On The Road To Zero: How Jasmin Jalil Comes To Aid Those Afflicted With AIDS

Leadership

December 5, 2018 | BY Kathlyn D'Souza

Prior to joining the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and Malaysian AIDS Council, Jasmin was in the banking and finance industry for almost 12 years. His foray into helping HIV victims began when he volunteered with the foundation back in 2008 before joining as a full-time staff a year later. That was the start of his amazing journey, and through it, he developed the passion to help the People Living with HIV after seeing with his own eyes the hardship and suffering they face and the assistance they need to overcome stigmatisation against them from society. Currently serving as the Malaysian AIDS Foundation as executive director, Jasmin shares his story.

How did you get into working with the Malaysian AIDS Foundation?

My AIDS activism didn’t happen overnight. I was drawn to this path when one of my best friends was diagnosed with HIV. That was 10 years ago. Back then, I was naive and confused about the implications of his health condition, but I also knew that I had to do something about it. I wanted to stand by him and be there during his rough patch and ordeal. Due to my lack of understanding about AIDS, I genuinely believed that he was living on borrowed time and I was going to lose my best friend at any moment. 

So I tagged along to all the doctor's appointments, counselling sessions, support group meetings and all. This led to my chance encounter with Professor Dato' Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, who was then the Infectious Disease Specialist who attended to my friend. I became fascinated and impressed by the good work carried out by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and Malaysian AIDS Council and decided to sign up as a volunteer. Day by day, I developed greater passion, compassion and commitment towards the cause. That was when I decided my calling would be to help the underprivileged people living with HIV. I became a full-time employee in 2009 and has never looked back since.

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Due to my lack of understanding about AIDS, I genuinely believed that he was living on borrowed time and I was going to lose my best friend at any moment. 


 

What are some of the greatest moments in your career so far?

In my 10-year career in the AIDS industry, there were many great moments that I consider the highlights of my career. These include:

The birth of the Red Ribbon Celebrity Supporters Programme which brings together a distinguished list of the nation’s best artistes and celebrities such as Fahrin Ahmad, Bob Yusoff, Dayang Nurfaizah, Dato' Aaron Aziz, Dato' Seri Siti Nurhaliza and many more who voluntarily dedicate their time and energy in supporting the HIV/AIDS cause.

The success of HIV and Islam Programme where we successfully carried out advocacy programmes with the Islamic authorities. This is at both Federal and State level on the need to embrace harm reduction, a public-health approach in managing the AIDS epidemic, which used to be considered a taboo and goes beyond the tenet of Islam.

The success of the Teratak Kasih Tok Nan Project, the first ever One-Stop Centre for People Living with HIV in Sarawak, which we developed with support from Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu, the wife of the then Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Adenan Satem. I was involved in every step of the project – from the conceptualisation to raising funds and to witnessing the opening of the centre – all within a span of one year. 

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Why do you personally think that people should start paying attention to the AIDS epidemic?

It is important to support the HIV and AIDS cause because we are actually within the striking distance to end the AIDS epidemic. We have enough science and knowledge in the field of medicine to control the epidemic. What we need to do now is to invest in a proper public health policy in the right area of intervention, increase the availability and access to treatment, and eliminate all forms of stigma and discrimination against People Living with HIV. 

If we don’t do the right thing and hold back our investment and support for the cause, things can go wrong very easily. We run the risk of slipping back to the olden days when the AIDS epidemic claimed so many lives and was considered a death sentence.


We run the risk of slipping back to the olden days when the AIDS epidemic claimed so many lives and was considered a death sentence.


 

Are you looking into any project soon? What can we expect to see from you in near future? 

I'm really looking forward to the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner which is set to become the biggest undertaking by MAF in recent time. We haven’t had a Gala of this grand scale for many years and of course, we want to do justice to the great name of Tun Dr Siti Hasmah by delivering a memorable event. Through the Gala, we hope to raise as much funds as possible to address the growing needs of HIV prevention as well as for AIDS care and support for more than 100,000 People Living with HIV in Malaysia. In the near future, we will not only embark on bolder fundraising projects, but also on advocacy works, particularly in our quest to enact a HIV/AIDS Workplace Protection Bill.

What is your idea of an ideal world?

A world where people respect each other, where differences are not only tolerated, but celebrated. Our society needs to be mature enough to accommodate different viewpoints and not be too hung up on our own dogmatic views. 

If you could change anything in the world today, what would it be?

It would have been fantastic if we can eliminate the AIDS epidemic and reduce them to just a footnote in history!

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