Materia Medica Malaysiana

October 6, 2007

Agency to help reduce HIV cases

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 8:59 am

NST: PUTRAJAYA: The National Anti-Drugs Agency (Nada) has been roped in to help expand the Health Ministry’s “harm reduction” programme for drug users.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the ministry needs the co-operation of other agencies to meet its target to have 25,000 drug users in the programme by 2010. This will help the country meet United Nations targets for the reduction of HIV/AIDS.
Harm reduction involves a combination of drug substitution therapy, most often with methadone, needle exchange and condom programmes.
In a pilot project starting next month and slated to last six months to a year, Nada centres in Johor, Penang and Kuala Lumpur will enrol 50 addicts in each state in a harm reduction programme. If the RM440,000 project is successful, Nada will expand it to other states.
Currently about 5,000 drug users nationwide are in harm reduction programmes, and the majority are on methadone.
Dr Chua said the average retention rate of drug users after one year on methadone replacement is 75.1 per cent. The World Health Organisation target is 55 to 60 per cent.
He added that those in the programme had shown interest in having a full-time career and closer interaction with family and society in general.
A joint study by the ministry, Universiti Utara Malaysia and WHO estimated that there were just over 890,000 drug users in the country in 2002. Of these, nearly 118,000 were needle users. The study also estimated that eight per cent of drug users were HIV-positive.
Intravenous drug users have been the main source of reported HIV infections in the country over the past 15 years.
If nothing is done, by 2015 some 300,000 people could be HIV-positive, seriously affecting productivity.
Nada deputy director general (operations) Professor Dr Mahmood Nazar Mohamed said the drug agency would engage three psychiatrists to conduct the methadone programme at the three centres designated for the pilot project.
“The psychiatrists and their teams will treat, counsel and monitor the drug users in the programme. We also plan to engage the services of a pharmacist,” he said.
This year the government has set aside RM14.4 million for methadone therapy and RM7 million for the needle exchange programme.

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