Malaysia Pledges Battle Against HIV as UN Says Crisis Spreading: Report
August 24, 2005
In response to UNAIDS estimates that some 81,000 Malaysians have contracted HIV, compared to government figures showing 65,000 infections, Malaysian Health Department Director-General Ismail Merican said Tuesday the nation is focusing on its prevention efforts.
"We have to halt the sexual spread of HIV/AIDS and this can only be done through education," Ismail told the New Straits Times. Malaysia has set up a new surveillance system to monitor its HIV/AIDS epidemic, he said. "We have also sought the cooperation of non-governmental organizations to reach out to as many people as possible and talk to them about HIV/AIDS and how it can be prevented. We need to see a plateau soon, and then hopefully we will see a decline."
A recent survey of Malaysians found that 40 percent believed a beautiful woman could not be HIV-infected. A lack of education about the virus and a deep reluctance to discuss sex or admit the extent of the epidemic have slowed progress against the disease, say AIDS activists.
While 75 percent of HIV-infected Malaysians are intravenous drug users (IDUs), UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia Nafis Sadik told the New Straits Times on Monday that the situation is becoming a "generalized epidemic." She lauded officials there for a plan to provide condoms and clean needles for IDUs, moves that have been attacked by religious critics and those who say it is a waste of public money.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.