HIV concerns all, a shared responsibility – Malaysian AIDS Council

the malay mail online
Original Article:

FEBRUARY 23 — In light of the recent debate around HIV and homosexuality which has been making the rounds in a number of online news portals this past week, Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) wishes to clarify that HIV is an epidemic that concerns all. While certain key populations namely people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people and sex workers continue to be disproportionately affected by and at risk for HIV, the fact remains that the epidemic, globally and in the Asia Pacific region, is predominantly heterosexual in nature.

In 2013, heterosexual HIV transmission accounted for half of the 3,393 new infections in Malaysia, far ahead of other modes of transmission such as homo/bisexual contacts and unsafe drug injections, both at 22 per cent respectively.

We must recognise that it is not a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or the fact that he/she is a drug user or sex worker that puts one at risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, but the failure to adhere to appropriate measures to prevent HIV for lack of knowledge and access to prevention tools in addition to a myriad of other factors. In Malaysia, restrictive socio-cultural and legal environment and pervasive stigma and discrimination prevent individuals most at-risk from coming forward to access HIV prevention and treatment services.

Stigma and discrimination breed fear and misconceptions, push key populations further to the margins of society and discourage them from accessing lifesaving HIV testing and treatment services, thus creating an endless vicious cycle of fear and undiagnosed (and untreated) HIV.
To end HIV, attitudes, languages and practices that stigmatise key populations and high-risk behaviours must change.

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