My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

OTGV #36 - Blood

Broadcast Date: 25/08/03

Singapore lags significantly behind other developed countries in terms of blood donations.

A new effort called
Centre for Transfusion Medicine or C-T-M at the Health Sciences Authority has launched a initiative to drive up the number of blood donors.

Image hosted by
Health Sciences Authority11 Outram RoadSingapore 169078

Director of Medical Services Tan Chorh Chuan says the new system aims to provide a more seamless and less disruptive means for existing or potential blood donors.

"The DonorCare@HSA system is a new IT initiative which has been developed to provide blood donors with a new dimension of service. Using Donorcare@HSA, blood donors will be able to interact more efficiently with the Bloodbank@HSA thru the internet. It is hope that blood donors will find this new resource useful and that it will also encourage new donors to come forward."

The drive to get new blood donors is crucial.

Blood banks all over the world are facing the problem of not having enough donors.

Professor Tan again.

"Despite all the technological advances in medicine, blood obtained from human donations is essential treatment modality for numerous acute and chronic disease conditions. WHO has estimated that 75 million blood donations are collected worldwide. Unfortunately, it is also estimated that 17% of the world's population has access to 60% of this global blood supply, and that 80% of the population has access to only 20% of the supply of safe blood."

And this is the reason why no country can depend on imported blood, since everyone else is facing shortages.

Dr Soe Nyunt,
Acting Director of Health Sector Development at the WHO Regional Office of the Western Pacific, says individual countries must be responsible.

"Blood transfusion has been recognised as a key part of modern health care. It is the responsibility of the national blood programme both to provide an adequate supply of blood for all patients requiring transfusion and ensure the quality of blood and blood products for clinical use."

It's always been a mystery why people don't come forward to donate blood.

When the SQ-006 incident happened, queues formed outside C-T-M, and likewise, crowds converged at blood donation centres across the U-S after September 11 attacks.

But such altruism mysteriously vanished during non-crises times.

Prof Tan says the onus is on blood donation centers to win over new blood donors.

Many factors deter people who maybe motivated to come forward to donate blood; be it fear of needles, insufficient time, lack of knowledge about blood donation, or a previously unhappy blood donation experience. Blood transfusion services must therefore learn to improve the quality of their relationship and interaction with their blood donors, and develop a customer orientation in their philosophy and processes. Customer orientation is the desire to build and maintain lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with carefully selected customers -- in this case, altruistic, well motivated and commited blood donors."

Director of Centre for Transfusion Medicine, Diana Teo explains how the newly launched DonorCare@HSA will help get more donors thru the door.

Dr Teo highlights another time-saving feature.

Blood donors can now make donations on-line. For busy people in Singapore who may not have a lot of time to spare, this will allow them to make appointments and to make it more predictable so when they come to the blood bank, they know can donate blood at that time. Don't have to call in. If you have internet access, you can just click, make your appointment. One day, two day before we'll remind you in case you forgot there's an appointment."

And the system will remind you either via e-mail or s-m-s one to three days before the actual appointment.

Booking the appointment is as easy as a couple of mouse clicks.

Of course, if you are on the wrong side of the IT divide, you can still donate blood via the walk-in system.

However, you won't have the benefit of time savings should you turn up on a day with a particularly large crowd of would-be donors.

Dr Teo says the DonorCare@HSA system allows a two-way communication so that both the donor and the Centre can benefit.

The advantage again of having an interface with our owners on-line is that we can regularly conduct opinion polls for our donors on-line. We can regularly gain their feedback. A lot of people now use internet and e-mails for feedback. So rather than having them to type an e-mails, we may conduct polls like 'do you think this will be useful?', 'do you think this will be convenient for you?' This is actually a new way of communication."

Some people may have no problems with donating a little blood but they are too lazy to go all the way down to Outram Road where C-T-M is situated.

This is the reason why there're mobile blood banks and with DonorCare@HSA, this information is available within the website.

Presently, most donors visit the Blood Bank during lunch time or after-office-hours.

Dr Teo on possible future upgrades down the road that may allow her Centre to adjust the opening hours.

