APCOM HERO Awards 2022’s honourees list

By November 15, 2022 December 2nd, 2022 Newsroom, Regional, What We Do

HIV HERO Honourees

Supported by our Community Partner – APN+

Thelge Tiran Daison Edward Peiris

Sri Lanka

1. Tell us about yourself

My name is Thelge Tiran Daison Edward Peiris. I was born in 1968 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. During my youth I decided to migrate to South Korea for employment with the hope of creating a brighter future for myself and my family. I worked as a powder coating painter for 9 years at a factory in Seoul, South Korea. I was very ignorant about HIV and how it is transmitted. During my stay in South Korea in 2004, I was scheduled for a surgery. During the blood sample testing prior to the surgery, the hospital authorities had conducted an HIV test on my blood sample without my permission. Two weeks later, South Korean immigration officials came and arrested me and took me away forcefully and deported me to Sri Lanka after saying that I have AIDS. I had no idea what AIDS was. When I came to Sri Lanka, I was advised by a doctor to join Lanka Plus which is an organization for PLHIV. Ever since, I have been working in the field of HIV/AIDS to ensure that the rights of PLHIV are safeguarded.

2. Tell us about your work

Until I was deported to Sri Lanka from South Korea in 2004, I worked as a powder coating painter. After coming back to Sri Lanka, I joined the Lanka Plus organization and committed myself to working full time for the welfare of PLHIV and LGBTQI in Sri Lanka. I serve in the capacity of a field coordinator and work closely with the grassroots level of the PLHIV and LGBTQI communities. I have conducted hundreds of family visits and hospital visits, where I was able to listen to the grievances of the PLHIV, LGBTQI and their families. I have taken part in meetings convened by the National STD/AIDS Control Program, other CBOs, CCM, UN agencies and other organizations and represented the PLHIV community and voiced their issues. As a part of the HIV awareness raising activities, I have spoken as a positive speaker and shared my experiences as a PLHIV with the public and have also spoken on TV and to newspapers about PLHIV. I have worked tirelessly to fight for the rights of PLHIV and LGBTQI and spoken against stigma and discrimination faced by these communities.

3. What one achievement you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of?

During my eighteen-year service at Lanka Plus, I have fought for the rights of PLHIVs at every opportunity that I got. As a result of my efforts and of those in Lanka Plus and other organizations who work in the field of HIV/AIDS, we were able to convince the ILO to create a policy that safeguards the working rights of PLHIVs in Sri Lanka which was adopted by the Labour Department of Sri Lanka. This ensures that PLHIVs have a legal support if they face discrimination at the workplace.

4. What do you find most challenging about your work?

As a part of my work in raising HIV awareness and fighting for LGBTQI rights, I have campaigned in both urban and rural areas. While it is easier to spread the message of HIV in urban settings and the people are more eager to learn about HIV and LGBTQI rights, the picture is somewhat different in many rural settings where some regressive cultural notions are prevalent among the rural communities and perpetuated by their politicians and religious leaders dissuade the people from listening to our messages.

5. What do you do to recharge your battery?

Whenever I lose my motivation towards the work I do, I always remind myself of the predicament that I faced in my early days where I was heavily discriminated against due to my PLHIV status. This enables me to remind myself of my purpose which is to fight against stigma and discrimination faced by PLHIV and ensure that they enjoy equal rights as any other person.

6. What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it?

As a result of my short temper and anger towards the injustice faced by PLHIV and LGBTQI, I used to act hastily and later realize that I should have approached issues in a calmer manner. However, as I am always committed to the higher purpose of serving the PLHIV and LGBTIQ communities, I remind myself of my past mistakes and tell myself of the importance to be more tactful in my approach.

7. You have been nominated for the Community Hero category of the HERO Awards. What was your reaction?

I was delighted. This is because I believe that this is a victory not just by me but also for the PLHIV community in Sri Lanka.

8. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what hopeful message would you like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific?

Even though COVID-19 is still with us, we do have a vaccine that will protect us from it. Therefore, as long as every PLHIV takes the vaccine and sticks to their daily ARV regimens we, as a community, can remain strong and continue to fight for our rights.

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