HIV/AIDS battle: Glimpse of hope amid mammoth task

Published: December 1, 2014

the malay mail online
Audrey Edwards
Original Article:

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Through the years, HIV/AIDS has killed and deprived families of their loved ones.

But what was once a deadly disease without any way of being conquered, it has now been tamed, thanks to the multitude of efforts to combat it.

While there is still no cure in sight, medication like anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have prolonged the lives of those with the disease.

Another element to stop the disease in its deadly track is prevention.

This includes methods such as the harm reduction programme and safe-sex.

Battling HIV/AIDS is a mammoth task, no thanks to the stigma and discrimination attached to it.

Sex and drugs. There is no way of looking past that, leading some saying that those living with the disease must have “asked for it”.

Malaysia is not unique when it comes to being a part of the disease’s landscape.

Sex workers, injecting drug users (IDUs), transgenders and men who have sex with men (MSM) are not the easiest to reach because they, more often than not, choose to be under the radar for fear of being exposed.

The government spent more than RM180 million (almost 66 per cent) last year in care and ARV treatments while close to RM28 million (15 per cent) for prevention.

When prevention methods are put into place, positive results can be seen.

Targeting IDUs through harm reduction has seen the number of new infections drop by more than 50 per cent between 2009 and 2013.

This is in comparison to the 90s where 70 to 80 per cent of new cases were through sharing of syringes.

A study funded by the World Bank and carried out by Universiti Malaya’s Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) last year showed harm reduction saved the government RM47.1 million in direct healthcare costs — money it would have had to spend on treatment and monitoring.

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