'home visits' for AIDS patients. When interviewed, a proportion of social workers admitted that they would be 'more cautious' if they knew their service receive was AIDS patients.
  • Funeral home refused to offer service to AIDS victims (1999) - a funeral home refused to receive Lang's body after he died unless his family members paid an extra HK$5000. Lang's family was not allowed to host any ceremonies inside the funeral home.
  • Residents protested as AIDS clinics opened (1999) - residents staged a violent protest when an AIDS clinic opened near the residential area. Claiming that the opening of the clinic will 'increase the spread of aids', residents argued and fought the police vigorously.
  • Tourists with AIDS were discriminated by 50% of citizens (2005)

Through different case studies, Never Again! provokes readers to think about questions like:

  • Under what conditions should a pregnant woman undergo AIDS test?
  • Has an employer violated any laws if he/she dismisses employees with HIV?
  • Where can AIDS patients complain to if they were discriminated?
  • Can an employee or an organization force a person to undergo AIDS test?
  • Do the dead bodies of AIDS patients need "special treatment"?
  • What is the "Cocktail Therapy" for AIDS patients?
  • What is HAART (Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy)?

Collaborations

As the slogan of the Foundation states, The March of AIDS Identifies No Boundary. AIDS is a worldwide disease instead of a local one and therefore the Foundation does not just work alone. The Foundation is found to be actively cooperating with other organizations in HKSAR, mainland China and other countries in the world to promote AIDS education.

  • In HKSAR - the Foundation joined as a member of the Coalition of AIDS Service Organizations' in 1998. It also jointly organizes large-scale programmes with other commercial, public or non-governmental bodies in Hong Kong.
  • In Mainland China - the Foundation has been working closely with its mainland counterparts since 1996. On the one hand, mainland colleagues are provided the opportunities to attend exchange sessions and to experience firsthand the HIV/AIDS prevention work in Hong Kong. On the other hand, the Foundation periodically sends staff to mainland China to educate their front-line workers and has trained, up to now, 3000 participants from over 20 provinces. To make their experiences beneficial to others, the Alumni Association - China Training Project was set up in 2005 through which alumni of China Training Project reinforces and promotes what they have learned by means of regular gatherings and visits.
  • In Other Countries - the Foundation attended regional and international conferences in oder to establish close working relationship and alliance. It attended the International AIDS Conference in 2002 and 2004. In 2002, the Foundation organized a satellite symposium named A Global Response to the Problem of AIDS from Chinese Communities during which members of the Foundation suggested methods to fight against AIDS in the Chinese community. In 2004, the Foundation took part in the 7th Taipei Conference on HIV/AIDS and joined the Steering Committee Meeting on the development of Code of Good Practice for NGOs Responding to HIV/AIDS. The Foundation had once participated in the Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific during which a Global Chinese AIDS Network was proposed to strengthen the bonds between different counterparts in mainland China.

Voice of the volunteers

Volunteers agreed that AIDS patients should have equal opportunities and respect in society. Continuous fear, misunderstandings and prejudice will only lead to more widespread of AIDS and sufferings. Volunteers believed that every effort counts in fighting AIDS.

Volunteers also mentioned that they have become more optimistic towards life. They learn to treasure every day rather than taking things for granted.

Slogan of the voluntary group:

Your participation is a driving force for curbing the spread of AIDS and building a caring community.

Volunteers will go through orientations, training workshops about aids and counselling. Currently, the volunteers gather on a regular basis and help run the foundation's help hotline, promote the education of aids, as well as organize fund raising activities.

Their most recent task is to prepare for the World Aids Day, which is held annually on 1st December.

Volunteers can participate in -

  • Project Companion - After training, selection and matching, eligible volunteers will be assigned to provide direct services such as escort, care and emotional support to patients.
  • Promotion and Education Team (PET) - Volunteers will help organize and implement HIV/AIDS promotion and education programs to the general public.
  • Healthy Young Ambassadors (HYA) - The Healthy Young Ambassadors are a group of tertiary students whose responsibilities are to promote peer education on HIV/AIDS. The HYA will work with different youth organizations to plan educational activities for different schools and youth bodies.
  • Coordination of Mass Educational and Charity Programs - volunteers help coordinate different task forces in the programs.

Financial status

The Hong Kong AIDS Foundation is a registered charitable institution which depends on funding and donations. According to the annual reports of year 2002-2005, the Foundation received funding mainly from the AIDS Trust Fund, donations and income from the seed fund. The greatest contribution in terms of monetary value comes from the seed fund, in which the capital donation came from the Hong Kong SAR Government and The Hong Kong Jockey Club. The Foundation has a continued annual trend of current expenses exceeding current income and therefore relies on the income brought by the seed fund as well as investments which contributes to surpluses at the end of March throughout the years. The top three donors were AIDS Trust Fund (愛滋病信託基金委員會), Maryknoll China Service and Levi Strauss & Co.in the year 2004-2005. Also, the Foundation is exempted from Hong Kong profits tax as it is a registered charitable institution. The fund is mainly spent on various projects and activities, library development, education and publicity programs and other administrative costs like salaries for full time staff. The percentage of expenses spent on staff and allowances has remained high throughout the years - 69% of the total amount of expenditure was allocated under the category of staff and allowances in the year 2005. It is Mr Stephen W.T. Liu, JP who guides and gives advises to the Finance Committee.

References

External links

International organizations

AIDS-specific government organizations in Hong Kong

AIDS-specific non-government organizations in Hong Kong

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