Agence France Presse (08.23.05) - Wednesday, August 24, 2005
In response to UNAIDS estimates that some 81,000 Malaysians
have contracted HIV, compared to government figures showing
65,000 infections, Malaysian Health Department Director-
General Ismail Merican said Tuesday the nation is focusing on
its prevention efforts.
"We have to halt the sexual spread of HIV/AIDS and this can
only be done through education," Ismail told the New Straits
Times. Malaysia has set up a new surveillance system to
monitor its HIV/AIDS epidemic, he said. "We have also sought
the cooperation of non-governmental organizations to reach out
to as many people as possible and talk to them about HIV/AIDS
and how it can be prevented. We need to see a plateau soon,
and then hopefully we will see a decline."
A recent survey of Malaysians found that 40 percent believed a
beautiful woman could not be HIV-infected. A lack of education
about the virus and a deep reluctance to discuss sex or admit
the extent of the epidemic have slowed progress against the
disease, say AIDS activists.
While 75 percent of HIV-infected Malaysians are intravenous
drug users (IDUs), UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia Nafis
Sadik told the New Straits Times on Monday that the situation
is becoming a "generalized epidemic." She lauded officials
there for a plan to provide condoms and clean needles for
IDUs, moves that have been attacked by religious critics and
those who say it is a waste of public money.