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AIDS/HIV NEWS: MALAYSIA


Free AIDS drug therapy next year 30/11/04 -- New Straits Times

All those infected with HIV will be given free life- prolonging drugs next year, as soon as the drugs can be locally produced. This puts Malaysia among the few countries in the world to provide the drugs, used in the Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), for free. The drugs are already free for a limited number of HIV-infected people, among them mothers and babies, said Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek. It is a sign the Government was "serious in fighting this epidemic", he said. "There are 20 new cases of HIV cases reported daily of which three are confirmed cases of AIDS, while two people die of the disease on a daily basis," he said Malaysian AIDS Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said the move meant the country was "very much in the forefront" of the global battle against HIV/AIDS. Some 58,000 Malaysians are infected with HIV. Of these, 6,545 have died of full-blown AIDS, Chua said today. Chua estimated that next year, another 4,000 people will be infected with HIV. In 2003 alone, 6,756 cases were detected. Three-quarters of these were aged between 13 and 39 years. Some 869 of these sufferers have died. Eighty per cent of them contract AIDS through intravenous drug use, and 13 per cent by heterosexual transmission. Roughly 0.7 per cent was due to mother to child transmission.


One in Four Found to Have AIDS 8/12/03 -- New Straits Times

One out of every four people who voluntarily come in for HIV/AIDS screening and counseling at health clinics in Malaysia tested positive last year. "Walk-in" cases increased by 53.4 percent, with 451 reported for 2002, up from 294 for 2001, according to Malaysian Red Crescent Society Vice Chair Dr. Datuk Bahari Abu Mansor. According to data compiled by the Malaysian AIDS Council, Bahari said, the majority of cases contracted HIV through needle- sharing or heterosexual relationships. Rising figures on the number of people seeking counseling and testing show that Malaysians are aware they put themselves at risk if they indulge in such activities. "We urge those who had been tested positive for the disease to seek immediate counseling and treatment," Bahari said at a Dec. 7 press conference to announce an HIV/AIDS awareness program sponsored by MRCS, the Puteri Pan Pacific Hotel and MAC. Bahari urged people not to stigmatize or discriminate against HIV/AIDS patients. He said the Health Ministry recorded 51,256 HIV cases last December, 7,218 of which had progressed to AIDS. Another 5,424 patients have died from the disease. Men made up the bulk of new HIV cases, with only about 1 in every 10 new cases occurring among women. Johor reported the highest number of HIV infections last year, with 1,421. Selangor had the second-highest number at 1,152.


Asian Values Hindering Malaysia's Fight Against HIV/AIDS 1/12/03 -- Agence France Presse

On World AIDS Day, Malaysian activists said deep-rooted reticence about discussing sex and a reluctance to admit the existence of a problem hinder Malaysia's fight against HIV/AIDS as infection levels accelerate. "We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there's an epidemic here. What's alarming is the level of denial in Malaysia," said Marina Mahathir, president of the Malaysian AIDS Council. She said Malaysians hide behind terms like "sensitive" as an excuse not to discuss the disease, and they blame Westernization for rising infections. But Marina said the opposite is true: that the country is failing to tackle HIV/AIDS because Malaysian society is clinging to its Asian values and refusing to talk about the problem. The government's earlier reluctance to introduce sex education in schools also hampered efforts, she noted. "Malaysians think we will never become like Africa," Marina warned. "That is simply not true." Malaysia has a reported 57,000 HIV/AIDS cases, up 3,000 from June of this year, according to Marina. Needle sharing accounts for nearly 80 percent of cases, and heterosexual transmission (12 percent) is the second leading cause. Marina, daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said, "The government really needs to take the lead in this. The problem is that we are doing piecemeal work, bits here and there... it's not enough."


HIV no longer to be feared 16/06/02 -- The Star

HIV need no longer be something to be feared, as affordable generic drugs are now available from public healthcare centres, Malaysian AIDS Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said. She said HIV/AIDS patients could now continue with their lives without having to fear that they may not be able to afford the required medication. “HIV is not the end for these people and we should change our perception that AIDS means death," she said in her speech when launching the second National HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) Forum at the Renaissance Hotel yesterday. Marina said the Government should be more proactive in combating the disease by informing the public that help was available. She also said that by encouraging more people to get tested, the Government could identify HIV/AIDS carriers and educate them so that they would not infect others. At a press conference later, Marina said the council was helping 75 HIV/AIDS patients to obtain the drugs and at the same time, help them to rebuild their lives. "Compared with the 45,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers in this country, 75 people may be small but these people are able to sustain their lives ≠ working and providing food for their family and sending their children to school.


