PUTRAJAYA, July 13 ― Putrajaya will be increasing HIV screenings and sex education programmes in a bid to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said today.
He said this was in line with the recent United Nations high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS in June, declaring a need to accelerate the fight against HIV and ending AIDS globally by that year.
“If we look at the current success rate, it is quite satisfactory. In 2000, the rate of new cases was 21.7 per 100,000 people, and last year it has dropped to 10.9 per 100,000 people,” he told a press conference at the Health Ministry office here.
“Now we want to bring that 10.9 down to zero per 100,000 people by 2030, though we are hoping to hit the target earlier than that,” he added.
Dr Subramaniam said that his ministry will be providing HIV screening facilities to all hospitals and health clinics to strengthen ongoing harm reduction.
On prevention efforts, the ministry will be strengthening its cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who work with at-risk communities, as well as increase efforts in ongoing education programmes such as the Program Sihat Tanpa AIDS untuk Remaja (PROSTAR) club in schools.
PROSTAR is a peer counsellor programme for youths in schools, that was introduced by the Health Ministry in 1995.
He added that at present, the population of at-risk communities or “key population” that they want to reach out to stands at approximately 170,000 intravenous drug users, 40,000 female sex workers, 20,000 transgender people, and 20,000 men who have sex with men.
The minister said that follow-up treatment will be strengthened by making the antiretroviral medication more widely available in clinics, for those who have been diagnosed and received initial treatment in hospitals.
An accompanying statement by the ministry stated that the AIDS epidemic could end as early as the end of 2021 if it sticks to the National Strategic Plan for Ending AIDS 2016-2030, released last December.
According to the Health Ministry, there were 3,330 recorded new HIV infections last year, with spread through sexual activities making up 78 per cent of the figure, including 1,398 through heterosexual transmission and 1,203 through homosexual and bisexual transmission.
Injecting drug users made up 561 of new infections while there were 19 cases of mother to child infections.
Children’s welfare advocates have in the past criticised the poor level of sex education for youths in the country, with even parents’ groups calling for an improved syllabus for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
Due to cultural mores and customs, the subject of sex education in Malaysia has been treated as a taboo. Sex education modules are currently taught only in secondary schools and focus on abstinence.