POSITIVE RESPONSE TO MALAYSIAN AIDS FOUNDATION RED RIBBON KOTA KINABALU GALA DINNER WILL BENEFIT MORE SABAHANS LIVING WITH HIV, OTHER CHRONIC DISEASES
KOTA KINABALU, SEPTEMBER 29, 2019 – More Sabahans stand to gain from the generosity of those who have contributed to the Malaysian AIDS Foundation Red Ribbon Kota Kinabalu Gala Dinner.
Corporate sponsors and donors, as well as individuals have responded positively to MAF’s call for help to aid people living with HIV and other chronic illnesses. The gala dinner was held in collaboration with the State Government of Sabah and aims to raise funds for the SAGA Health Access Programme (SHAPE).
SHAPE is an initiative to address the socio-economic challenges faced by patients with chronic illnesses in the rural region of Sandakan, Sabah. It was established by the Sabah AIDS Awareness Group Association (SAGA), the lead HIV/AIDS non- governmental organisation in the state based out of Sandakan in partnership with MAF.
The fundraising dinner raised a total of RM290,000.
Dubbed as the first gala of its kind in Kota Kinabalu, the prestigious affair was held on September 29 at Hilton Kota Kinabalu and guests were dressed in black tie attire, adorned by their extravagant gowns and dashing tux.
THE GALA DINNER
The gala dinner began with the arrival of YABhg. Toh Puan Datuk Seri Panglima (Dr.) Hajah Norlidah binti Tan Sri Datuk R.M. Jasni accompanied by Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman – Chairman of Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF), YB Datuk Frankie Poon Ming Fung – Minister of Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing, Dr Zaiton Yahya – President of Sabah AIDS Awareness Group Association (SAGA), Ms Linda Pecoraro – General Manager of Hilton Kota Kinabalu and YB Puan Vivian Wong Shir Yee – Sandakan MP and daughter of the Late Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt, former Minister of Health and People’s Wellbeing.
After the inspirational and heart-warming speeches emphasising the importance of treatment as prevention, access to healthcare and ending discrimination towards people living in HIV from Ms Linda Pecoraro, Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman and YB Datuk Frankie Poon Ming Fung, tokens of appreciation were given to Ms Linda Pecoraro of the Hilton Kota Kinabalu and YB Datuk Frankie Poon Ming Fung for their undivided support and contribution to the gala dinner. A special award in honour and remembrance of the Late Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt for his support and role in realising the SHAPE programme in its infancy was presented to his daughter YB Puan Vivian Wong Shir Yee.
Soon after the stage was lighten up by the performance of Sabah’s very own brilliant band, MusicWorks and the entertainment was amp’d up with the spectacular vocals of MAF’s own Red Ribbon Celebrity Supporter and Malaysia’s Queen of R&B/Soul Dayang Nurfaizah. An exquisite array of dishes for the gala dinner courtesy of Chef Shan of the Hilton Kota Kinabalu was served to perfection, nourishing the esteemed guests.
WHERE DO THE FUNDS END UP?
SHAPE initially started out to help people living with HIV to get access to treatment.
However, as words spreads among the local community in Sandakan where the programme was launched, SAGA begun to receive an overwhelming number of requests to to provide its services to other chronic illness patients. Besides covering those with HIV, it also helps those with cancer, thalassemia, renal failure, coronary complications and haemophilia from the rural regions of Sabah. There are currently 63 patients under SHAPE.
The funds from the gala will serve to help the patients with financial aid of up to RM150 to cover their expenses for when they go for their medical appointments, treatment or follow up sessions at healthcare centres in the urban areas. The monetary help given to the recipients has helped them out tremendously as many are poor and find the out-of-pocket expenses overwhelming. Additionally, SAGA has held peer-led support groups, workshops and counselling to empower them on the importance of adherence to treatment and taking care of one’s health.
There are plans to expand the programme beyond the Sandakan and Beluran districts to Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna.
MAF and SAGA are thankful for the support and contributions of all those involved. Looking ahead, MAF hopes that the Sabah state government will continue to support its efforts in giving more access to treatment so more HIV patients will have a suppressed viral load.
“The Sabah State Government has always prioritised the quality of healthcare for the people of Sabah. We believe in quality healthcare that caters to all people regardless of socio-economic background, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
Everyone is entitled to a healthy life that allows them to contribute to the country.
“Access to healthcare is a crucial part of that and we are putting more emphasis on efforts to close the gap between our rural and urban citizens and the lifesaving medical necessities they need. We appreciate and respect the efforts of NGOs like SAGA in taking the initiative to do something to help the less fortunate. Rest assured, the State government will continue supporting them in their efforts.”
YB Datuk Frankie Poon Ming Fung, Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister
“It is a known fact that HIV is one of the most studied viruses in science and we have made great strides to the areas of prevention and treatment. But all these medical advances will come to naught if patients do not seek treatment or worse, are unable to because of a host of reasons including stigma and discrimination or are financially burdened. As a physician, it pains me to see patients who come in too late for treatment because this should not be happening in a time when there is medication that can help them.
“This is where organisations like SAGA come into play. Their work goes a long way in helping to make sure that not only people living with HIV but those with other illnesses have slightly less to worry about when it comes to the financial part of a medical condition. Their work also helps ensure that patients do not drop out of the system and fail to seek medical treatment simply because they cannot afford it.
“What we need now is concerted effort from all stakeholders to do their part in ending AIDS. Be it in raising funds, ensuring access to treatment or lessening stigma and discrimination.”
Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Chairman, Malaysian AIDS Foundation
“As a community healthcare provider and president of SAGA, my initial vision was to help the underprivileged communities living with HIV. The SHAPE initiative was born from my concern for marginalised groups that needed the access to HIV treatment for them to have a second chance in life. It brightens my day when I see my patients coming to thank me for helping and educating them about the importance medication and adherence.”
“SHAPE has since widened its coverage and we hope to help even more people in the future. I am sure that the money and awareness that we raise from this gala dinner will go a long way in helping others.”
Dr Zaiton Yahaya, President, Sabah AIDS Awareness Group Association.
“Hilton and the Malaysian AIDS Foundation has been partners in the mission to eradicate HIV and bring about awareness on the epidemic for the past seven years. In that span of time, I have come to learn a lot not only about the disease but of the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to end AIDS.”
“Our partnership with MAF has included numerous projects including the Girl Power Gala Dinner, Kuching Gala Dinner and the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award 2018. We hope that the Kota Kinabalu Gala Dinner will not be the end of this wonderful partnership as we are dedicated in giving back to the communities that we have served.”
Jamie Mead, Regional General Manager, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam