Prince Harry started his Singapore visit by seeing a rapid HIV test at Action for AIDS’ mobile testing van. This is one of a number of services that that NGO provides in their work to fight HIV/AIDS infection along with providing support to people living with the condition.
While around 3,000 people are tested in the van every year, some people are afraid to come forward owing to the stigma that still surrounds the condition.
Ms Sumita Banerjee, the general manager of Action for AIDS said, ‘HIV related stigma and the ensuing discrimination continues to be pervasive and acts as the single largest deterrent towards young people getting tested and knowing their HIV status in Singapore. The stigma associated with HIV that stems from ignorance and it tends to affect young people disproportionately as they are still evolving emotionally. And being diagnosed with HIV could mean a breakdown of their social support networks accompanied by economic hardships and consequences on their career prospects among others.’
Professor Roy, President of Action for AIDS said, ‘HIV testing is central to any HIV programme. Knowing your HIV status is crucial to taking charge of your future. If you are HIV positive, you can be linked to care, the earlier treatment is started the better the prognosis and outcomes. If you are HIV negative, you can rest assured, and receive advice on the various ways to stay HIV uninfected.’
Action for AIDS is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to fighting AIDS/HIV infection in Singapore. It draws upon a network of healthcare professionals, advocates, educators and volunteers, to implement educational, testing, treatment and welfare programmes.
It was formed in 1988 in response to the global and local spread of HIV infection. The society has a staff of 10 and a volunteer pool of over 200. It is governed by a volunteer Executive Committee and funded through programmatic grants from government agencies as well as donations from both private individuals and businesses.
During the event Prince Harry met with Action for AIDS’ staff, volunteers and service users to understand more about the challenges facing the HIV-positive community in Singapore.
HIV/AIDS is an issue that is particularly close to the Prince’s heart and this visit comes the day before a fundraiser for the charity he established, Sentebale, which supports vulnerable children and young people living with HIV in Lesotho and southern Africa.
The Prince was accompanied by Professor Roy Chan, President of Action for AIDS, HE Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner to Singapore, and Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and Ministry of Health and the Chair of the National HIV/AIDS Policy Committee.
Prince Harry is visiting Singapore to play in the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup, an annual fundraising event which will be held in the country on 5 June. Sentebale is a charity that he had started together with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006. The aim of the charity is to become the leading organisation in providing psychosocial support for children living with HIV in Southern Africa.