HIV Spreading Rapidly in Malaysia
The number of HIV infections in Malaysia could surge by more than fourfold to 300,000 by 2015 as the virus spreads rapidly from high-risk groups to the general public, a senior health official warned Sunday.
Other than drug addicts, official statistics indicate the HIV virus that causes AIDS is spreading quickly to women, fishermen, lorry drivers and factory workers, said Ramlee Rahmat, deputy director-general of public health.
Some 73,000 Malaysians have been infected with HIV, of which 75 percent are intravenous drug users and 7 percent are women, he said.
“Based on the trend that we are seeing, HIV infections can escalate to 300,000 cases by 2015 if we do not do anything,” Ramlee said.
The government has taken aggressive steps to fight HIV transmission under a five-year national strategic plan launched in 2006, he said.
This include drug substitution therapy and needle exchange programs for drug addicts, and providing free antiretroviral drugs at government clinics especially for women and children.
“We have put up intervention measures. We are taking this very seriously. If we carry out our plans effectively and the public cooperates with us, we will be successful in curbing the spread of the disease,” he added.
UNAIDS has last year said Malaysia was among several Asia-Pacific countries that risked an HIV epidemic among drug users unless the government took the problem more seriously.
Three people die from AIDS-related illness every day in Malaysia, the Health Ministry has said. It warned last year that the spread of AIDS could wipe out Malaysia’s development made over the last 50 years and devastate the economy.
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