Malaysia: More AIDS Cases in Heterosexual Relationships
November 9, 2006
Heterosexually transmitted HIV cases have increased in Malaysia from 4.9 percent in 1990 to 22.2 percent in 2005, Health Minister Dr. Chua Soi Lek said recently. In the same timeframe, female cases increased from 1.2 percent to 12 percent of reported cases. Mother-to-child HIV transmissions have also increased. A total of 70,559 HIV infections, including 10,663 AIDS cases, was reported last year in Malaysia, said Chua.
"Mother-to-child transmission increased from 0.2 percent in 1991, when the first three cases were reported, to 1.2 percent last year," Chua told an Asia-Pacific health forum organized by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNAIDS and the UN Fund for Population Activities. Among the forum's aims were addressing the integration of sexual/reproductive health, maternal/child health, STD/HIV prevention and comprehensive prevention of mother-to-child HIV infection.
Since 1998, Malaysia has offered voluntary, confidential HIV screening and counseling for pregnant women through a national program. Of about 350,000 pregnant women screened last year, 107 were HIV-positive. Of 840 babies born to HIV-infected mothers up to 2005, just 32 were HIV-positive, said Chua. All women and newborns were offered free antiretroviral therapy.
At the end of 2005, an estimated 3,800 HIV patients in Malaysia were on highly active antiretroviral therapy, the minister reported. "Our aim is to put 5,000 patients on HAART by the end of this year. A locally produced three-in-one antiretroviral drug has been available since May and will be given free to AIDS patients requiring HAART," he said. Methadone substitution for heroin injectors, needle exchanges and condom programs have all showed early successes, he noted.
The government will spend about RM300 million ($82.2 million US) on AIDS prevention in the next five years.
New Straits Times (Kuala Lumpur)
11.07.2006; Annie Freeda Cruez