Goa’s leading ace fashion designer and Padmashree, 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, organized by youth-led organization, Human Touch Foundation was held at Jardim Garcia de Orta, Panjim featured various creatives and competitions like face painting, human red ribbon formation, quiz competitions, red ribbon tree, selfie contests, t-shirt paintings and games are organized 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 the 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 test, to prevent 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 a Program Assistant 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. That needs to end. Goa needs to set an example and lead the way.”, she 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 the difference and changing lives, says Peter F. Borges, Founder and CEO of Human Touch Foundation.
The festival was attended by students from the various educational institutes. Rapid HIV testing was offered to young people with pre-test and post-test counselling.
The festival is organised with support from Commscope India Pvt. Ltd, Youth LEAD, Corporation of City of Panaji, Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs, Lupin Welfare and Research Foundation and The Park, Calangute.