“Someone Like Me”: You’re not alone!
For me, I’ve known about World AIDS Day since I was very young. At least I know it falls on December 1. However, it is not because I personally know someone who suffers from it; it is only because my mum was born on December 1. But for many others who, unlike me, do not have mums with December 1 birthdays, the very idea of a World AIDS Day is a foreign concept. Typical responses to my question of “do you know what/when World AIDS Day is” include: “World what day now?” and “There is a World AIDS Day?”
Singapore has been a comparatively fortunate company when it comes to the “taboo” topic of HIV or AIDS, and we are all very thankful for that. But such fortune brings a particular issue to light: the perceived lack of avenues for sufferers to connect with each other and discuss these issues.
And Reckitt Benckiser’s power brand Durex is looking to change that. They have teamed up with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation to launch ‘Someone Like Me’, a global campaign for young people to rethink their sex education and, on a larger scale, to help shape a world free from HIV and AIDS.
The three-year campaign aims to destroy the myths and barriers that restrict a comprehensive sex education by starting a global conversation about sexual health, sex education and HIV awareness – a conversation that says, ‘you are not alone’, that ‘someone like me’ has the same questions, worries and concerns about sex as you do. Hopefully, with young people talking about sex, their experiences, opinions and worries openly, the HIV-prevention message will be integrated into the conversation as the campaign progresses.
Creating a platform to inform
Open communication has always been the essential catalyst for positive change, be it in politics, economics and other worldly topics, and it is no different for the issue of AIDS sufferers. MTV recognises that to encourage discussion, a platform needs to be set as a foundation for further information to be delivered and shared around the world. Volker Sydow, the Durex Global Category Director of Reckitt Benckiser, said, “Sexual health and sexual wellbeing are at the core of our organisations; MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Durex have a shared vision to improve sexual health for young people around the world and the energy, commitment and passion to make that happen.”
“With ‘#someonelikeme’, we are excited to provide to young people around the world a new and revolutionary platform to speak up, sharing their stories and fundamentally driving change for them to experience in their lifetime an HIV-free generation.”
Georgia Arnold, Executive Director of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, has high hopes for reconstructing positive sex lives for the youth of today. “For the past 15 years, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation has worked tirelessly to influence positive sexual behaviour among young people around the world in creative and innovative ways,” he said. “At MTV Staying Alive Foundation, we believe that this generation will change the course of the HIV epidemic, and are thrilled to be partnering with Durex on a campaign that will empower young people to do just that.”
Avin Tan – The face of courage
One of the key voices of this campaign comes in the form of Avin Tan. Avin has been with Action for AIDS (AFA) Singapore, a voluntary community-based organization dedicated to AIDS, for about five years now. He was diagnosed with AIDS four years ago and was understandably not ready to ‘come out’ as an AIDS sufferer in public immediately. That apprehension gave way to courage last year, as Avin finally lived his last day as an undisclosed AIDS sufferer and came out to the public as a spokesperson.
Coming out to the public was not as scary as it initially seemed to Avin. “It was a huge step for me before I came out,” he said, “but the moment I did, it was like a huge stone of burden was taken off my shoulders. I had expected the ‘backlash’ to be a lot worse, but it was surprisingly underwhelming. It was almost boring!”
Since then, he has been the spokesperson for AFA. He now strives to reach out to as many undisclosed AIDS sufferers as possible, hoping to give them the courage and strength, in any way possible, to carry on. “There are many support groups available for anyone to contact and find support, but it’s sad to see that many of them do not even know of these avenues of support. Our mission here is to let these people know that there ARE many ways to find help, or even just to have one more listening ear.”
This year’s inaugural campaign is only the beginning of a new era for AIDS sufferers, where discussion aims to increase exponentially and reach many more who needs help. To all the AIDS sufferers out there suffering in silence, just remember that we are available and more than willing to listen and to help in any way we can. Remember: you are not alone.
Text and images by Bjorn Teo
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