If it is very successful, we can allow it, for example, we might find that if people who really want to make appointments at certain hours, we may consider. Right now if you have late hours, you absolutely cannot predict whether anyone's going to come in or it's going to be very crowded."

Want to donate blood but are too concerned about time to make a trip down to Outram?

Save some time by fixing an appointment first the
DonorCare web-page in

This is Chong Ching Liang at Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Centre for Transfutional Medicine, Health Science Authority

View My Stats

OTGV #35 - S'pore's Wealth

Broadcast Date: 11/08/03

How do you measure a country's health?

In dollars, in economic growth, in crime rates and other social statistics or just simply, in its people?

People, the one renewable resource that makes or breaks a nation.

Hi welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

When one generation gets tired, old and perhaps, cynical, another takes over the main task of nation building.

The back waves pushing the front waves as described in one Chinese idiom.

Perhaps, the definitive gauge on the health of a nation is the young, the yet-to-develop resource of a country.

But Young Singaporeans have been getting a bit of a flak these days.

They are gauged to be self-centred, judged to quit Singapore more willingly.

Is it true?

Well, Minister in the Prime Minister Office and Labour Chief Lim Boon Heng finds hope in a survey about Singaporeans and their ties to Singapore.

"Do you believe that Singapore has a future? [children: YES!] Well yesterday, there was a report, they survey Singaporeans and found that 77% of Singaporeans are sure that Singaporeans have a good future. And young people have more confidence than the older ones."

Mr Lim thinks it isn't a youth-induced naiveté.

"But it's not just youthful exuberance or being wise to the ways of the world, but I think the young has reasons to be confident. The majority of our young will enter the market with some kind of skills."

But it is simply beyond a mere equipping the young with the tools to make a living in the New Economy.

A worker who's mobile will move on to greener pastures.

The intangibles, the immeasurable factors that constitute a strong sense of social responsibility is what binds young Singaporeans to their country.

As an example, let's look at young Singaporeans training to be nurses.

Nursing is the new glamour job after SARS.

Nanyang Polytechnic nursing student, Chwee Ngoh.

"Actually at the moment they gave me some very positive and negative remarks. They were like saying 'see, you really have to really be at the frontline lor, you have to really reach out for them. Can you really do it or not?' Then on another hand, they would be like 'Yeah lor, its very good lor, its like very few people can do this.' Because nursing is a profession where everybody can't do it. Only people who are special then can take up this career lor."

And being nurses have certain rewards.

Nurses are most sought worldwide due to endemic shortages of such professionals in developed economies.

United Kingdom and the United States have both been accused of "poaching" nurses from developing nations in desperate need of bettering their healthcare system.

So choices and inducement are aplenty for younger Singaporean nurses to "quit" Singapore.

That they don't will depend very much on their ties to Singapore and their ideals.

Idealism isn't short for N-Y-P student Serena.

"My reason for coming into nursing is, firstly, my mother is a nurse and I am inspired by her. And thru her I could see the nature of nursing which is very noble and you can make a great difference to other people's lives."

Neither is it for her schoolmate, Chwee Ngoh who has to conquer parental disapproval to make it to the nursing programme.

"I actually registered for the joint-admission exercise, I didn't put nursing as the first choice. And that's because a lot of friends and relatives they really dissuade me. Mostly it's because my parents they don't like lor. It's like when your parents don't like, it is better to listen to them. Then so I reluctantly chose another course, business, in Ngee Ann Poly, then after that I was thinking of taking nursing as a part time course, then I really think thru again. If I take it as a part time course then I might just as well as changed it now. Although it was over the period of appeal, I came all the way and I thank NYP a lot for taking me as a student."

Localised idealism, a desire to help society is what will bind them to Singapore.

Nurses can leave Singapore anytime after they are qualified because there is a global demand for them.

A crucial sign of Singapore’s health is that not many of the younger nurses leave.

Another young Singaporean Ivah Ee aspires to be a special education teacher.

An unconventional career goal, but one that projects voluminous optimism for Singapore.

Ivah on what fuels her atypical aspirations.

