Malaysian Health Official Urges Women To Carry Condoms To Prevent HIV Transmission
Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad during the 25th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on Saturday urged women in the country to carry condoms to protect themselves against HIV transmission, the AP/Google.com reports.
Ahmad said the suggestion was not intended to "debase" women but to protect them, adding that women "are the first ones to get exploited by their (HIV-positive) partners" (AP/Google.com, 6/1). Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, added that in addition to commercial sex workers, married women whose husbands participate in risky behaviors, such as injection drug use, also are at risk of HIV transmission. "It's not that people don't know that condoms can protect them," Kamarulzaman said, adding that "some men ... do not care to take the precaution, even though they know they have HIV" (PTI/The Hindu, 6/1).
Ahmad also encouraged nongovernmental organizations and the media to become more involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS by spreading awareness and promoting dialogue, the New Straits Times reports. Ahmad added that many people in the predominately Muslim country are reluctant to discuss HIV/AIDS because of moral issues, as the highest-risk groups in the country are sex workers and injection drug users.
Celebrations for the memorial drew more than 1,000 people. The main theme of the event was addressing HIV-associated stigma and discrimination. The event was held openly for the first time this year in Malaysia to help reduce stigma, according to the Times (Sabanayagam, New Straits Times, 6/1).
According to PTI/The Hindu, 745 HIV cases were recorded among women in Malaysia in 2007, compared with 875 in 2006. Although the number of new cases among women decreased, total new cases have been increasing. In addition, 193 women were diagnosed with AIDS in 2007 and 131 women died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared with 222 and 80, respectively, in 2006 (PTI/The Hindu, 6/1). As of December 2007, more than 80,938 HIV cases and 13,000 AIDS cases had been reported in Malaysia, and more than 10,000 people had died of AIDS-related causes. About three people in the country died of AIDS-related illnesses daily in 2007, the Times reports (New Straits Times, 6/1).