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Stigma Warriors: Malta’s First HIV+ NGO Set Up To ‘Demystify’ The Virus

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Cover photo: Marc Buhagiar, Christian Jung, and Dr Valeska Padovese

A Maltese NGO with the express aim of addressing the stigma that surrounds the HIV virus has officially been approved.

Checkpoint Malta brings together sexual health experts, LGBT activists, and HIV+ positive people in an organisation that addresses the complex issue of HIV in a modern and informed light.

As an organisation we, together with other NGOs and entities on the Island, are looking to assist in demystifying HIV and educating not only the general public but healthcare professionals and the entire LGBTQ+ community. This work will hopefully mean that people living with HIV can do so without fear of discrimination, (self-)stigmatisation, alienation and loneliness,” Christian Jung, the NGO’s President, told Lovin Malta.

Their board currently has five members, namely Ms Anna Marie Galea as Secretary & Press Officer, Mr Marc Buhagiar as Treasurer, Dr Valeska Padovese as Chief Medical Officer, Dr Mark Josef Rapa as Organisational Insight & International Relations Specialist, and, Mr Jung.

Mr Jung said that it is of the essence that Checkpoint Malta has the full support of the local LGBTQ+ community, and that he and the NGO remain indebted to the Community Manager of ARC – Allied Rainbow Communities, Mr Clayton Mercieca, for his support and for his words of encouragement.

“It’s about time the issues of HIV and the stigma that lingers on in Malta are grabbed by the horns from people both within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as outside of it. In tandem with ARC and the Malta Gay Rights Movement [(MGRM)], we hope to push the aims of this organisation further,” Mercieca said in a statement. 

Checkpoint aims to make Malta a frontrunner in research, acquisition and the administration of the best HIV treatments and prevention methods in the world.

The new NGO said it is also pleased to be working in close proximity with the GU-Clinic at Mater Dei Hospital. Here, apart from working directly with Dr Padovese, the NGO is working with Assistant Chief Medical Officer, Dr Aaron Schembri, whose support has been invaluable.

“Our work has already begun and we are working towards Malta having a better understanding of the fact that undetectable equals untransmittable [(U=U)], while striving for more accessible and affordable pre-exposure treatment [(PrEP)], post-exposure treatment [(PEP)], and less-intrusive treatments for people already living with HIV,” says Dr Padovese.

“We are pushing for more testing facilities with a fast-track from first contact through to diagnosis, follow-up and after-care, with easily-available psychological and emotional support services, as well as to increase awareness and usability of such testing facilities.”

Christian Jung has previously held social experiments raising awareness of how HIV+ people are treated in Malta.

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Anyone interested in meeting up with the newly formed NGO can speak to them at Pride on September 14th.For more information about Checkpoint Malta, get in touch directly with Mr Jung via email ([email protected]) or phone (+31 682 568 586).

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READ NEXT: WATCH: HIV+ Man Asks For Hugs In Valletta And Gets Some Heartwarming (And Heartbreaking) Reactions

Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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