I went to orientation sessions on April 13th and May 26th to work as a volunteer at Action for AIDS (Afa). The first session in April was a general overview of what the organisation does and the second one was a more specific seminar on how Anonymous Testing Service (ATS) functions and how volunteers can assist the organisation. Both sessions helped me understand the purpose and function of Afa and I reached to an understanding that they not only assist the patient in medically but also mentally and psychologically. The patient always talks to counsellors before and after taking the test because Afa understands the stigma around HIV/AIDS. Moreover, Afa has been organising educational events and campaigns not only to eliminate the stigma, but also to promote sex education because Singaporean schools fail to place a significance on this. Surprisingly, the number of HIV/AIDS patients has decreased significantly in recent years and I believe Afa’s work contributed tremendously to this.
In the first session, everyone introduced themselves and stated the reasons why they wanted to get involved in Afa. It was interesting because I did not realise that so many people with a various range of age, gender identity and occupation in Singapore were concerned about the stigma around gender and HIV/AIDS. One of the activity was to share their biggest regret in life and at the end, the coordinator explained that it is important to listen to people’s stories since counsellors at ATS have to be accepting of the patients and their stories. This made me realise the amount of responsibility expected of the volunteers.
During my research, I discovered that the Singaporean government is now partnering up with Afa. This illustrates the legitimacy of Afa and the rising credibility of their work. Especially after attending the orientation sessions, I understand why they are seen as legitimate. They take many criteria into consideration by ensuring the prevention of further spread of the disease and caring about the patients’ social and financial stress.
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