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MAF, Saga seek public support for poor patients' access to treatment

Last Update: 21/08/2019

SANDAKAN, Aug 22 -- The Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) and Sabah AIDS Awareness Group Association (Saga) are seeking public support for a gala dinner next month to raise funds for socio-economically challenged patients with HIV or other chronic illnesses seeking treatment in Sabah.

After a day of visiting patients identified through the Sabah Health Access Programme (Shape) here yesterday, Saga Programme Manager Zarina Yahya said Sabah needed a programme like Shape as it could help improve access to treatment of the patients, especially those residing far from government hospitals and health clinics.

"Shape was initiated by Dr Zaiton Yahya, the founder of Saga and a doctor herself, who saw the hardships that her patients had to face in order to arrive at the clinic for treatment.

"So, we launched the pilot project of Shape in Sandakan because we wanted to see how far it could reach out to those in need here and how much support we can get and it has been very good so far,” she said when met after the trip here.

Also present were Sandakan Member of Parliament Vivian Wong and MAF Executive Director Jasmin Jalil.

The pilot project for Shape was launched here last year involving 63 patients.

Zarina said with the success of the gala dinner known as the Red Ribbon KK Gala Dinner in Kota Kinabalu on Sept 29, Saga hopes the Shape programme could expand to other districts in Sabah such as Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna.

Further information on the Red Ribbon KK Gala Dinner can be obtained by contacting Saga and MAF, she added.

Meanwhile, Wong said she was grateful to join the trip to visit some of the patients identified by Shape, who received grocery items and financial assistance to ease their transportation costs to the hospital for treatment.

"Each family we met are living in poverty and I would definitely like to try to channel financial assistance, but sometimes, one time (financial assistance) is not enough. There needs to be long-term planning by the government to help people like them,” she said.

Wong noted that a mother of three children suffering from thalassemia, whom she visited, wanted a boat so she could go out to sea and catch fish, which could generate a business for herself and improve her family's economy, which currently relied on her husband's income as a security guard.

The Sandakan MP was also saddened by 12-year-old Cyle Addel has nose cancer, who had missed many school days to get treatment from the Duchess of Kent Hospital here, which is more than 40 km away from his home.

She also met a 57-year-old HIV positive patient who decided to live at a mosque in his village after learning that his drug addiction had resulted in him being diagnosed with HIV seven years ago.

Wong also stressed the importance of HIV awareness among the people as she found out on the trip that there were patients who understood the effects of untreated HIV infection, but realised too late how serious it was to bear.

Two women, both in their 40s, who were met on the trip, said they were HIV-positive when meeting their respective spouse, who were HIV-negative before marriage, but chose not to use any kind of protection when having sexual intercourse despite the spouse knowing the risk of being infected.



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