"Because I find that in Singapore, I find that our society is very different from overseas. The way Singaporeans are brought up is, they tend to shun this kind of kids. I actually saw this thing happening at the bus-stop. It so happens the kid who has Downs' Syndrome is my neighbour. He kind of like wanted to play with this girl while waiting for the bus. So he was like smiling at the girl and the girl mother was like pulling her away saying 'no you cannot play, you can't like smile'. Can't even smile or look at the person."

A sense of social injustice shapes her future.

"That was what instigate me to go into special education because I think it's something Singapore lacks."

Because That Is What Singapore LACKS.

Isn't this statement wonderful?

Battling social injustices without a crippling sense of cynicism that will see some throw in the towel.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Nanyang Polytechnic Nursing Programme

View My Stats

OTGV #34 - SARS Memories

Broadcast Date: 28/07/03

To the rest of Singapore, the SARS deaths were for a time, target of a morbid fascination of how high the SARS death toll could climb.

But to the families who have to cope with the loss of their loved ones, the pain's onset is sudden, the void immeasurable.

Hi, Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

The SARS Commemoration night was meant to be a nation's salute to the SARS victims and their families.

But only three families who lost their loved ones to SARS showed up.

Most want to move on and deal with their grief privately without the glare of the media.

"Life still goes on and.... I think everybody will continue to do and.... just let her leave in peace lah."

Singapore too hopes to move on and put a closure to the SARS chapter in its history.

Unfortunately, the victims' families journey is far from over says social worker Timothy Koh.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions. There's still having to go thru some discrimination, some of them may have lost their jobs as a result of SARS. A lot of them have to find ways to pick the pieces back together. There's still a lot of emotional issues with maybe lost relationships, for some who have lost their loved ones. grief issues and many other financial issues. Its far from over for a lot of them."

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong sends his condolences and hopes a nation's sympathy will help ease the pain of those with fallen loved ones.

"To the grieving families, I offer the nation's deepest sympathies. I know that my words cannot fill the void in your heart, or the emptiness in your home. But I hope that you take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your grief. The nation shares your sorrow."

The commemoration ceremony was to remember not to mourn.

The National Health Group and the Tan Tock Seng team produced a video for the Health Ministry to help Singaporeans see the human face behind the SARS statistics.

A colleague remembers nurse Hamidah for her optimism and the thumb-up signs she flashed even when she was very ill.

"She speaks her mind, very straightforward and I think, one thing that I really learnt about her is if only you know and you would like her. When she is pretty sick, in ICU, so we have a glass-door, she used to no matter how sick you just have to knock on the door and she opens her eyes she will say like this to you."

Outgoing Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang had led the most remarkable of fights against SARS.

His ministry's containment measures stopped SARS in its tracks.

On the commemoration day, Mr Lim apologised to the families for the pains caused by these policies.

"All of us are saddened by the loss of lives in this outbreak. To the friends, relatives and families of the deceased, we regret the pain and grief that you had to go through in the face of restrictions even in the final moments with them."

SARS victims in their death bed haven't the comfort of loved ones for fear that they'll catch the disease.

The victims cross from the living realm alone as he lies in an isolation room.

"Dear uncle, you left without families or friends to comfort you in your last moments here. You left without farewells, nor prayers, memorials to bless your soul. A sojourn that you have planned to see God's holy shrine in India when you turned 63, but alas, you left with dreams unfulfilled. Just a month shy of 63. We miss your smile, mourn your untimely death, but like the unseen breeze, you remain in our hearts."

But each individual death contains moments that will be indelibly etched in memories of the grieving families.

Here they are:

A son's farewell to his father through a phone line.

"When I got there, blood pressure was zero. Heart I supposed has stopped already lah. But the ECG was still beating away. I picked up the intercom and I told him, dad this your son, Gerard here, I said, you can go. Don't hang on for nothing. Just go. You know, just go and meet the lord. And I put down the phone, I went back to the glass-panel in front of the ICU suite, and it went to zero."

A wife's gift to her husband to be a better father.

