Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Visit to SAHABAT

In this new collaborative research with INFORMM, ARI researchers had to learn many new things. Some of these new things require us to re-assess our own thought-processes. Prof Dr Rusli Ismail who is heading this collaborative research reminded us to get rid of our own negative perceptions and stigma about HIV patients and other drug users. Whilst in the most ideal situation we want them to "turn over and become normal again", in reality it is not easy for these hard core addicts to "turn over". Our forthcoming research collaboration focuses on "Intervention and Harm Reduction programs". For HIV patients, two of the most popular harm reduction programs are namely "methadone" and "Needle Syringe Exchange Program or NSEP". After our morning discussions with INFORMM researchers, we were taken to visit one of the NSEP centre in Kota Bharu - SAHABAT. SAHABAT is basically funded by two NGOs, Malaysian AIDS Council & Malaysian Aid Foundation. It was interesting to learn that SAHABAT employs youth, some of whom were former drug addicts themselves. Through SAHABAT, researchers are able to identify core factors that contribute to drug addictions. Our "harm reduction" research is an effort to "contain" the negative effect of HIV. Whilst our primary focus should always be to educate and to prevent our youngters from drug ediction, efforts should also be deliberately done to "contain" HIV from becoming an epidemic. After some briefing by staff at SAHABAT, we were shown their beautiful vegetable farm nearby. What a heartfelt experience. The visit to SAHABAT makes us realize that this forthcoming research is an important milestone and a significant corporate social responsibility on our part. After all, research is not just about publication. We will be just as happy if our findings contribute significantly to our society and our beloved country :]

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