The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) hopes to achieve the target of zero-HIV/AIDS nation by year 2030. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam said that the target aligned with global goals of being HIV/AIDS free by 2030.

"Whether the world achieves the target or not, we (Malaysia) are committed and determined to achieve the objective," he said when opening the national level World AIDS Day 2016 at Borneo Kuching Convention Centre.

He called for close cooperation, commitment and collaboration of relevant authorities and agencies to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and achieve the target.

The number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country has dropped, but there is still a serious concern in controlling the situation since 78% of new cases reported were sexually transmitted cases, he added.

"The transmission and infection of HIV cases in Malaysia in general has seen a change in trend starting 2010 - from drug addicts sharing needles to sex related cases.

"In 2015, 78.1% of the new HIV cases were sexually transmitted and 17% involved drug addicts," he said.

Global decline of number of deaths due to AIDS since 2000

Overall statistics for HIV/AIDS throughout the world has dropped 35% since year 2000 and the number of deaths due to AIDS has dropped to 42% since 2004. In comparison with 2002, last year the number of those who died of AIDS dropped by 22%.

The rate of new HIV infection cases as of 2015 was 10.9 per 100,000 citizens and the figure is expected to drop to 10.7 per 100,000 citizens by the end of this year.

Dr. Subramaniam said last year the government spend RM202.1 million to implement awareness programmes to control and prevent HIV/AIDS, and will keep doing so until they reach the target.

MOH thanks local NGOs for helping curb the spread of HIV/AIDS

He also expressed gratitude to local NGOs for helping spread the message of safe sex, particularly the use of condoms. He added that it was always a challenge for the ministry to confront the realities of the sexual habits of Malaysians.

"Behavioural changes are the hardest. It is a difficult matter to tackle, particularly when it involves homosexual relationships,” he said, “There is difficulty in spreading the message of safe sex in a country where such practices are not recognised."

He described the supporting role of NGOs in the MOH's initiative as "very important" as they have been able to actively intervene against HIV transmission in an open manner.

“Without their cooperation, we would not be able to do this and (promote) the programme of condom usage the way it is promoted in HIV campaigns in the other countries," he added.

Drawing an example of Malaysia's conservative attitude, Subramaniam pointed out that the World AIDS Day logo - depicting a hand with a condom - was edited to a more discreet design in Malaysia.

“These things happen because there are differences in beliefs and cultures. It is a challenge and it is why we need the support of NGOs to pass on the message of safe sex to everybody," he said. MIMS

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