KUALA LUMPUR, 18 Dec 2008: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection rate in the country has dropped by half since 2003, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
The deputy prime minister said the number of recorded Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases had dropped from 6,756 in 2003 to 3,452 this year.
“We found that, based on the National Strategic Plan on AIDS, more concerted and focused efforts had contributed to the drop in the number of HIV infections annually,” he said after chairing the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on AIDS here.
Among the major contributors to the decrease in the number of cases was the ongoing Harm Reduction Programme which is geared towards achieving the government’s goal of 11 cases per 100,000 population by 2015 compared with 12.8 cases per 100,000 population now, he said.
“Cumulatively, there are 83,527 HIV cases so far and of this, 14,317 are AIDS cases of which 12,425 people have died,” he said, adding that AIDS still posed a serious threat to the country.
“According to statitics of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Malaysia is categorised as a country with concentrated epidemic … meaning in certain, high risk groups. There are phenomena that can be related to concentrated epidemic,” he said.
However, the UNAIDS recognised Malaysia’s efforts in fighting AIDS by according it the status of country with high political will, he said.
Najib said today’s meeting also focused on high risk groups whereby the Health Minsitry would adopt the approach of getting close to these groups in efforts to reduce the number of AIDS cases.
He also expressed concern over the increase in HIV infections among women who contract the disease through normal sex, saying that their numbers rose from 5.02% in 1997 to 16.3% last year.
He also said that the Malaysian Islamic Department (Jakim) should play a more aggressive role to help reduce the number of HIV infections through drug addiction.
He said the meeting also proposed that the Malaysian AIDS Foundation be made a part of the Cabinet Committee on AIDS. Currently the council is a member of the technical committee chaired by the health director-general. — Bernama