Malaysian AIDS Body Against Plan to Force Pre-marriage HIV Tests 01/11/01 -- Agence France Presse

The Malaysian AIDS Council opposes a plan by the southern Johor state to carry out mandatory pre-marital HIV tests on Muslim couples. "We find that many practical issues in the implementation of the fatwa [religious decree] have not been thought through by the Johor Health Department and this will cause the plan to fail," council President Marina Mahathir told the Sun newspaper. The council fears the plan was not scientifically sound, lacked trained staff and could cause unnecessary distress for those with false positive results. According to Mahathir, one objection was that there seemed to be little concern about the window of time between infection and testing positive, which would defeat the purpose of the pre- marital tests.

Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman said the decree will be implemented by November 13. "Initially there were some objections that the fatwa violated individual rights and that couples are denied their right to get married," Othman said. "After much explanation, these people who opposed us in the beginning understand the ruling and started to support it." Under the Johor state fatwa, couples would be tested in state hospitals, and the results would go to the religious authority. If medically fit, the couple would be issued a certificate and could then marry. If a test showed that a prospective bride or groom had HIV/AIDS, it would be up to them if they wanted to go on with their wedding, as they could not be prevented from doing so. "We have to take the measure because Johor has recorded the highest number of HIV infections with 8,000 cases last year," Abdul Ghani said.

Johor is the first among the 13 states in Malaysia to make such a ruling. Religious matters come under the jurisdiction of individual states. Another state, Negri Sembilan, said Wednesday it had decided to follow Johor's example. The News Straits Times newspaper cited a religious official who said that about 4,000 men and 93 women in the state had tested positive for HIV.


Many HIV/AIDS patients have complained of "different'' treatment from medical staff 21/05/00 -- The Star

Malaysian AIDS Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said this was the main complaint documented by the council over the past year. "Sometimes, treatment given to these patients is just a bit different from others. "The staff is perhaps slower in responding to the needs of the patients or are less friendly and sensitive to them. And often, it is difficult for the patients to seek treatment as they have to travel far, particularly women," she said after the launch of the Malaysian AIDS Council biennial general meeting here yesterday. The documentation was carried out by trained workers and included interviews with HIV/AIDS patients from a wide spectrum of society.


HOSPITALS STILL BIASED AGAINST PEOPLE WITH HIV/AIDS Apr 24, 1997

KUALA LUMPUR -- Hospital authorities are still biased and practise discrimination in rendering services to people with HIV/AIDS. President of the Malaysian AIDS Council and chairman of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said the organisations had received complaints from quite a number of patients. The patients alleged that they were turned away by hopitals because medical practitioners refused to treat them.

"It is the duty of medical practitioners or hospitals to take in patients, regardless of their backgrounds, for further treatment or diagnosis." -- Copyright 1997 The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Berhad


. MALAYSIA: SCHOOLGIRL PROSTITUTES ALARM MINISTRY Dec 17, 1996

Prostitution among Penang schoolgirls, immoral behaviour of factory workers and homosexual relationships between youths have been cited by government officials as signs of moral decay which need to be addressed. The Education Ministry said it would investigate claims that some female students in Penang were involved in prostitution after a member of the state Executive Council identified 13 girls aged between 13 and 17 who were offering sex for money "to keep up with the lifestyle of richer peers".

In Selangor, the Chief Minister, Muhammad Taib, said factory owners should start to play an active role in curbing moral decay among workers. He said that among 5,000 cases of immoral activities uncovered by the authorities, including co-habitation and pregnancy out of wedlock, 70 per cent of those involved were Malays. Most Malays are Muslims and prohibited by religious laws from sex outside marriage.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Health Minister, Chua Jui Meng, said a study of youths aged between 15 and 21 showed 20 per cent had experienced homosexual relationships. Describing the statistics as "alarming", he said there was a need for an education campaign on AIDS. -- BY IAN STEWART, SOURCES EAST ASIA


