UN Estimates 81,000 Malaysians May Be HIV-Positive
August 22, 2005
Up to 81,000 Malaysians are estimated to have acquired HIV since the country's first case was detected in 1986, the New Straits Times quoted Dr. Nafis Sadik, UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, as saying. With the epidemic's spread from high-risk groups to the general population, Malaysia must stop ignoring and stigmatizing HIV/AIDS, said Sadik.
"In some areas you need to bring in the religious community leaders," said the envoy. "There are many people who are conservative but ... you have to bring them on board, educate and inform them. People will eventually come around." It is vital for the country to implement a surveillance system that allows a cross-sectional profile of its epidemic, Sadik said.
UN officials were not immediately able to confirm Sadik's comments. Health Minister Director General Ismail Merican also did not comment on the 81,000 figure cited by Sadik. Due to cultural sensitivities, "we don't believe in forcing people to come forward," and would rather focus on education, awareness, and monitoring HIV/AIDS patients, Ismail told reporters today at a health conference.
The ministry is working with non-governmental organizations to stem HIV/AIDS among high-risk groups, and it is deploying a "massive and aggressive media campaign" for the public, Ismail said. The Health Ministry estimates only about 65,000 Malaysians have become HIV-infected since 1986. Of them, 9,444 people developed AIDS and 7,195 have died.
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.