The Malaysian Ministry of Health sets its sights to end AIDS in the country by 2030, with Sarawak aiming to record zero new cases of the diseases.

The Head of HIV/STI department in the Ministry of Health, Dr Anita Suleiman said this was a possible feat as there is a relatively small group of people in Sarawak living with HIV and the numbers were consistently low every year.

MOH plans to adopt the 95-95-95 approach

This country was committed to ‘Ending AIDS’ by 2030 through the 95-95-95 target which is 95% of key populations being tested for HIV and knowing their results, 95% of those infected with HIV started on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and 95% of these complying with treatment with a suppressed viral load, she said.

“The commitment includes reaching 90% of the key and vulnerable populations with effective prevention,” said Suleiman speaking at the opening of a support centre recently. The inauguration of this centre is a joint project by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) and Malaysia AIDS Council under the care of Sarawak AIDS Concern Society (SACS).

She also noted that many cases could possibly be going unreported secondary to societal stigma and discrimination. This causes people with HIV to shy away from seeking medical attention in hospitals. To overcome this, community-based screening can be implemented and NGOs can refer those that test positive to health clinics for confirmation and subsequent treatment.

Sarawak’s launch of the one stop centre is the MAF’s response to the largest hindrance to HIV continuum of care in the state which is the geographical distribution that impinges on access to healthcare services. This initiative is the first community-based facility in Sarawak to cater to men, women and children affected by HIV.

Unsavoury activities and intravenous drug use are main transmission channels

In Peninsular Malaysia, the main transmission of HIV is through intravenous drug use but, Suleiman pointed out that sexual activity is the main mode of spread in Sarawak and transmission via unprotected sex between same-sex couples are also increasing.

The Health Ministry recently detained a group selling red “miracle” pills and illegal sex stimulants in Jalan Raja Laut . The group claimed that the red pill could cure various sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Officers posed as buyers to track down the five street peddlers who were later detained by the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division. The pills are said to be from China and are banned in this country due to the side effects such as heart attacks.

“During our raids in Jalan Chow Kit and Lorong Haji Taib, we found that these peddlers are very cautious about selling the sex stimulant pills and placed only empty product boxes on their tables,” said a ministry’s spokesman.

“They usually hide the sex stimulants in their cars or at nearby drains to avoid being caught with evidence.” MIMS

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