A good platform for increasing Aids awareness
The Lan Kwai Fong Carnival is all about friends, family and fun, but it also makes a good platform on which to raise awareness of important social issues.
'The carnival can definitely help to reduce the Aids stigma,' said Loretta Wong Wai-kwan of Aids Concern. 'We are privileged to receive such enormous support from the LKF Association and its tenants and members.
'It is crucial to our society that Aids is not a taboo. Joining in this festival means that we can talk about Aids in a high-profile way. The business sector can talk about Aids and families can talk about it too. People think Aids can only be mentioned in certain settings, such as schools or hospitals. But Aids, safer sex, and acceptance can be mentioned every day and everywhere.'
Many people living with HIV/Aids said that they were not able to talk to their families or friends about living with the disease. They worry about the stigma and discrimination. This is an important barrier encountered by Aids Concern in its daily work.
People may worry about being infected by HIV - the virus which causes Aids - but fear of discrimination prevents them from even having an HIV blood test. In Hong Kong, many people find out about their HIV status at a late stage. This poses many challenges to medical professionals and organisations such as Aids Concern in prevention and the provision of timely medical care. Families who have HIV-positive members may feel isolated and not know where to seek help.
According to the Department of Health, there have been 3,822 recorded cases to date in Hong Kong. In the last quarter, there were 121 newly reported cases, which means at least one newly reported case every day.
Aids Concern provides support and care for those who are infected. Services include a soup delivery programme, and free transport to medical appointments for those who have disabilities. The charity also provides a counselling service, support groups and peer educators, and hopes for more comprehensive sex education in schools.
'The Lan Kwai Fong Street Carnival sets a great example in China and [elsewhere in] Asia in demonstrating how Aids and safer-sex messages can be incorporated in a public event,' said Ms Wong.
Besides the 280 Aids Concern volunteers who will be helping at the carnival, the charity will host an education booth, a games stall and an information booth. 'We want to create a supportive environment in our society, so that people who are infected and affected by the disease will know that there are people who still care about them,' Ms Wong said. 'We must dismiss the misconceptions about this disease.'
She said the partnership with the festival was successful. 'This will be the talk of the town. Please support us by visiting the booth.'