Posts Tagged 'HIV'

Postponed agian! Yes! Once agian!

With much regret, we have to inform you that, the Candlelight Memorial Event which was scheduled to happen on the 23rd (Sunday) May has been postponed once again without a decision on an alternative date due to the prevailing weather condition and the postponement of the National Victory Day Celebrations organized by the Government of Sri Lanka at the Galle Face Green.

On behalf of the National Youth Coalition of Sri Lanka,  we would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused due to the postponement of the event for the second time. We will keep you guys posted on the latest developments. Please pass the message to your friends, family and contacts on the change of the event. Write to us for more information at:


There’s nothing that can’t be done if we raise our voice as one!

On behalf of the National Youth Coalition of Sri Lanka on Sexual & Reproductive Health and its affiliated organizations it’s with great pleasure that, we invite you and your respective organization to be a part of the International Candlelight Memorial Event 2010 to be held at the Galle Face Green on Sunday, May 23rd.

In an effort to raise the bar on Sri Lanka’s response to HIV & AIDS, a group of local organizations,  actively work in the field of HIV & AIDS, Sexuality and Sexual Reproductive Rights (SRH) have come together to form one collective voice! This coalition who have adopted the slogan ‘Together We Are the Solution’ as their mantra, believes in consistent and clear messages in terms of advocacy and awareness on HIV & AIDS, Sexuality and SRH.

Whilst Sri Lanka remains “a low prevalence” country HIV & AIDS infections are on the rise, 137 new infections were reported in 2009. Moreover, if we are to learn the lessons from other South Asian nations like India, a country that has a “low prevalence” of HIV should strive to remain a “low prevalence” country. Awareness, education and advocacy are needed now!

The HIV & AIDS response thus far in Sri Lanka has been focused mainly on most at risk populations (MARPS) e.g. Commercial sex workers, Intravenous Drug users, trishaw drivers, beach boys, etc. however the coalition believes that all populations matter, especially the youth, if we are to arrest the spread of HIV in our country. The marginalization of MARPS, the stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV (PLHIV) results from the silence and ignorance that surrounds issues related to HIV, sex and sexuality.

The coalition wants to go beyond isolated workshops, events that spring up around World AIDS Day, and seeks to challenge the young people and not so young people of our country to LEARN MORE! STAND UP! & SPEAK OUT! To remove the culture of silence and fear that surrounds HIV, sex and sexuality and to move towards and equitable society for all.

With the technical and financial support from FPA Sri Lanka and Standard Chartered Bank in Sri Lanka, Together We Are The Solution is to have its program at the Galle Face Green on the 23rd of May 2010.

A team of volunteers from across the island will be trained in handling the event and activities, as Together We Are the Solution believes in clear and consistent messaging in their education and awareness programmes. Volunteers will first be trained in Colombo at the FPA Sri Lanka, 37/27, Bullers Lane, Colombo 07 on the 23rd May. The programme at the Galle Face Green will commence at 3.00 p.m. on the 23rd May culminating with the candlelight memorial at 7.30 p.m. in order to commemorate the people who lost their lives due to HIV and AIDS and was stigmatized as a result of their HIV status.

read the complete press release here

together we are the solution!

So these are the activities planned for the 16 May (Sunday) at the Galle Face Green;

Refresher Programme for the Volunteers.

A short refresher programme will be done at the Galle Face Green itself to polish up the existing knowledge base within the coalition. Resources within the coalition of organizations and individuals will be used with no additional cost. The programme will commence at 12 noon along with lunch and will be of about 2 to 3 hours in duration.

A volunteer group of about 30 or more individuals are willing to be a part of this refresher programme. All material developed during the campaign last year will be used for this purpose.

One-on-one awareness raising programme.

Once the volunteers refresh their knowledge on the subject matter, they will start a one-on-one awareness campaign in the entire area. They will talk to the general public by giving out brochures and leaflets and there by generate interest to be receptive to information. Once they talk to them, the volunteers will pin a red ribbon to symbolize that, they have been given information related to HIV and AIDS.

The key to success in this activity is that, the more people you reach the higher the impact would be. Thus, the volunteers are encouraged to speak to more and more people and specifically the influential people in the surrounding such as the three-wheeler drivers, military personnel, etc.

Disruptive Theatre.

Disruptive theatre can grab the attention of the general public in seconds and it makes people think of their lives as they might not be aware the intention of the theatre and what’s actually happening. This avoids theatre being considered as just merely for entertainment. It is much easier and effective to give messages in this form rather than street drams and other tools.

Wesak Lantern making and lighting them along the Galle Road.

Since it’s the Wesak season and people are attracted to places where lanterns are being made and displayed, we believe that using Wesak lanterns to give a message on the candlelight memorial event. In other words, this will be the centre of attraction.

