New HIV Cases in Malaysia Decreasing, Percentage of Women Living With Virus Increasing, Health Ministry Official Says
The number of new HIV cases in Malaysia has decreased since 2002, but the percentage of women newly diagnosed with the virus has increased during the same time period, Abdul Rasid Kasri, deputy director of disease control at Malaysia's Ministry of Health, said Monday at the 19th Asian Red Cross/Red Crescent HIV/AIDS Network Meeting, the New Straits Times reports (New Straits Times, 10/23).
According to Kasri, about 5,000 new HIV cases are expected to be reported this year -- down from 5,400 in 2006 and 6,900 in 2005 (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/23). There were 2,400 new HIV cases detected in the first six months of this year, Kasri added. Although the number of new HIV cases has decreased overall, the percentage of HIV-positive women in Malaysia has increased from 6% of all HIV cases in 2002 to 20% currently, the Times reports.
Kasri said it is unclear why the number of new HIV cases has decreased while the percentage of cases among women has increased. He added that the number of injection drug users testing positive for HIV has decreased while cases transmitted through sexual activity are increasing (New Straits Times, 10/23). Kasri also said that an increasing number of IDUs are using drugs that do not require the use of syringes (Bernama Daily Malaysian News, 10/22). "In the past, 80% of Malaysians testing HIV-positive" were IDUs, Kasri said, adding, "But lately, fewer cases were being diagnosed in this group compared to the sexually active" (New Straits Times, 10/23).
Malaysia last year implemented a five-year plan to reduce the spread of HIV that included a pilot needle-exchange program, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/23). Malaysia has recorded 78,000 HIV/AIDS cases since 1986, 10,000 of which have resulted in death, according to Tunku Tan Sri Shahriman Tunku Sulaiman, chair of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (Bernama Daily Malaysian News, 10/22).