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An Infectious Beacon of Hope in the Face of HIV

This story is written by CARE staff, Rebecca who is well acquainted with Suria* (pseudonym), a long-term volunteer, through their shared endeavours at Pusat CARE Klang.

Behind her warm and welcoming smile, Suria is no ordinary woman. Suria was born in 1977 into an ordinary family. Like many breadwinners then, her father worked hard and tirelessly as a farmer and an estate worker. Unfortunately, he passed away when she was only six years old, leaving behind six children and his wife. As a housewife without income, getting food for seven on the table was a daily challenge for Suria’s mother. Hence at the tender age of eight, Suria was sent away to be cared for by an employer who had a business selling Nyonya kueh. She helped out in business operations, while spending hours grinding Gula Melaka. These experiences, coupled with extremely strict family rules defined her upbringing. Little did she know these experiences would shape her to be resilient in her later life. 

After completing secondary school, Suria went on to work just like any other young adult and had plans of having a family of her own. Eventually, Suria found love and got married. Seemingly living a normal life, everything changed when she tested positive for HIV in her thirties. 

"Could I have it too?" 

It all began one fine day when Suria made a conscious decision to test herself, prompted by someone at work who was tested HIV positive. She recalled those times when she came across materials related to HIV. Her prediction proved true; she tested positive too. Suria is a diligent worker, a faithful wife, and a devoted mother, with much at stake. Yet, her reaction was quite uncommon, as typically fear or anxiety accompanies such news. She was neither afraid nor anxious thanks to her supportive and understanding siblings who began journeying with her from that point forward.

Celebrating Suria's birthday at Pusat CARE Klang!

Community became the biggest support system of Suria’s life after her diagnosis. She was deeply comforted and encouraged to see many women like her—devoted wives, loving mothers, all diagnosed with HIV positive. She knew she was not alone in this battle. From once a receiver of help, Suria, now in her forties, became a helper and ultimately, a caregiver. She served alongside PT Triangle (also known as PT Foundation), Kuala Lumpur AIDS Support Services Society (KLASS) and now with Malaysian CARE, where she became a committed volunteer attached to Pusat CARE Klang. 

Much of Suria’s time with CARE is spent in house visitations, planning peer support group sessions and contributing to CARE's advocacy efforts surrounding HIV/AIDS awareness. Her corporate experiences in the early days and her personal journey have helped her greatly in reaching out to communities infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. 

Selamat Hari Raya! CARE staff (from left: first, second and fifth person) and fellow volunteer (far right) were invited by Suria and her family (in black) for celebration.

Her hope is that regardless of status, race and religion, society at large is able to learn more about HIV and AIDS with an open heart. Today, there are many more individuals like Suria that need acceptance and support. 

First outdoor outing with peer support group in August 2023, a day filled with fun games and food. 

We are thankful for volunteers like Suria. Her story of transformation continues to be an encouragement not only to us but to many who had cross paths with her. 

To learn more about serving People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV), visit https://malaysiancare.org/care-ministry-hiv. 

* Name altered to protect identity. 
Story written by Rebecca Ang, Leader – Policy, Advocacy and Research