Malaysia’s New HIV Infections 66% Lower After Nearly Two Decades

Khairy Jamaluddin says the percentage of new HIV infections comprising those who inject drugs decreased from 74% in 2002 to 4% in 2020.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Harm reduction programmes have slashed new HIV infections in Malaysia by up to 66 per cent in the past two decades, Khairy Jamaluddin said today.

According to the health minister, new HIV cases fell from a peak of 6,978 cases in 2002, or an incidence rate of 28.5 cases per 100,000 population, to 3,146 cases in 2020 or an incidence rate of 9.31 cases per 100,000 population.

Khairy, in a press conference today, said the country has been able to keep its vertical HIV transmission rate from mother to child at below two per cent, which further ensures that the virus is not a public health threat.

“The implementation of harm reduction programmes since October 2005, in collaboration with various government and non-government organisations (NGOs), especially the Malaysian AIDS Council, has also succeeded in reducing HIV/AIDS infection among those who inject drugs, which was once the main cause of HIV/AIDS infection in Malaysia.

“The percentage of new HIV infections comprising those who inject drugs also decreased from 74.2 per cent (5,176 cases) in 2002 to 3.9 per cent (122 cases) in 2020. 

“The administration of antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV (PLHIV) has also been increased from 28 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2020. This increase is, however, still low when compared to the 90 per cent target in our efforts to end AIDS,” Khairy said.

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day celebration is “End inequalities, End AIDS, End pandemics”. In line with the aspirations of this theme, Khairy said the government will remain committed to tackling HIV/AIDS and step up efforts to achieve the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

“The delivery of existing health services, including HIV/AIDS, has also undergone a change to new norms as the country faces the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, service improvements will continue to be implemented to ensure that the public, as well as key populations and those living with HIV, continue to have access to HIV/ AIDS and other health services including for Covid-19.

“HIV/AIDS services through differentiated HIV services for key populations (DHSKP) or differentiated HIV services for focus groups, implemented in health clinics, in collaboration with NGOs will be further strengthened and expanded. 

“This is to ensure that all levels of society, especially focus groups, have access to the prevention, testing, treatment, and care of HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as Hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and Covid-19,” Khairy said.

He added that to realise the goal of ending AIDS in 2030, the cooperation and commitment of all parties are very important. 

“In conjunction with the celebration of World AIDS Day today, I call on all parties, namely the government, private sector, civil societies, corporate bodies, those living with HIV, as well as the general public to work together to address HIV/AIDS and related issues.

“I hope this response will be able to further strengthen existing smart collaborations and commitments, especially in the Covid-19 pandemic situation. I would also like to remind those living with HIV to always practice the new normal in their daily lives to prevent themselves from getting Covid-19 infection,” Khairy said.

International AIDS Society president Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, in a webinar on Monday, said harm reduction, which includes programmes like needle exchange for people who use drugs, can prevent thousands of new HIV cases and save millions of ringgit in annual direct health care costs.

However, in order to bring an end to HIV/AIDS, she said continued investment in new tools, as well as research and development efforts, are needed.

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