"She wanted actually my son to be, yeah to be successful in his life. I will work towards it .... she is my inspiration and she will be my inspiration even though she won't be around."

An inspiration to a colleague.

"She put up a good fight. Yeah, for herself and for her family. Nurses will remember her for her dedication ... for her fighting spirit."

The children's loss.

"When mama is not working and she will bring us to Orchard Rd and buy for us clothes and toys. My mom bought these toys for me last year and I will treasure it."

The dawning realisation and pain of returning to normal life without a treasured friend, or relative.

A SARS victim's family member on the change in his life.

"I will take one day at a time. When you reach the bridge then you cross."

A son's lament and hope at the final moment.

"He's taken away so quickly and so abruptly, you know, I have no chance for a final father-son goodbye. How I cope with it basically just come down to faith. Faith of knowing that maybe someday I will see him again."

Singapore's leaders tell us that SARS united a whole country.

And it has.

But the families would rather have their loved ones back as they strive to pick up the pieces.

This is Chong Ching Liang with Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Ministry of Health Image hosted by

National Healthcare Group Image hosted by

Tan Tock Seng Hospital Image hosted by

View My Stats

OTGV #33 - Law-Med Debate

Broadcast Date: 21/07/03

What do lawyers and doctors do when they want to get more familiar with each other?

They have a debate!

Chong Ching Liang attended the first-ever Law-Medical debate and found that it was a more comical than cerebral affair.


One of the biggest red herrings of the year for the media was an innocuous invite to a debate on whether lawyers make better politicians than doctors.

As it turned out, the motion and the location of the debate in Parliament House, were the only things that were serious.

Hi, I'm Chong Ching Liang. Come share my enjoyment in re-visiting the first-ever Law-Medical Debate on this week's On the Grapevine.

Lawyers and doctors are people from professions that by nature, are meticulous and fastidious.

So there was little doubt that the combative lawyers would leave nothing to chance.

Their first speaker, Christopher Ong on his team's secret weapon to gain victory.

"Before I actually move on to the definition is the... well, more or less or white attire that the male members of the lawyer team has adopted. When we got together, we turn our minds to important strategic issues such as what to wear. And, what we settle on is that the team that wear all-white in this parliament normally wins the debate. [laughters]"

That, and a supreme sense of self-awareness.

"We know where we are coming from. When it comes to politics, we are certainly the better team for the simple reasons that we ... don't ... have.. ETHICS! Whereas these.. [laughters] whereas these noble SARS fighters over hear [laughter] don't stand a chance in the game of politics. These doctors even have, as part of their profession something called the Hippocratic Oath which is to do no harm. We have on our side of the floor we have what you would call, the Hypocritical Oath."

The first speaker from the medical team, Dr Lee Chung Horn, unfazed by the crowd pleasing routine that had preceded him, gamely tried to wrestle some seriousness back into the debate.

"Our stand is simply this, we do not believe that lawyers make better politicians than doctors. To win tonight's debate, ladies and gentlemen, the proposition has to establish superiority that clearly one profession is more gifted than the other, for politics!"

But the lawyers would not be so easily subdued!

Adrian Tan says his task isn't to establish superiority, not at all!

"We are here to say that we are inferior to them. In every moral respect! [Laughters] And that is why our last speaker IS, Mr Chelva Rajah! [laughters] I challenge you to find among the medical community, ANYONE with the moral calibre [Laughters] of the learned gentleman."

In fact, tongue firmly in-cheek, it is this inferiority in character that would make lawyers better politicians!

"To sum up what we have been saying before. We are very good at covering our asses. [laughters] And doctors are very poor at that.... in fact all they do is uncover our asses.[laughters]"

But undaunted, the medical side's Dr Sreedharan tried another tack to engage his opponent, ridicule and shame...

"Actually I left the first minute for rebuttals but no real points were made. In order to make a rebuttal [laughters] so I am sorry about that. Yeah"

He gamely soldiered on bringing up examples of medical doctors made good in the global political world such as Drs Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mahathir Mohamed.

The lawyers came back with their femme-fatale, Leong Wai Kum, who illustrated the quintessential lawyering skill of winning over a jury.