HIV, AIDS Cases Increase in Malaysia Aug 11, 1996

In Malaysia, 300 new HIV cases are detected each month, and a total of 448 AIDS cases and 16,349 HIV cases were reported by June 30 this year. The government has approved the spending of $48 million for AIDS care between 1993 and 1995, but says that additional funding is needed. The estimated figures may not reflect the actual number of new cases because many are not reported. The majority of HIV-infected individuals in Malaysia--nearly 84 percent--are between the ages of 20 and 39, while some 4 percent of those infected are aged 13 to 19. -- Xinhua News Agency


Plan for youths to educate others on Aids July 5, 1996

KUALA LUMPUR -- The Health Ministry has formulated a programme to reach out and educate youths on HIV/Aids in its efforts to battle the deadly disease. The Health without Aids for Malaysian Youths (Prostar) programme is to be launched later this year by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Health Minister Chua Jui Meng said that the programme aims to train 20,000 youth facilitators to reach two million of their peers on HIV/Aids by 2000.

"The reason for emphasising this group of people is that they make up 51 per cent of the total number of HIV/Aids cases in the country," Mr Chua said. His department, he added, will train the youth facilitators. "Facilitators will be equipped with knowledge of the disease and social values, and they will be engaged in constructive activities which will attract other youths." The programme will involve students of institutions of higher learning, Rakan Muda participants, uniformed bodies and factory workers.

He said the average number of reported HIV cases per month for the first five months this year was 322.2 compared to last year's 295.5 cases. Up to May 31, there were 16,029 HIV cases, 416 Aids cases and 363 deaths. -- Straights Times


DEVELOPING EFFECTIVE HIV/AIDS PROGRAMS FOR TRANSSEXUALS WORKING AS SEX WORKERS July, 1996

Author: Dinan Slamah (Khartini). Project Manager, Sex Worker Program. (IKHLAS)

HIV/AIDS Education & Awareness to transgendered sex workers community Projects: A transsexuals program targeting the transgendered sex workers reaching out to the transgendered community at brothels, back lanes, streets and homes of the transgendered sex workers. In bring discussions and retreat workshops is also carried out. This is followed up by meetings among peer leaders who come together to priorities issues and action. Media orientated discussion to highlight issues and to sensitize the public at about transsexuality.

Results: Outreach is an effective method of reaching transgendered sex worker communities. ‘fun' retreats/workshops allow them to consider and discuss behavior change. Peer educators allows for information dissemination to take place in an non confrontational manner. Increasing numbers of transgendered sex workers are determined in using good quality condoms. Increasing numbers of transgendered sex workers are switching from oil based antiseptic lubricant to water based lubricant. Issues of discrimination and abuse prevent transgendered sex workers from taking concrete steps in ensuring that their work place and their self is safe from HIV.

Address: Dinan Slamah (Khartini). IKHLAS Center, P.O. Box 11859, 50760 Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. Fax: 603.4415699 -- ABSTRACT FROM THE XI INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON AIDS, VANCOUVER


Nearly 1,200 prisoners said to be HIV carriers June 30, 1996

There are now 1,194 prisoners who are HIV carriers and 56 have died of AIDS since 1990, Prisons Department deputy director Haji Omar Dan said yesterday. Speaking at the launch of the 1996 AIDS Awareness Week at the state prison here, he said most of the victims were young people aged between 18 and 30. -- by M. Mageswari, Sunday Star


300 New HIV Cases Reported Monthly in Malaysia Apr 14, 1996

The Malaysian government announced Sunday that some 300 new HIV cases are reported each month, and there are already about 15,000 cases in the country. Minister of National Unity and Social Development Paduka Zaleha Ismail said the government is concerned about the rise in the number of people infected with HIV, and that the community must help to curb the increase. She said 680 people under the age of 19 have the virus and that parents, educators, and community organizations must play a role in educating the young about AIDS. A special cabinet committee is planning programs to decrease drug abuse and other negative behaviors. -- Xinhua News Service


Compulsory Pre-marital HIV Test due for Malaysian Muslims Dec 18, 1995

Muslim couples in Malaysia will have to take an HIV test before they can get a marriage certificate. Abdul Hamid, minister in charge of Islamic affairs, said the new regulation would be enforced from early 1997. The move, he said, would ensure the future generation would be free from HIV.

The proposed rule is expected to face resistance from NGOs who are trying to get the cabinet to endorse an AIDS charter which advocates anonymous testing and confidentiality for those with HIV. Native Malays, all of whom are Muslim, make up more than half of the country's 18.5 million population. Just under 14,000 HIV cases have been detected in Malaysia to date. --The Nation


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