Medicine Subsidies for HIV/AIDS Sufferers
Bringing warmth and renewed hope to HIV/AIDS Sufferers
AIDS/HIV sufferers are often strongly stigmatized by society due to a lack of awareness by the latter. As early as towards the end of 1998, on the basis of respect for life, Tzu Chi established cooperation with Communicable Disease Centre (CDC), to assist impoverished AIDS/HIV sufferers with the costs of their expensive medications. For each referral case, a home visit team will personally visit the patient to make an assessment, and eligible cases will receive medicine subsidies ranging from $100 to $1,500 from the Foundation.
Tzu Chi extends its help to AIDS/HIV patients regardless of their race and religion. For over 10 years, the Foundation gave out more than S$2 million in AIDS/HIV medicine subsidies, and is currently CDC’s largest sponsor of medicines among the VWOs. In 2016, Tzu Chi was conferred the “Red Ribbon Award” by Action for AIDS (Singapore), in recognition of its assistance for AIDS/HIV sufferers in Singapore.
Tzu Chi volunteers call the AIDS/HIV beneficiaries “Friends of the Heart Lotus” ─ the lotus flower represents purity, kindness, and gratitude. They pay them monthly visits and care for them like family. The Foundation also organised gatherings where patients and their families were invited to share their experiences and had opportunities to give one another support. Such activities allowed this marginalised group to feel warmth and love, thus reigniting faith and hope in their hearts. Deeply touched and inspired, some of the patients started taking part in Tzu Chi’s activities, such as recycling, to pay the love forward.
In 2009, the Singapore Prison Service contacted Tzu Chi to request the Foundation to provide assistance for inmates suffering from AIDS/HIV. These inmates were unable to use their own or their family members’ Medisave to pay for their medical expenses, and neither were they eligible for Medifund. Thus, Tzu Chi started accepting referrals that required subsidies for AIDS/HIV medications from the Prison Service.
In order to fully care for the emotional needs of the incarcerated, Tzu Chi volunteers visit the inmates monthly to offer them care and support, sharing with the latter Tzu Chi’s spirit of Great Love and the teachings of Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms. Besides encouraging the inmates to do self-reflection while in prison, volunteers also help them to cultivate a righteous and positive mindset as well as good living habits.
After the inmates are released, Tzu Chi continues to follow up with them and provide them with emergency aid when needed. Many of these individuals are able to renew their lives, and it is heartening to see them visit the Jing Si Hall to share their success stories of securing employment, and how they have brought their lives back on track and rediscover hope in their lives.
Stories of Love and Compassion
13 Years of Friendship
As a result of contracting AIDS, Mr Cai started receiving medicine subsidies from Tzu Chi in 1999 until 2012, when he passed on. During the 13 years, whenever his health permitted, he would actively seek employment and take the initiative to terminate Tzu Chi’s aid, in the hope of earning his own livelihood. Tzu Chi had opened and closed his case twice, and had never ceased to support him. The friendship between him and the home visit volunteers deepened through the years, and it was this strong bond of friendship that gave Mr Cai the strength and courage to face his health challenges resolutely.
Former Prison Inmates Give Back
Some of the incarcerated inmates were deeply touched by the story of Tzu Chi Taiwan’s “Bamboo Bank Era”, and started saving in a bamboo coin bank to help others in need when they had settled into stable jobs after their release. Among them was an Indian resident, who would bring his bamboo coin bank back to the Jing Si Hall on his off-days and also take the opportunity to visit the social worker and volunteers, whom he treated as old friends.
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