"Now it may well be that it is not our training whether as lawyers or doctors that will make us better politicians. I think it may well be our gender that make us better politicians. [laughter] I mean my dear honorable FEMALE judges. [laughters]"

Momentarily seduced by the limelight, Professor Leong went on a 3 minute spiel on the benefits of being female.

But despite meandering, she brought out her point.

"I think I have the connection -- Our government, in its infinite wisdom has really dealt the medical profession, a rather bad hand. Because of course we know, for ever so long, medical faculty in NUS has not been allowed to take their fair share of women. Honourable members of the judges, I repeat, we have more women, women are better in every thing. Obviously! It's lawyers that make better politicians in Singapore.[laughters]"

By now, the doctors had given up on their hope of ever having a serious debate.

Such emotional duress forged an unexpected comedic gem in their third speaker Dr Umapathi.

"Let me start off with a story. The story about Humpty Dumpty. You know, the silly egg that sat on the wall, fell off and all the kingsmen couldn't put him together again. Of course this is a very old story. Kingsmen in old English is actually politicians. So among the Kingsmen were lawyer-politicians, and doctor-politicians. Of course the majority were SAF scholars! [laughters]"

Using this story, he illustrated what separated lawyers from doctors in the profession of politics.

"What do you think the lawyer-politicians' first instinctive response. What... is... the .. liability? [laughters] Who's liable for this. Is it the parents of the egg, who didn't supervise the egg? Is it the local council that didn't put up signs and railings and then the egg fall off? Now what do you think the doctor-politician is going to do? Of course the first is going to do is "mouth-to-shell" resuscitation. After which, his first response would be what went wrong? What would be a happy egg get up on the wall. Was he suicidal? [laughters] Is he another victim of the Singapore education system?! [Laughters]"

So who won in the end?

The judges gave the prize to the lawyers.

But most in the audience didn't care about the victory as they were left in stitches.

If this much laughter and harmless rip-roaring self-deprecation dominated world politics, maybe conflicts would be obsolete.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Law Society Society Image hosted by

Singapore Medical Association Image hosted by

View My Stats

OTGV #32 - Ladan&Ladeh Sum-Up

Broadcast Date: 14/07/03

This week's On the Grapevine takes a last look at the brave challenge that failed Singapore's quest to help Ladan and Ladeh fulfill their wish to be separate.


What a difference a week makes.

As last Sunday faded into Monday, the country was still starry-eyed with hope.

Hope that the operation Ladan and Laleh Bijani will be successful.

Last Monday, trepidation might have crept in perhaps but never sadness or even despair.

Hi I am Chong Ching Liang and this weeks On the Grapevine takes a retrospective look at the emotions of the past week.

"Both of the flowers are very fragile especially Laleh, in our poetry is very shaky even if there is very small wind. Ladan is also a very fragile flower. Today these two flowers do not exist anymore."

Image hosted by
Pictures from

That was the Iranian Ambassador to Jakarta, Shaban Shahidi Moadab.

His poetic words brought added poignancy to the loss of hopes once held.

Hopes that weren't just held by the twins or their family, but by the peoples of Iran, Singapore and to a certain extent, the world.

When Nepalese twins Ganga and Jamuna came to Singapore for their separation operation, they are mere babes, unable to speak a single word.

Ladan and Laleh, on the other hand, were twenty-nine year olds, articulate and Ladan was, in particular, vivacious.

They communicated their dreams to the whole world, about how they searched for a means to see each other's face without a mirror.

Laleh wanted to be a journalist not a lawyer, though she is a law graduate like Ladan because they couldn't take separate courses.

They touched the hearts of two nations because of their humanity and their zest and yearning for a normal life.

Image hosted by

Letter from

It's arguable that perhaps they affected Singaporeans more than Ganga and Jamuna ever did.

Mr Shaban Shahidi again.

"I believe they're are not just two flowers but they are two swallows who flew from Iran to come to Singapore. Their destiny tied them together. For 29 years, they said yes to that but finally they decided to challenge and in this challenge, science and medicine came to the rescue. The name of the operation is Hope. The challenge is lost but the hope will continue."

