‘Goal to end AIDS by 2021 unrealistic’

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry's projection of ending AIDS by 2021, ahead of its 2030 deadline, is an unrealistic goal, said former Malaysian AIDS Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

"I think ending AIDS by 2021 is an unrealistic goal. I don't think it's going to happen, not least because we are facing an economic problem and budgets are being cut across the board," she said.

She said the ministry's 25% budget cut is the main reason why the target is not achievable. "How do you expect to control this disease with nothing?" she said.

Marina was speaking to the media at the Kuala Lumpur AIDS Support Services (KLASS) 15th anniversary charity dinner in conjunction with the 2016 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day.

She said a lot needs to be done to eradicate the scourge especially in terms of awareness and treatment.

"For HIV/AIDS, you need to do education programmes, counselling programmes, you need to run them constantly for different sections of society," she said.

"If budgets are cut and if you cut all these (programmes), there is no way you can stop HIV infections. In fact, you may even see a growth in numbers."

Marina also said the trend of HIV transmission has changed.

"It's not drug addicts who make up the list of patients any more, it is mostly from sexual transmission," she said, adding that 78% of patients in the country were infected through sexual transmission.

"We've to change our perception on educating the young about AIDS. Those days we used to teach them about drug use, now we have to change and target the root cause. It is a must to educate people and talk to them about practising safe sex," she added.

KLASS is a partner organisation under the Malaysian AIDS Council.

For the past 15 years, they have been providing care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Earlier, while officiating '#MAFBear', an initiative to help women and children living with HIV/AIDS at a mall here, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said the HIV situation is worrying as more housewives are infected.

From 1986 to last year, a total of 108,519 HIV cases were recorded and 37% of the 12,165 women who were infected were housewives.