The rate of Malaysian women living with HIV is on the rise and the Health Ministry has set up a taskforce to stem this alarming trend.
Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said the trend must be urgently reversed, adding that the taskforce has until next April to come out with an action plan based on World Health Organisation recommendations.
“We want women to be more careful and educate themselves on how HIV is transmitted,” he told the media after opening the national-level World AIDS Day celebration here on Tuesday.
Liow said there was an 11% rise in HIV infections among women in the 10 years since 1997.
Of women living with HIV, 75% were between 20 and 39 years of age, and of that number, 60% were married.
Another alarming trend was the low number of couples foregoing pre-marriage HIV/AIDS screenings, Liow said. The number of couples going for checks hovers between 0.05% and 0.1%.
“These screenings are not to prevent anyone from getting married. It is only to give them a chance to find out about their HIV status and take the appropriate action whether the results are positive or negative,” he said.
The good news, Liow said, was that Malaysia’s overall number of HIV cases had dropped to 16.7 cases per 100,000 Malaysians last year from a high of 28.5 cases per 100,000 in 2002.
It was projected that the number could reach 12.8 cases per 100,000 people by year end.
“This trend means it is not impossible for Malaysia to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing rate of HIV infections to 11 cases per 100,000 people by 2015,” he said.
He added that the RM500mil allocation under the 2006-2010 National Strategic Plan to combat HIV/AIDS remained unchanged despite the worsening economic situation.