The Malaysian AIDS Foundation believes that Sarawak may be the first state that will see an end to new HIV infections despite its geographical size.
“In addressing the challenges in Sarawak, we also recognise the real opportunity of ending AIDS in Sarawak ahead of all the other states in Malaysia, given that the number of new HIV infections are consistently low each year,” foundation chairperson Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman said last night.
She said this was due to new infections mainly confined to sexual transmission and not sharing of needles since drug usage in the state was very low.
Adeeba was speaking at a fundraising gala held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here.
According to the health ministry, unlike other states in Malaysia, the main route of transmission in Sarawak is sexual activity, accounting for 97.8% of HIV cases. It said transmissions in other states occur mostly through drug usage.
Adeeba said due to improved treatment and prevention programmes, “it is now possible to talk about ending the AIDS pandemic”.
“Globally, and in Malaysia, we have reached a critical point in the AIDS response. A make-it-or-break-it situation where all our successes will be threatened if we do not accelerate our efforts in the next five years, potentially resulting in a dramatic rebound of the AIDS epidemic,” Adeeba said.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s wife, Jamilah Anu, who was the special guest at the fundraising gala, announced that a one-stop healthcare centre for integrated HIV treatment, care and support will be constructed soon.
She said the RM800,000 centre would offer refuge for rural residents who travelled to the state’s capital to receive free HIV treatment, tests and follow ups.
The gala raised RM495,000 last night, including RM50,000 from the chief minister’s office.
A total of 1,698 people live with HIV in Sarawak, while nationwide the figure stands at 92,000. Since AIDS was first detected in Malaysia 30 years ago, 18,574 people have died from the disease, according to the health ministry.
Source : Richard T.W. @ FMT Online