By PHYLLIS HO and FOO JEAN-NI
WITH more people increasingly craving for luxury possessions nowadays, it’s rare to find those who would sacrifice a well-paying job to dedicate their lives for a good cause.
Well, Ezra Mohd Akbar, 24, did just that.
He gave up his lucrative career as an IT programmer to devote himself completely to fighting against HIV/AIDS.
“My previous job lacked human interaction, and even though the pay was good, it wasn’t fulfilling,” he said.
The research assistant at the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERIA) started advocating HIV/AIDS awareness three years ago.
“Although HIV has been around (for a long time), the misconception of how the disease is spread is still evident. So basically we’re trying to provide the public with the right information on HIV and AIDS.
“We’re still hearing cases where people with HIV are fired from jobs that don’t involve any possible situation for blood contact. For example, a financial analyst,” he said.
Ezra also hopes to reduce the stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV (PLHIV), as well as empowering the people themselves. “It takes two to tango. If we’re only focusing on the PLHIV, they might feel empowered but the community might not be able to accept them, so we have to engage both parties.
“Also, it’s just like the saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink’. What we do is to provide a path for the PLHIV so they can lead a better life. But if they want to remain trapped in self-stigma and self-discrimination, there’s nothing much we can do about it either,” said Ezra.
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero”, which essentially getting to zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths in the future.
Their vision might sound unrealistic to some, but Ezra is confident that with all the programmes and campaigns by the government, NGOs and even young people themselves, it is not impossible to “get to zero”.
“We might take a very long time to reach that level. It requires a lot of hard work, but why should we stop when it starts to get harder? The point is getting there,” he remarked.
Ezra has a message to all the young people out there: “Do your research, and have an open mind about the issue. If society’s perceptions are to be changed, it’s better to start with the younger people whose minds are still developing.”