‘Hard to eradicate HIV by 2030 without effective sex education’

11 Dec 2019 / 13:40 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The country’s aim to eradicate HIV by 2030 will not be achieved as long as sex education remains a taboo subject among Malaysians, and is not discussed openly.

Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) patron Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said the pattern of infection has shifted in the last two decades, with more cases now transmitted sexually compared to drug use previously.

It was reported last year, 94% of new HIV cases detected were sexually-transmitted, with only 3% due to drugs, as compared to 61% in 1990.

“Drug use is no longer the main (cause) of HIV, and we need to talk more about transmission through sex. Until we are able to talk frankly and openly, I don’t think we are going to get anywhere,” she said ahead of the MAF-Berjaya Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner, which will be held on Saturday.

Malaysian AIDS Council president Bakhtiar Talhah said while the number of sexually-transmitted HIV cases is worryingly high, particularly as it involved a large number of youth, sex remains a touchy subject among Malaysians.

He said that despite free treatment offered by government hospitals and clinics, stigma and discrimination against those with AIDS and HIV remains high, leading to many who are infected to not seek treatment.

“Only about half of Malaysians with HIV get treatment. Although we have made advances in treating patients, the greatest barrier remains, which is stigma and discrimination.

“If more people seek free treatment, and if we talk more openly about condom usage and sex education, I think we can eradicate HIV by 2030,” he said.

Berjaya Corporation Berhad, which shares a history of partnership with MAF spanning two decades, was the event’s “Title Sponsor”. Its executive director Nerine Tan presented a contribution to the foundation yesterday.

The winner of the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award, given to an individual or organisation that has shown commitment and dedication in creating lasting impact on communities affected by HIV, will be announced during the dinner, and will receive a cash prize of RM20,000 and a trophy.

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