Well-wishers stayed at Raffles Hospital hoping that the best outcome will occur.

But as news broke last Tuesday that Ladan had passed on, many like this Singaporean mother broke down.

"I have been reading, following the news and my heart actually go out to the two of them. [sobs] you know every time I hear of these two... it breaks my heart. [sobs] You know its difficult for these two survive, I know. When I was having my lunch, someone was signalling to me that one of them actually one of them, you know, didn't make it so ... you know my heart just went down. I just couldn't hold back my tears. [sobs]"

When Laleh died some 90 minutes later, all hopes that at least one of the remarkable Iranian twin would make it were dashed

The loss was hard to accept as an Iranian well-wisher put it.

"Its very bad. Very bad. I believe when you heard, you also shock. It's not really a small things, yeah? Its very difficult, not easy to accept they're gone. It's not easier yeah, for all of us. It's not something we expect to be 100 percent to go through. Of course we lose someone, somebody in this life. She is supposed to live like us and... sorry."

Around the world, the breathless expectancy gave way to a post-mortem of moral analysis.

Those in support praised the Singaporean team for their bravery in undertaking an ethically and technically challenging operation.

Dr Leslie Cannold, a Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics said the operation was not a mistake.

"The medical issues are relatively clear in this case because what you are dealing with are two competent adult. And so if the twins wanted to be separated they therefore took on, made an autonomous choice of what they wanted. And therefore they took on the responsibility, understanding that they have been in fact been denied several times by other doctors to have the operation. That's called informed consent."

In the other camp, Dr Richard Nicholson, the editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics said it wasn’t enough to just say the twins understood the risk and had given their informed consent to go ahead with the operation.

"Well, the doctor’s duty is not to ask everything the patient asks for even if the patients do understand the full risks involved. And with both twins sadly dead, there’s really no way of know whether they did understand fully the risks or whether even if they were given a realistic assessment of the risks by the medical team. But regardless of what information they did have or understand, there's still a duty on doctors not to go ahead with procedures that are incredibly risky unless it's an alternative to inevitable deaths."

The outcome of the world's first separation procedure to liberate two adult twins joined at the head ended in double tragedy.

But while post-mortem criticism exists, Dr Cannold maintained the decision to operate was laudable.

"It doesn't make any sense to suggest that this sort of things oughtn't to be done by doctors because they have never been done before. Logic will of course tell that there's always a first time for every thing and medical science would be at a standstill unless doctors are willing to take risks."

Perhaps, the most clear sighted of all comments was uttered by the Iranian Ambassador to Indonesia, Shaban Shahidi.

"I would like to say that Laleh and Ladan are not just two patients but they were ambassador of peace, ambassador of friendship. By using Ladeh and Ladan, I believe that the solidarity between Singaporean people and Iranian people, not only Singapore and Iran but this part of the world and Iran. And this will continue."

After the ravages of war and SARS, it is heartwarming that an effort to give two high intelligent individuals a normal life should unite the world -- in a brief moment of positive prayers that dreams might come true.

Lets hope that as days fade into weeks and memories of the twins start to wane,

the goodwill struck between Singapore and Iran will endure as Mr Shaban Shahidi hoped.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live)

University of Melbourne's Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics

Bulletin of Medical Ethics

Raffles Hospital

View My Stats

OTGV #31 - Ride for Life

Broadcast Date: 02/06/03


AIDS has never received quite the same global cooperation as another global disease, SARS. Help for AIDS patients often came from AIDS activists rather than the government. In this week's On the Grapevine, Chong Ching Liang looks at a recent fundraising event, Ride for Life at what it aims to do to help AIDS patients.


SARS may go, AIDS to stay.

That's the intriguing tagline that came with an e-mail that I received on the Ride for Life fundraising event.

It's true, SARS is in the limelight now, but may fade away as the disease tapers off.

AIDS on the other hand, is often swept under the old metaphorical carpet -- Not seen but still there.

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I look at a biennial event that strives to raise funds for AIDS as well as to raise awareness about the disease.

