Malaysia Could Face Increasing Number of HIV Cases Without Amplified Control Efforts, Health Official Says
Nearly 300,000 Malaysia residents could become HIV-positive by 2015 unless increased efforts are made to reduce the spread of the virus, Ramlee Rahmat, deputy director-general for Malaysia's Ministry of Health, said on Sunday, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. According to the AP/Mercury News, there are about 73,000 HIV-positive people living in Malaysia, 75% of whom are injection drug users and 7% of whom are women. Rahmat said the virus is spreading quickly among IDUs, women, fishermen, truck drivers and factory workers in the country (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/11). In addition, the government said that transmission through heterosexual sex is increasing and noted a "worrying trend" of increasing HIV incidence among women in the country (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/11). According to Rahmat, the government last year launched a five-year national strategic plan to reduce HIV transmission. "We are taking this very seriously," Rahmat said, adding, "If we carry out our plans effectively and the public cooperates with us, we will be successful in curbing the spread of the disease." Rahmat added that the government has increased access to drug substitution therapy and needle-exchange programs among IDUs and has provided no-cost antiretrovirals for women and children at government clinics. UNAIDS in 2006 said that Malaysia was one of several countries in the Asia-Pacific region that risked an escalating number of HIV/AIDS cases among IDUs unless efforts were made to reduce the spread of the disease. According the health ministry, three people die daily from AIDS-related illnesses. The ministry last year warned that the spread of HIV could reverse the country's development during the last 50 years, the AP/Mercury News reports (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/11).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.