New York Times (03.28.12) - Tuesday, April 03, 2012
In 2010, Malaysia's Ar-Rahman became the world's first mosque
to house a methadone program, according to the World Health
With 170,000 injecting drug users, and drug injection the
leading cause for HIV transmission, Malaysia's new HIV
infections reached 7,000 in 2002. After the first patient-
funded methadone treatment program launched at the University
of Malaya, new infections dropped to approximately 6,100. That
success spurred introduction of the first national,
government-funded program in 2005.
Despite expansion of those government programs, a dearth of
clinics with adequate resources left many untreated, said Dr.
Rusdi Abdul Rashid, chief coordinator of the University of
Malaya's Center of Addiction Sciences, which runs the Ar-
To overcome the opposition of mosque authorities and the
government departments that must sanction activities in
Malaysia's mosques, doctors argued that methadone was
permitted by Islam because it is medicinal and does not
produce feelings of euphoria.
According to Rusdi, the Ar-Rahman program has 50 patients,
ages 18 to 60, who pay 15 ringgit (US $4.90) to participate.
For the first eight weeks, as part of their "spiritual
enhancement," patients pray first, then take the methadone
under a pharmacist's supervision. Months later, and after at
least two consecutive negative drug tests, patients may take
home up to three doses.
Methadone and needle-exchange programs halved Malaysia's new
HIV cases to 3,080 by 2009, its lowest rate since 1993.
However, new infections rose to 3,652 in 2010, as sex eclipsed
injection drug use in causing HIV transmissions.
"We are currently campaigning to other religious authorities
and leaders in the country to adopt this program," said
Mohammad Zaman Khan, the Malaysian AIDS Council's president.