Goan NGO Human Touch Foundation Calls to End AIDS
by 2030 through Strong Community Leadership
Goa’s leading fashion designer and Padmashree awardee Wendell Rodricks opened the 2nd Edition of Goa Red Ribbon Fest 2019 to mark the World AIDS Day on 30th November 2019 at 10.30 am. The fest, organised by youth-led NGO Human Touch Foundation, was held at Jardim Garcia de Orta, Panjim. Various creative programmes and competitions like face painting, human red ribbon formation, quiz competitions, red ribbon tree, a selfie contest, t-shirt painting and games were organised to create awareness on HIV prevention, stigma and discrimination.
In line with the theme for this year ‘Communities make the difference’, Human Touch Foundation also highlighted the difference these communities are making to end the HIV epidemic while drawing global attention to the need for their broader engagement in strengthening primary health care.
‘There is a need for society to stop stigmatising and discriminating people living with HIV and those belonging to the LGBTQ community,’ said Wendell, who further spoke on the need to see youth engage in safer sex and do routine HIV testing to prevent the transmission of HIV.
Ms Celina D’Costa spoke on her struggle from the time her husband and she were tested positive, and the lack of awareness about the illness leading to discrimination. She further spoke on the need to address issues surrounding HIV and ageing, given that treatment has made HIV a manageable chronic illness.
On the occasion Elizabeth Figer, an adolescent living with HIV, spoke passionately on behalf of the adolescent community on the need to curb stigma and discrimination, especially in the school setting.
‘Today, association with Human Touch Foundation as Program Assistant and as a peer supporter has given me a lot of confidence. I feel that someone who has experienced HIV can really explain how to overcome the challenges. The biggest one is dealing with the stigma of the disease – not just other people’s views – but all the questions: ‘Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?’ said Elizabeth in her speech.
‘I have come here with courage and determination to seek your help in ending HIV related stigma and discrimination. We are nearing four decades of HIV, and we are still lagging behind understanding HIV and choose to discriminate. This needs to end. Goa needs to set an example and lead the way,’ Elizabeth further said.
‘Communities of people living with HIV and community health workers have played a key role in the HIV response. There is a need to engage them and listen to their stories on making a difference and changing lives,’ said Peter F. Borges, Founder and CEO of Human Touch Foundation.
The festival was attended by students from various educational institutes. Rapid HIV testing was offered to young people with pre-test and post-test counselling.
The festival was organised with support from Commscope India Pvt Ltd, Youth LEAD, the Corporation of the City of Panaji, the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs, Lupin Welfare and Research Foundation and The Park, Calangute.