UNAIDS, a regional data hub, and Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOPH) have launched a joint web platform that aims to strengthen the generation of strategic information and the use of national, subnational and key population data for evidence-informed programming on 13 September, at the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Public Health.

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Malaysia’s MOH and Eamonn Murphy, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, launched the platform in Kuching.

“Today’s launch and new partnership between UNAIDS and the Ministry of Public Health harnesses the power of a data revolution to fast-track the response to HIV. Malaysia is the very first country in the region to take this step forward, and we hope many others will follow,” expressed Murphy at the conference.

Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (centre) and Eamonn Murphy, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific (second from left) at the launch of the joint data web platform – a collaborative effort and partnership between UNAIDS and MOH – during the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Public Health, on 13 September 2017. Photo credit: UNAIDS
Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (centre) and Eamonn Murphy, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific (second from left) at the launch of the joint data web platform – a collaborative effort and partnership between UNAIDS and MOH – during the 5th Asia Pacific Conference on Public Health, on 13 September 2017. Photo credit: UNAIDS

Malaysia the leader in reducing new HIV infections within the region

Malaysia has made significant progress in its response to HIV. The number of new HIV infection cases in Malaysia has declined 34% in the past six years, higher than the regional average of 13%.

About 95% of HIV-infected people in the country have been tested and are aware of their health status, Murphy added – stating that it is important for individuals to be aware of their HIV status, even if they are not accessing treatment so that further transmission can be prevented.

Other statistics include the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which is low as more than 70% of HIV-infected pregnant women are accessing services to prevent the onward transmission of the virus.

“Providing babies with the very best start in life is an important goal for UNAIDS, and Malaysia is showing this is possible,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, one of the barriers for people to seek treatment is the fear of discrimination at a workplace or the loss of jobs. The discrimination occurs because the community does not understand that HIV is treatable, those receiving treatment could live a normal lifespan.

Changing public awareness of HIV should be the first step towards addressing the challenge of getting more people into treatment, he added.

It’s discovered that 90% of people living with HIV in Malaysia know they have the virus. Photo credit: New Straits Times
It’s discovered that 90% of people living with HIV in Malaysia know they have the virus. Photo credit: New Straits Times

Data and strategic information important for evolving HIV epidemic

The progress has been contributed to the strategic investments the country has made in making services available for key populations over the past six years. A decline in the number of new infections amongst drug abusers (37%), men who have intercourse with one another (8.9%), sex workers (7.3%) and transgender people (5.6%) is seen.

The health authorities also recognise the importance that data and strategic information have in contributing to the achievements. However, they also underline that the HIV epidemic is constantly changing and that there is a need to track the virus.

Moving forward, the new partnership will ensure that up-to-date strategic information helps to set evidence-informed priorities and a quick response to the evolving dynamics of the country’s HIV epidemic.

“Malaysia is committed to making smart investments in key services for people most at risk and in the places they live and work. This new partnership with UNAIDS will ensure that we have the strategic information we need at our fingertips,” asserted Dr Noor Hisham. MIMS

Read more:
IAS 2017 discusses four major findings on HIV science
Early screening of HIV in high-risk areas can save lives
Six Asean countries contribute to majority of new HIV infections, UN reports

Sources:
https://www.nst.com.my/news/exclusive/2017/09/278538/exclusive-massive-drop-nations-hiv-rates
http://en.vietnamplus.vn/malaysia-reports-sharp-drop-in-new-hiv-infections/117875.vnp
http://www.malaysiasun.com/news/254709590/unaids-and-malaysia-launch-joint-data-web-platform
http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2017/september/20170914_Malaysia_data_platform