We intend to bring around forty readymade lanterns and leave it in the location while have an area where volunteers would sit and would be making more lanterns then and there. Soon after the public being caught their attention the volunteers would invite them to join them and make more lanterns. These lanterns will be decorated with red ribbons, etc. Any one is free to make any kind of lantern with the available resources.

Once the lanterns are made, those will be hung along the Galle Road and will be lit by the general public itself around 7.30 p.m. we would also invite key people like the Officer-in-charge of the Colombo Fort Police station, military personnel present in the area, etc to be a part of the entire event.

We believe that, these lanterns would give us a chance to commemorate the people who lost their lives due to HIV and AIDS and was stigmatized as a result of their HIV status. Also it would add more colour and glamour to the event. As mentioned earlier, this would be the centre of attraction at the venue.

Involvement of Celebrities.

We in tend to invite various celebrities and well known people to be a part of the event and help us out to talk to people, distribute brochures and pin red ribbons. This is done to ensure the fact that, HIV and AIDS can be infected by any person and it’s extremely all right to get involved and be activist in helping the others to protect themselves. We believe that, people would open up to well known personalities and would be much more receptive to information.

The celebrities and the known figures coming in for the event would be asked to act completely unaware of a planned event to make it much more interesting and spontaneous. They would pretend to be that, either they came to Galle Face randomly or saw something happening and was attracted. The public should not be aware that they were invited to the venue specifically for a event or so.

If anyone have contacts of people whom you could convince to come, please do so and let us know.

Banners and t-shirts with messages on HIV and AIDS.

All banners printed earlier for our previous campaign would be used for this purpose to keep the cost at a minimal. However, we are intending to print some t-shirts with messages on it and also as few give-a-ways for most supportive individuals in the location.

I have also attached the proposal with the budget in this email. Please go through and give comments. Also let us know if anyone knows of anyone who could fund this.

That’s about it.

So join us on the 16th and help us out!

the NYC highly condemn the act of Castle Hospital for Women in Colombo

The National Youth Coalition (NYC) of Sri Lanka on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and all the affiliated organizations of the coalition highly condemn the act of the Castle Hospital for Women in Colombo for the unfair and inhuman treatment meted out to the HIV positive person by hospital staff on 19th April 2010.

Issuing a Media/ Press release the NYC also states that, they are greatly shocked and regret this act of the hospital staff and would like to emphasize the fact that, more than anything this act has highlighted the manner a young person being refused access to health care and treatment reflects the future generation of this country being at risk. “Youth are not only the future of this country, but today’s citizens”.

You can download the original state ment here

Castle Hospital for Women, discriminates HIV+ woman!

The President of the Positive Women’s Network (PWN+) in a letter to the Director General of Castle Hospital, Borella highly criticize the hospital and its staff for refusing and discriminating a HIV+ women who was transferred by the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) for further treatment.

The PWN+ President also states in her letter to the Director General that, refusing to treat a Person Living with HIV (PLHIV) is punishable offence set by the Constitution of Sri Lanka and has violated a Human Right for treatment and care.

The letter has also been copied to His Excellency the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, who is also the Chairperson of the National AIDS Committee. You can download the original letter to the Director General of the Castle Hospital by clicking here.

“Empowering People, Strengthening Networks” — 9th ICAAP opens

The President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Hj. Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has officially opened the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), which this year takes place in Bali, Indonesia from 9-13 August under the theme “Empowering people, strengthening networks”.

At the opening ceremony, Mr JVR Prasada Rao, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Asia and the Pacific, has delivered a speech on behalf of UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr Michel Sidibé calling for the establishment of enabling environments and supportive social norms necessary to deliver a future generation free of HIV.

The Congress has drawn thousands of people together for five days of discussion around the AIDS response in the Pacific and across Asia. Together they will discuss a wide range of issues and contexts for the AIDS epidemic in these regions including mobility and migration, injecting drug use, human rights as well as gender.

According to Mr Rao “There will be evidence-based discussion on whether Universal Access can be an achievable goal by 2010 for many countries in Asia and the Pacific. Every facet of the epidemic and the region’s responses are featured in the wide array of session and activities.”

IMr Rao continued, “What is really impressive is that the conference will showcase the immense progress made by community groups, working together and in partnership with government and other partners, in spearheading the response in many countries in the Asia Pacific region.”

Congress Programme

The event, which takes place every two years, is broad in scope as it includes 24 symposia, 32 skills-building workshops, and 75 satellite meetings. Some 349 abstracts have been accepted by the programme committee for 64 sessions of oral presentations, and 1932 abstracts accepted for poster presentations. The other main goals of the event are to empower individuals and strengthen networks in the regions to effectively respond to AIDS.