Chair of this year's organising committee for Ride for Life, Professor George Bishop explains the significance of AIDS awareness.

"The importance of events like Riding for Life is that it reminds people that AIDS is a health problem. I mean AIDS has literally affected 10s of millions of people worldwide. Singapore has been quite fortunate in that the number of people with HIV is relatively low in Singapore but it is still a major health problem. And it is a problem that is preventable, and it is a problem that we can do something about."

Fellow committee member Sukri Kadola on what exactly is the Ride for Life and what it hopes to achieve.

"It does 2 things. First, it promotes AIDS awareness, second it is to promote healthy lifestyle. The event Riding for Life was first held in 1999 and this is a long distance cycling event in which Singaporeans take part in a one week cycling marathon thru peninsula Malaysia. This year's ride will begin in KL and include stops in Termeloh, Kuantan, Alam Shah, Seremban, Batu Pahat and JB before arriving back to Singapore."

This is the third time the biennial Ride For Life has been convened.

Sukri on the event's past fundraising efforts.

"The first two rides in 1991 and 2000, we raised about 100K dollars and we had used this funds for the AIDS patients so that they can afford to pay the expensive medical bills. The average of what an AIDS patient will spend on medication can run up to a thousand to 1800. So these funds that we raised will help to a certain extent the expensive medical fees for treatment in HIV and AIDS."

This helping hand is greatly appreciated by AIDS patients here.

Unlike countries in Africa or other developing nations, Singaporeans affected by AIDS don't have access to cheap generic AIDS medication.

AIDS stricken Singaporeans have to bear the high medical costs of buying from drugs produced by giant pharmaceuticals.

Professor George Bishop again.

"Yes that is a real problem! One of the things that we've been particularly concerned with is the accessibility of medication for people with AIDS since there's no government subsidy for people with AIDS. Essentially it falls to NGOs like Action For AIDS to provide that kind of subsidy. So part of what we are doing with Riding for Life is raising money for the AIDS medication fund that's run by Action for AIDS so that people with AIDS can be subsidised in terms of their medicine. I mean they can get some help even if they can't get it from government agencies."

But beyond mere economics, the issue is really about generating awareness of a disease that people tend to ignore.

"There's a great deal of stigma against people with AIDS because AIDS is associated with sexuality and associated with behaviours that's often stigmatised. People don't really want to talk about it. It is a stigma that's really isn't justified and I think it is important to bring that to people's attention. It's important to be reminded that you know AIDS is a health problem the fact that it is preventable and also to bring to people's awareness what people with AIDS go through what they experience."

Meet Margaret Wong one of the participants of the Ride for Life initiative --

"A little bit about myself. Alright. My age. I am 61 years old and I am a retired primary school teacher. My last school was at Poi Ching Primary where in Toa Payoh and I was teaching Primary Six. My son who is a committee member told me about this event and ever since he told me about this event, I have been attending all training both locally and in Malaysia. The actual ride will be 900 km over a week."

61 years old -- and she decides to pedal 900 kilometres -- why did she to it?

"At first I took it as a challenge. At first I didn't realise that it was so long, I thought it was only KL and back. Alright. But then now they are doing 900 km I was also pretty excited when I heard from my son that we are also raising money for Actions For AIDS. Since I retired I have thought about doing some community work but never got around to doing it. So when I heard about this event I thought it will be exciting to do something for the community like fund raising for AIDS patients so that was my main motivation."

This year's Ride for Life will also see the coming together of Singaporean and Malaysian NGOs.

This is a good sign for someone like Professor Bishop.

"I think it is very hopeful. One of the things that’s important to keep in mind is that AIDS is not a problem that is localised in any one place. AIDS is worldwide and the only way that we can deal with AIDS effectively is on a global basis. It's also important that countries in the same region also work together. It's also important NGOs work together."

Though this year will see less riders due to the economic uncertainty, the group still hopes to raise some 40 thousand dollars.

Some may say this isn't a big sum of money, but this show of support to the AIDS-stricken is, perhaps, immeasurable.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:
Newsradio938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Action for Aids Image hosted by

View My Stats