by  Chloe Kong
After months of gruelling preparations and planning, Hold Your Desires 2015 finally came to an end. The campaign was held from 11.11.2015 until 13,11,2015 (Wednesday to Friday) to raise awareness about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD for short) and also about safe sex. Being a topic that is considered a taboo in Malaysia by many, this topic is seldom raised by the people in Malaysia. The objective of this campaign is to educate the public about the two topic besides raising awareness.
Day one began with an exhibition, a doodle face off as well as a blackbox cinema for all to participate! The opening ceremony was held the day after that alongside with the exhibition and vendors as well as the blackbox cinema. On the final day itself, the exhibition ended at one o’clock in the afternoon and the students get to attend a talk by Miss Lalita from Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah and Miss Jacqueline Gun, from the Psychology Department in Sunway University!
The ECHO newsletter team and the Monash Radio crew were invited as media partners for the event. It was an honour for us to be able to interview some of the guests from Day 2 and Day 3! So here are the joined interviews!
Day 2 (12.11.2015, Thursday)
On Thursday, the ECHO newsletter team had the chance to interview  the Senior Principal Assistant Director Of Disease Control Division from Ministry of Health Malaysia, Dr Mohd Nasir Bin Abdul Aziz as well as Dr Wong Kok Keung, the Head of the DCLA Program.
Senior Principal Assistant Director Of Disease Control Division from Ministry of Health Malaysia, Dr Mohd Nasir Bin Abdul Aziz .
Q1: What do you think of the campaign?
A1: Personally, I think the students have done a good job and it is very relevant. I think that the    university has chosen a very relevant topic for the students. I am very happy that the university has chosen this topic. It was done very well and it was well organized.
Q2: What is your personal take on STD?
A2: In my line of work, I am doing programs and activities for HIV and STDs for the Ministry of Health. We have been developing programs and activities for STDs and HIV infections and faced many patients. So, if you ask my about STD, of course I would advise the younger generation to avoid being infected by STDs., it is quite sad to see the majority of the people being infected are people of the younger age group. If you ask me, be smart and try not to get infected by STDs. Other than that, it is also a must to know the definition about safe sex and from my perspective it should only be done with a legitimate spouse.
Question by the Monash Radio Crew: So doctor, had this event not happen, what other activities can be held to raise the awareness?
Answer A: Well, it all depends on the local Health Ministry . I used to work at Kuala Lumpur and there were attempts in having such events at Kuala Lumpur. Furthermore, we have also reached out to four to five universities yearly. If we just try to reach out, it can be boring. Hence, innovative ideas are needed to teach the youths.
Question 2 (Monash Radio Crew): Dr. Nasir, what is your thought about reaching out to youths regarding such practices?
Answer 2: The youths of today have the internet to turn to for information. Hence, they are able to get their hands on such information even without participating in the awareness campaigns for STDS. So, even without the campaigns, they already have some form of knowledge about STDs. Here, the targeted group would be about 15 to 30 or 40 years old and that is the prime age group to reach out to.
Q4: This campaign is a ‘for students, by the students campaign’, do you think such efforts should be continued?
A4: It is a good effort made. But, it needs to be enhanced. My suggestion would be to have it yearly with different approaches instead of just a one time event, such as a film festival. Or maybe, a talk with the patients who are infected by the disease, or dialogues or even games. There is no need to have just one approach.
Q5: Lastly, what message would you leave our readers with?
Well, I have three kids of my own so I would advice them about STDs. Please know your limitations, please respect your elders and please listen to the advices given to you by your family and friends. It is also important to have discussions with your family should you come across the disease. And also, please be responsible as well as be safe.
Interview #2: Dr Wong Kok Keung, the Head of the DCLA Program.
Q1: What do you think about the campaign?
A1: I have not been able to attend the entire campaign due to my hectic schedule. After reading about it, I was quite impressed with the various activities being held for public participation and also with the number of sponsors because it makes things more easier, like the lunch today. So that is good, yeah.
Q2: From a lecturer’s point of view, what is your personal take on STDs?