Young people and women

The Bali Youth Force (BYF), a coalition of youth networks and organizations that has collective representation in all Asia & Pacific countries, encouraged significant youth participation in the 9th ICAAP.

UNAIDS Secretariat and its Cosponsors will participate and lead a wide number of events including the launch of a new report, HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia, that highlights the increased risk of HIV infection by women engaged in long-term relationships.

HIV epidemic in Asia and Pacific

According to the Independent Commission on AIDS in Asia (2008), AIDS remains the most likely cause of death and loss of work days among people aged 15 to 44.

ICAAP9 - 3An estimated 5 million people in Asia were living with HIV in 2007 according to 2008 report on the global AIDS epidemic. The several modes of HIV transmission present in the region, via sex work, injecting drug use, and unprotected sex between men; make Asia’s epidemic one of the most diverse in the world. The Pacific region’s epidemics are relatively small with an estimated 74 000 people living with HIV across Oceania in 2007.

The Chaos Within… ‘Irida Pola’

Anuradhapura. The city of kings. Forgotten and re-remembered ruins. Temples and trees offering the devout all they desire… even peace. Just for a moment. Lost in the smells and bells of burning coconut oil and flowers that decay slowly as their fragrance drifts on a quiet wind from nostril to nostril…

Anuradhapura Sunday Market (Irida Pola). Screeching vendors. Riotous colour. Where sickly smells of fresh and rotting fruit compete. Stagnant pools of floating fish scales. Life milling together with life as bargains are sought and bags bulge, misshapen with produce. Into this chaos descended 52 TWATS (31 TWATS from the Anuradhapura district, and 21 TWATS from Colombo, who being the twats they are, had traveled for five hours in a sardine can on wheels).

The Sunday market or ‘Irida Pola’ is not just a melting pot… it is a cauldron of gooey, lumpy, tasty, nasty Sri Lanka. It is a frontline. It is where people are! A place where we can tick the boxes of young and old and everything in between… there is no better place to engage with unwitting ignorance and related prejudice. Fifty two twats were soon lost within, finding their way, probing and questioning and taking HIV to the Sunday shopper, when she least expected it.

Would they be reluctant to participate in quizzes? Would they fling our leaflets into the gutter? Would they wear a red ribbon to support people living with HIV? Would they understand?

These were our fears… our concerns, and in the end our realities that day. People were rushed and did not always stop to fill the quiz. People grabbed flyers reflexively and some did find their way to a crumpled grave on the pathway. And as for wearing a ribbon… here was our greatest challenge of the day. It was as if the pin we were using was tipped with HIV and that we were there with the express purpose of sticking it into them. The myth of HIV filled injections lying predatorily on seats in cinemas and buses have had their desired effect.

But the twats continued undeterred, rising to this challenge as only a twat can in the face of cultural excuses and hurriedness – need to get home! Questionnaires started to fill up. Even questions that included anal sex were ticked. Those expecting another mundane promotion on a leaflet were instead confronted with GET TESTED for HIV! And soon there were these ribbons that fluttered on vendors and shoppers like little crimson butterflies.

The disruptive theatre teams pushed forward. Questioning and arguing and creating a general stir that allowed for crowds to gather and listen to modes of transmission, myths, the possibility of living full lives with HIV, the sadness of stigma and discrimination.

In the end we had close to one thousand questionnaires to take home from a footfall of thousands. Nothing? Something? A real beginning. The beginning of our Pola Strategy. A strategy that will be refined. A strategy that will allow us to engage with real people. If we are to change perceptions and dispel myths, in the end there is nothing better than a discussion, over a cup of tea or even the sweet juice of an orange king coconut. People listen more when a face is before them, a face that is passionate, and faces that clearly believe it is worth spending their Sunday talking to other faces about HIV. Despite the hurriedness, despite the culture question, we found a willingness to listen… an acceptance that WE need to know more about HIV. Not one twat experienced any rejection beyond a shake of the head, or feigned deafness.

And so… as if by accident, the ‘Irida Pola’ campaign has just begun. Every city, town village has a market day, be it Sunday or another day of the week… now imagine us hiring out a space too at this market, where we put on display our wares… be it counselors, or necklaces made at IDH, or IEC material or condoms (under the table to be dispensed like drugs until the day comes that we can dispense them over the counter), where we fan out and infect others with our enthusiasm and passion and knowledge… and why limit it to sexual and reproductive health? Imagine what a team of twats can do for this country by connecting with real people, by using tools like disruptive theatre to address prejudices beyond HIV? And most importantly… to LISTEN to what people who go to the ‘Irida Pola’ have to say… because it is in listening that we learn what we need to say.

It helps being a twat. You never know what you may stumble on to…

Hans Billimoria

RSS International Women’s Health Coalition

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