Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, Hong Kong SAR
Hong Kong has a population of approximately 7.5 million people, has recorded around 2,600 cases of COVID-19 and managed to avoid a lockdown while containing COVID-19. We find out how Hong Kong AIDS Foundation has been dealing with COVID-19.
Hong Kong AIDS Foundation (the “Foundation”) was established in 1991 and is a non-governmental social service organisation. The mission of the Foundation is to limit the spread of HIV infection in the community and provide support for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Before COVID-19 outbreak, the Foundation organised educational booths and talks, service groups, outreach services and voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) services to the community, especially the community of men who have sex with men (MSM), High risk group (HRG), ethnic minorities and People living with HIV (PLHIV).
With the effect of COVID-19 outbreak, the Foundation has transformed our educational events, support services and VCT services to virtual delivery (i.e. e-workshops) and by means of electronic communications / mobile apps (i.e. WhatsApp, LINE etc.); the Foundation has arranged drugs collection on behalf of patients at designated clinics and drug delivery for overseas patients. We have also launched the Self-test kits to supplement our face-to-face testing service; also, it serves as an alternative to service users.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, some of our service users have experienced further worsening of mental health due to social-distancing measures and / or loss of income arisen therein.
Besides, some of our service users were not able to attend medical follow-up on time and resulted in breach of drug compliance.
Our staff members, volunteers and service users are adherent to the health guideline issued by the government from time to time; while we also encourage our staff members, volunteers and service users to maintain regular lifestyle for mental health. If they have come across any mental problems, we encourage them to seek for professional assistance.
The “new normal” varies from usual norms operating before COVID-19 outbreak; the switching to the “new normal” requires extra resources (e.g. IT equipment) and manpower to cope with both physical and virtual delivery of services. We would continue to enhance our service in the virtual format in place of physical ones; and we would arrange our staff to collect medicines on behalf of service users who have difficulties in attending medical follow-up in person.
In view of existing limited funding from the Hong Kong Government, the transition can neither be conducted in one go nor comprehensively. We would need to enhance co-operations with overseas HIV/AIDS organizations for the provision of all-rounded services.
During this difficult yet prolonged period while it seems that the COVID-19 is still an ongoing to threat, we have been supported by some corporates and pharmaceutical companies. We must genuinely convey our thankfulness to these sponsors for their timely support. In future, we shall ask for the Hong Kong SAR government for more funding definitely to be put on extra resources to enhance our IT services, virtual production, staff members’ efficiencies to perfect our patient services as well as HIV education (inclusive of VCT service).