Malaysian Pre-Marital Courses To Include HIV Testing, Official Says
Pre-marital courses for Muslim couples in Malaysia will now include mandatory HIV tests, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced recently, Singapore's New Straits Times reports. The mandatory testing will begin in 2009, Najib said, adding that HIV testing already is a part of pre-marital counseling in six Malaysian states and was first introduced in 2001. Da-Tuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, director general of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, said that couples who test positive for the virus will be permitted to get married and will receive counseling on preventive measures. According to Najib, the measure is part of government efforts to reduce the increasing HIV incidence among women. Najib said that the country has "successfully reduced the number of cases among [injection] drug users but transmission though sexual activities" has increased.
The total number of newly recorded HIV cases in Malaysia has decreased from 6,756 in 2003 to 3,452 in 2008, Najib said, adding that the decrease is the result of programs like the Health Ministry's 2005 harm-reduction program -- which includes a needle-exchange program and methadone treatment program -- and efforts by the National Strategic Plan on AIDS (Ng, New Straits Times, 12/19). Najib said the government has "decided to widen these programs and give more focus on high-risk groups" (Rahman, The Star, 12/19).