More than 44,000 HIV patients have yet to receive medical treatment

PETALING JAYA: Out of the more than 88,000 living HIV patients in the country, some 50% or about 44,000 have yet to receive medical treatment.

The Health Ministry reported that up until December 2014, there are 88,093 HIV patients.

Expressing concern over the figures, Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president Datuk Dr. Raj Karim said this was mainly due to the stigmatisation of the community, which is still prevalent, making it difficult to reach out to them.

The HIV community includes drug users and sex workers, she said in a press conference here yesterday after launching the World AIDS Day which is celebrated annually.

The theme this year is "Ending AIDS by 2030".

In order to address this issue, both MAC and the ministry will implement several strategies under the National Strategic Plan on Ending AIDS from 2016 to 2030.

The ministry’s public health expert, Dr. Anita Suleiman, who was also present at the event, said the strategies included screening those susceptible to HIV and continuing with antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

She admitted the main challenge would be to convince drug users to switch from using needles to methadone liquid instead.

In this respect, a "peer support" group would be formed from those who have led a productive live and are able to reach out to HIV patients.

This initiative is also meant to reduce by 90% the number of new HIV infection cases among future patients by 2030.

Non-governmental organisations will also be working together with the MAC and health ministry as partners to spread the information to the community in urging them to come forward and provide them with the medication needed.

Dr. Raj also acknowledged Yayasan Sime Darby's donation of RM2.5 million to both the MAC and Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) over the past two years for their projects, especially on HIV advocacy and leadership scheme.

Another project is a medicine scheme that provides access to second line ARV treatment to underprivileged Malaysians with HIV.