KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — The Health Ministry has decided to keep HIV screening at public clinics free, with the nominal RM1 registration fee, amid claims it raised the test’s charge to RM60.
An RM60 charge for HIV screening would make government clinics even more expensive than certain private diagnostic centres that charge RM50 for the test or an equivalent RM60.
“The ministry wishes to continue providing the RM1 service for HIV screening,” Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye told CodeBlue.
HIV activist Martin Choo recently claimed that the Health Ministry had begun enforcing the Fees (Medical) (Cost of Services) Order 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, which would see Malaysians get charged RM60 for an HIV screening at a government clinic.
“Charging walk-in clients for HIV screening in the national health service will also deprive key populations at risk for HIV from engaging in regular HIV screening,” Choo, who is managing director of Asia Pacific Council of AIDS Service Organisations, posted on Facebook Friday.
CodeBlue understands that confusion arose over the RM60 charge for HIV screenings because the Health Ministry had inadvertently omitted to exempt the charge, but has now prepared the documentation and is proceeding to do so.
Klinik Kesihatan Kuala Lumpur’s telephone operators told CodeBlue last Tuesday that HIV screening was free with the nominal RM1 registration fee, when asked if the test now cost RM60.
The government clinic however said it typically only ran pre-marital HIV screenings for Muslim couples and that if one wanted to request for an HIV test, one would have to see a doctor first to get a recommendation.
Diagnostic centre Pathlab’s customer service told CodeBlue that an HIV test cost RM50, but a doctor’s recommendation letter was required before undergoing screening as per purported Health Ministry rules effective January 1 this year.
Another diagnostic centre, BP Healthcare Group, similarly told CodeBlue that a doctor’s recommendation was needed to do an HIV screening costing RM60.
However, Dr Anita Suleiman, head of the HIV/ STI/ Hepatitis C sector at the Health Ministry’s disease control division, said one did not need a recommendation letter to do an HIV screening at any private clinic.
“But what is important is that one who is suspected of contracting HIV needs confirmation through confirmation tests and antiretroviral (ARV) treatment as soon as possible. This ARV medicine is free only at government health facilities,” Dr Anita told CodeBlue.