Injection Drug Use, Lack of Sex Education Contributing to Spread of HIV in Malaysia
Illicit drug use and a lack of sex education in Malaysia are fueling the spread of HIV in the country, Reuters reports. The World Health Organization last year said Malaysia was close to an HIV epidemic. Figures released at the beginning of 2006 showed that in a population of about 26 million there were 70,559 HIV-positive people and 10,663 people living with AIDS. In addition, males living with AIDS outnumber females living with AIDS by about 10 to one, according to Reuters. "The reality is we're losing the war," Pax Tan, a leader of a Christian group involved in combating the spread of HIV and illicit drug use in the country, said. The government last year began dispensing no-cost condoms and needles, a practice it had been opposed to until recently, Reuters reports. The country also plans to spend $136 million on HIV/AIDS programs, according to Reuters. In addition, the country will include HIV/AIDS education in the national service program for youths, Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek said. Recent surveys have shown a rise in unprotected sex and lack of awareness about HIV/AIDS among adolescents. "For HIV, the trend has been always upward in Malaysia and we're getting very worried," Chua said. "With the funding promised by the government, we are very confident that we'll be able to see a plateau in the rate of increase, maybe by 2010 or 2009," he added (Y-Sing, Reuters, 10/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.