Discussion Question 1: What role did CASP play in Malaysia's response to HIV/AIDS? What were the benefits and possible disadvantages of-its approach? What other strategies might CASP have considered?
(a) The role that CASP played:
- Advocacy for protection of the individual's rights and for effective education of the public about HIV/AIDS and ways of protecting themselves. By being willing to speak out (such as through the newspapers) about counter-productive policies and actions, CASP encouraged public debate of the issues.
- CASP’s article (Exhibit 3) is based upon facts rather than emotion and draws heavily upon the experiences of other countries as well as quoting from recognised authorities such as WHO and the Malaysian Government itself. By doing this, CASP provided the Government itself with well-founded arguments which it could use in its debate with various interest groups in the country.
- As an NGO, CASP was able to respond more flexibly to HIV/AIDS education needs than the Government services.
- CASP could also gain access to members of the community which Government services could not easily reach.
- CASP's association with the Penang FPA was extremely important in providing CASP with initial access to work sites and youth groups and in providing CASP with a link to a well-established and respected NGO.
(b) The benefits and possible disadvantages of CASP's approach:
- CASP’s independence from the Government health and social service agencies allowed them access to those sections of the community whose activities put them at considerable risk of infection but who would be reluctant to come forward to government officials.
- CASP’s independence also allowed them to speak out and carry out activities which would never have been possible if the organisation had formal links with the authorities.
- CASP’s willingness to air its views and arguments provided a focus for other like-minded individuals in the community and should have attracted new members who were willing to speak openly about sex and sexuality and how individuals could protect themselves from infection.
- CASP would have had to exercise some caution to ensure that its activities remained within the limits of tolerance of the authorities. CASP needed to achieve a fine balance between remaining visibly independent of government yet retaining sufficient linkages and mutual respect to be allowed to continue providing services to the/general public and those 'on the fringe' of Penang society.
- CASP's outspokenness could lead to some personal difficulties for the Malaysian members. The expatriate members could perhaps afford to take more risks.
- CASP's radical reputation could scare off some potential new members, who might feel more comfortable with a more conservative approach. Some of the original members of CASP had left the organisation over this issue.
- CASP had not tried to collaborate with the Ministry of Health or to seek its views on CASP's activities. This could affect CASP's future funding situation in the sense that some sources of external funding for NGOs are channelled through the Government (through NGO Boards or Councils) and CASP might not rank high on a list of NGO'S being considered for support.
(c) Other Possible Strategies:
- CASP might have tried to approach those officers in the Ministry of Health responsible for health education to identify whether there was any potential for collaboration on the design or dissemination of HIV/AIDS education materials.
- CASP had ready access to the University faculty and students. Perhaps the University could have been encouraged to mount a regional seminar on a topic such as the social implications of HIV/AIDS and to publish the proceedings as another means of providing influential support for more effective HIV/AIDS education and services.
- CASP could have tried to identify other voluntary groups or NGOs providing social services in Penang and investigated the possibility of collaboration. If feasible, this might help CASP to share its workload as well as to expand the HIV/AIDS education network.
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