A2: Well, I agree and we can get a lot of information online. I think that the challenge today would be to be able to obtain more credible and reliable information about STDs. In the past, the hurdle would be to get information. Now, we can get information but not everything is credible. I would always tell my students, I do not know whether I have told you that you may come across something online but for all we know, it could have been your ten year old neighbor who wrote it.
Q3: What are the challenges in educating the current generation about STDs?
A3: It takes time to change the mindset of the people today and the best way to go about it is through education. But I think  that the parents should play a part in educating their children about STDs. My idea is that students can get the information from anywhere these days but they should use  the lecturers are there to help in obtaining the more credible ones. Once the students have gotten hold of such knowledge, it would be good to discuss them with their parents so that the parents are also aware of it.
Question 1 (Monash Radio Crew): Seeing as how the response of the event, should such initiative be taken again next year?
Answers 1: That is a good question. Well, it depends and I do not know whether he (Mr. Suffian) will be teaching the subject again. It all depends on the interest of the students and so far I have noticed that the students would come up with different topics every semester, every year. Hence, I suspect that the next semester students would do something else but I hope that it may come back to this topic after a year or so.
Mr Suffian: What I am looking is not just fall under HIV or STDs but more onto health Communication. The same thing but a different area and maybe on how sift through the information posted online. This is a risk  the generation is facing at the moment, for all we know as what Dr. Wong said, it could your 10 year old neighbor who posted it. This is because the current generation tend to believe whatever that is being posted on the internet with going through the actual materials. Not many of us would go to the library to source for the actual material and such. Yeah, there are pros and cons about it. In the end of the day, the students are going to pitch in on where they will be heading next semester. But I am looking towards health communication but a different theme all together.
Question 2 ( Monash Radio Crew): I was thinking that since education is important. Do you think such initiative be addressed earlier?
Dr Wong: Well, I think it should be addressed at the beginning of the high school level but to do that we need to look up  at the education policy. I think that we had that discussion for a long time where we stand right now I am not quite sure. Universities and colleges also play a part in this as well.
Mr. Suffian: Well, in Malaysia, sex education is a taboo. I think that the ministry has also aapproachch the matter but I am unsure of the success rate.
Dr Nazir: Sex education in school..We have tried. Unfortunately, there were different views regarding it from the Ministry of Education. So, there is a need to teach the teachers so that is the challenge.
Dr Wong: To be sure, this controversy on the difficulties on having sex education in high school, is not unique in Malaysia. Many other countries have also struggled about the matter on whether sex education should be taught at a high school level, even in the U.S. Sex education in Malaysia and also at other parts of the world begin in high school. And this is an important subject. This topic links to our behaviours, values and also upbringing as well as teaching. I think that once the students have gone pass the high school level, perhaps it should be exploit more openly.I am not saying that the teachers have all the answers but at least there is an attempt to encourage the student to explore the topic much openly and not telling them all the bad things about it. Just let them know and educate them about what the dangers are. Also, I am intrigued about what Dr. Nazir said earlier about safe sex and I think that it is important to clarify because safe sex is different cross-culture.
Q4: How would you approach the difficulties presented when teaching about the matter?
A4: I think that the lecturers should be well educated. Again, this can be viewed as something really personal as it can be viewed differently.It would be great to talk about the views/ perspectives of others about what safe sex and whatnot. If there is a lecturer  who is open to all kinds of different thing and talk about to the students, then that would be the first step. I always believe that sex education can start with the school but it cannot end with the school. The involvement of other parties is needed. Actually, the lecturers are not that much involved to spread information about what safe sex is and what is it important. Outside of the school, people are living in the real world and getting into all kinds of situation. That is challenging for anyone. You may have the theoretical knowledge about the dos and don’ts. But as soon as you have encountered someone you like, all of that can just fly out of the window. So, that is the challenge that all of us would face.
Q5: Lastly, what is the message that you would want to leave your students with?
A5: I think that you have to educate yourself as much as possible. You should also talk to your friends and family about the topic. It will not be easy but the barrier needs to be slowly taken down. Hence, it will be a good place to build more possibilities of other discussions. If the barrier can be taken down, then we can reach out to discuss such topics in the future.
In conclusion, never trust anything posted on the internet completely and take caution. Family plays an important role so never be afraid to speak to them.

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