Materia Medica Malaysiana

December 1, 2007

Difficult to capture realities of infection

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:00 am

NST: COMING to terms with the causes and effects of HIV and AIDS seems a long-drawn battle.
Existing policies seem to favour one high-risk community — like the needle and syringe exchange programme targeted towards injecting drug users — over others, like sex workers and men who have sex with other men (MSM).
(MSM include both gay men and men who consider themselves “straight” but occasionally seek the services of male or transsexual sex workers.)
“We are trying to do something with the drug users but the MSM and the sex workers are a bit harder to tackle because of issues like criminalising sex work and MSM acts, therefore providing information and prevention tools are difficult,” Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said.
“We haven’t paid any attention to them. MAC, I know, has something to do, but we have our own constraints,” she added.
Things do not look too good where infection rates are concerned, as she said the country will continue to see a rise among non-injecting drug users.
This also means the average person who has sexual relations and does not use condoms, a subject the Malaysian government admittedly shies from and the public largely chooses to ignore.
Dr Adeeba commended the government’s stronger political and financial will exercised in the last two years, especially with the harm reduction policies but cautioned that results would not be immediately seen.
The positive aspect, she said, was that non-health agencies like the police and prisons were involved in harm reduction therapy.
The infectious diseases specialist said that it was difficult to predict the number of people who will die from AIDS.
“With treatment, people can live 20, 30 years longer. The problem is, we don’t know how many should be on treatment or are on treatment.”
Deaths due to AIDS may not be put down as the cause of death, as most families request it so. So it is difficult to capture the actual realities of AIDS.
“We don’t have a good grip on what is happening. And in terms of surveillance, we don’t have good policies in place,” Dr Adeeba said.

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