New HIV/AIDS Task Force Launched in Malaysia To Focus on Prevention Among Women
Although health officials in Malaysia are recording fewer new HIV/AIDS cases this year, more women are living with the disease, prompting the Ministry of Health to launch an education-focused task force to bolster prevention efforts aimed at women in the country, the New Straits Times reports (Yeow, New Straits Times, 12/17). The task force will focus on implementing mechanisms and strategies recommended by the World Health Organization to educate women about HIV/AIDS with a focus on prevention, Bernama Daily Malaysian News reports. The ministry's efforts to create awareness among women about prevention and safer-sex practices will be "intensified," according to Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai (Bernama Daily Malaysian News, 12/16). Some of the measures that the task force will implement include distribution of no-cost condoms among sex workers and HIV tests for couples prior to marriage. Lai said, "The Health Ministry strongly recommends that couples go for screening tests before getting married" (New Straits Times, 12/17).
Women accounted for 16.3% of the 80,938 new HIV cases recorded in Malaysia last year, and Lai called the trend "increasingly worrying" (Bernama Daily Malaysian News, 12/16). According to health ministry data, 75% of new cases among women occurred in women ages 20 to 39, and 60% of the women were married (New Straits Times, 12/17). In addition, 70% of women living with HIV contracted the disease through heterosexual contact (Bernama Daily Malaysian News, 12/16).
In the last nine months, 2,589 new HIV cases were reported in the country compared with 4,549 new cases reported last year. Lai said that if the decline continues, Malaysia will be ahead of schedule in meeting the HIV/AIDS targets in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (New Straits Times, 12/17).