Datuk Chef Ismail Ahmad did not need to be asked to be a Red Ribbon Ambassador

His jovial personality is something that celebrity chef and restaurateur Datuk Chef Ismail Ahmad is well known for.

However, he is extremely serious when it comes to a cause that is close to his heart, which is spreading awareness about HIV and AIDS, as well as offering support to those who are afflicted.

A brief recap for those who may have forgotten. AIDS is the abbreviation for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome”, a life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which damages the immune system and disrupts the body’s natural ability to fight infections and diseases.

On how Ismail became a Malaysian AIDS Council Red Ribbon Ambassador, the bubbly gentleman said it happened three years ago.

“I was helping them to do a women entrepreneur programme for women living with AIDS. I gave a talk on being in the food and beverage industry, how to prepare a simple menu and the quality standards in this business.”

He did not need a nudge or push to become a Red Ribbon Ambassador.

“I just looked at what they were doing and decided to get involved and support their programmes. I offered myself as a personality supporter.”

The pandemic has not stopped him from doing his bit to help those living with HIV or AIDS.

“We are working with Shopee to help raise funds. They are normal people like us, it is just that they are living with a disease. With the education given to them and also through Shopee, we want to tell people that AIDS doesn’t get transmitted through touching
and hugging. But it can be transmitted through bodily fluids like blood.”

When it comes to what HIV and AIDS are, Ismail is well-read on the subject because he takes an interest in such topics.

“Whenever I went abroad, I learnt that there are many people living with HIV and they are living a normal life. Only in Malaysia, people discriminate against those who are HIV-positive. Actually, people living with HIV are just like people living with diabetes and heart disease.

“I am not a person who discriminates against people. I don’t judge people with diseases. I tend to sympathise with them.”

He said that a person with Covid-19 is far more dangerous than a person who has HIV. The same goes for a person who has hepatitis.

Thanks to innovations in medicine, people with HIV can live a full life. You could be working alongside someone with HIV and not even know it.

“Many of them are professionals. It can be transmitted through the sharing of needles or not using a condom. Sometimes, the wife gets it from her husband. Most of them get it because they are drug addicts. Most people think it is a disease that you get because you are gay or bisexual.”

As a Red Ribbon Ambassador, Ismail is involved in approaching organisations to help raise funds.

“We can’t knock on every door. That would be a problem. We approach people who understand what the disease is about.”

He also said young people should be educated on AIDS and HIV while they are in school.

“This is everybody’s problem. It is not an individual problem. Education is free, it is not expensive. We want people to be educated so that they don’t discriminate.”

He feels that local dramas and movies should also do their part to educate the public.

Although there is medication to help treat those who are HIV-positive, it is not cheap.

“That is why we have to raise funds. I have met people with HIV, they are full of joy. It is just a sickness, a disease.”

He said it is important to educate people to not ostracise people with HIV. There are children whose parents have the disease, but they are the ones who must bear the social stigma.

“People should understand the world of people living with HIV. It is also important to give them moral support because they are our family. We live in the same country.”