Opening Ceremony Speech   Frica Chia Iskandar

Opening Ceremony Speech Frica Chia Iskandar

For the past 20years we have been fighting against HIV/AIDS, Stigma, Discrimination, the death itself…And struggling to keep alive.

So many changes have been made and yet…. Nothing has changed in millions of lives of our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers, son and daughters, life of our friends, our colleagues and ourselves. I have been witnessing our activists struggling to defend our rights and dignity as human beings. And yet…. Last week, I was just refused by dentist because of my HIV status.

My friend, who is supposed to be here, standing with us right now….A month ago, he broke his leg on a motorbike accident…. Was also refused by his orthopedic doctor, his surgery was canceled, after he disclosed his HIV status, a few hours before the operation. We are treated as a disease not a person, every time we disclose our status.

What would happen when I return to my country and my face was shown in the news- paper…. for whatever reasons…. And I’m losing my chance to spend the rest of my life treated as an equal human being? I’m also afraid, while I’m standing here, disclosing my status, taking my chances to be stigmatized and decriminalized and still…. I’m standing here…. Why? Because I’d like to take humanized the approach. How could we fight stigma and discrimination….if….We….ourselves are avoiding it?

Most people Living with HIV/AIDS face multiple levels of discrimination….not only HIV but also their perceived identities such as sex workers, MSM, IDU, migrant workers and other vulnerable population. And I’m standing here before you…. representing the new face of HIV infection…. young women.

S&D is so real that we are not only afraid of the virus in our blood but also the virus in people’s mind.

The effort to change the policy, particularly in HIV field…. Our commitment that has been scratched on the paper…. Frequently do not translate into real protection for HIV positive people. For instance, we have been campaigning for Access to treatment and yet… The access is not totally accessible.

We need to involve the actions, not only from health sectors, but also to harmonize the actions from the finance dept, donors, social/welfare dept, governments, UN, bi & multi- lateral agencies, public and private sectors, media and civil society organizations. Get the Community to be involved so that we are not being set up to fail. Let see us as equal partners, with mutual respects and listen to each other. Let’s create Harmonization, good coordination, no duplication and let’s make the slogan that’s saying, ‘ let’s make the money work for the people.’ is not a slogan but a reality.

This conference is a hope…. a hope for us…. now and future.

 Every conference…. We show the face of PLWHA, but I know…. For whoever stood before me, standing here with me…. Was not, is not and will not beg for mercy. We are standing here, encourage ourselves with all the consequences that comes along with it to give our contribution towards better solution. We are here as the bridge. We are here changing our roles. We are here as your friends.

 I’m here also representing the 7 sister networks, who is the co-sponsor for ICAAP. 7 sister networks are including, APN+, AHRN, APNSW, ASAP (AIDS Society in AP), AP-Rainbow (who works for Lesbians, Gay, bisexuals and transsexuals), CARAM-Asia (who works with migrant workers) and APCASO (AP Council of AIDS Service Organization). 7 sister networks was established around 3-4 years ago in KL. We decided to come together because we know that by coming together.... Our voices are strengthen and unified…. And we are aware that no body or agencies can do this alone.

As co-sponsors, we try our best to get community to the conference…. make community visible….as the indication of all our effort. This is the opportunity for us o be able to speak out. To bring up the crucial challenges and roles in local & national level so we can learn…. This is our chance for mutual learning and sharing….

Above all, we would like to thanks our Japanese counterparts for hosting this 7th ICAAP, and providing us the space. On behalf of 7sister networks, I’d like to welcome you to this 7th ICAAP. Wish you all a productive conference. And let’s make Asia Pacific regions, a home for 2/3 of world populations…. a safe home for every one of us.

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