Former drug addicts to help AIDS campaign
FORMER drug addicts Mr Ho Ping-kwan and Mr Chan Kok-ping are preparing to take on the job of persuading others to stop abusing drugs and take precautions against AIDS.
Mr Ho, 52, and Mr Chan, 29, are among the first batch of 12 volunteers in a pilot scheme run by the working group on AIDS prevention among drug users.
The volunteers graduated this week after a six-week training course, but details and the starting date for the pilot scheme have yet to be fixed.
The programme is regarded as important, even though only six intravenous drug users were reported to be HIV carriers in the territory.
The team will work to curb the spread of AIDS by urging drug addicts not to share needles and have safe sex.
The pair regarded it as their responsibility, saying they had managed to stay free of drugs for two years with the help of others.
Mr Ho said: ''We expect it will be difficult to change others' habits. Also, it is very embarrassing to approach strangers.'' Asked what methods would be used, Mr Ho said: ''It depends on the health of the drug addicts. If he has no money to buy drugs, he will be very irritated and not willing to listen.'' He said he would persuade drug addicts to give up the habit first and, if that failed, ask them not to share needles or use them only after they had been sterilised with boiling water or household bleach.
Mr Ho, who was an intravenous drug users for almost 30 years, admitted he did not know AIDS could be spread by the sharing of needles.
Both volunteers said they had benefited from the scheme as it further boosted their determination to get rid of drugs.
Mr Chan said he was prepared for the addicts not to listen to him, but he wanted to try.
He added this programme was more meaningful than others which urged people to give up drug abuse, since it also educated them about AIDS.
However, they pointed out that needle sharing was not popular in Hongkong as syringes only cost $1 each.
Mr Ho said Hongkong people were still conservative and their attitudes might make it difficult to persuade them to use condoms and have safe sex.
Mr Leung Ping-shing, programme secretary of the 2,000-strong Pui Hong Self-Help Association, estimated the total number of drug addicts at about 100,000.
Mr Leung, who helped in the search for volunteers, thought the programme could be expanded, adding that intravenous drug abuse was popular.
He said most drug addicts did not like to carry needles and bottles of bleach since they could be easily detected by the police.