Malaysia To Launch Pilot Program To Provide Needles, Condoms to Injection Drug Users Next Year, Health Minister Says
Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek on Sunday said the Ministry of Health in January 2006 plans to begin a six-month pilot program that will distribute hypodermic needles and condoms to 1,200 injection drug users at selected locations in four cities despite reports it had been put on hold because of opposition from Islamic religious groups, the AP/China Post reports (AP/China Post, 9/4). Chua in June said the program, which aims to reduce the spread of HIV, would begin in October (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/3). Local media on Saturday reported that the government was putting off the program's implementation because of opposition, but Chua said, "The staff have to be trained and educated properly before this program can be introduced. We're not going to be giving these needles and condoms to just about everyone." The program plans to launch in locales in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baharu, Penang and Kuantan, Pahang, Chua said (Bernama, 9/4). He added that the health ministry has set up a task force -- which includes representatives from the ministry, the National Drug Agency, police and other government agencies -- to monitor and draw up strategies to implement the program (Star, 9/5). After six months, Chua said the program will be re-evaluated and implemented nationwide. In addition, the government has allocated approximately $635,638 to supply methadone to treat 1,200 drug users starting next month for a six-month period as part of its program to curb HIV transmission among IDUs (Xinhua, 9/5). Ten clinics will participate in the methadone program and each will be able to treat 120 drug users (Bernama, 9/4). Chua has said statistics released last year showed that there are 61,486 HIV-positive people in Malaysia and that 75% of those people are injection drug users (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.