Experts gather to discuss findings on HIV and AIDS programs in Malaysia
by Indra Nadchatram
KUALA LUMPUR, 15 December 2006 – More than 100 experts from various fields gathered together recently to discuss findings from recent HIV/AIDS related studies and programs jointly implemented by the Government, academicia, and NGOs in partnership with United Nations agencies in Malaysia, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Themed “Strengthening Evidence Based Response”, the one-day seminar presented evidence from research and programs in Malaysia to contribute to a greater understanding of the response needed to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. The seminar was organised by the United Nations Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in Malaysia to commemorate World AIDS Day 2006.
As of June 2006, 73,427 Malaysians have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, with an average of 17 new cases reported every day. The Malaysian government has confirmed that 75 per cent of those infected with HIV are injecting drug users (IDU).
The Minister of Health, Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek informed the seminar, through a speech read by the Ministry's Disease Control Director Datuk Dr. Ramlee Rahmat, that the Government’s Harm Reduction Program for IDUs has reached more than its targeted number of beneficiaries.
“When we started the Needle and Syringe Exchange Program (NSEP) in February this year, we targeted 1,200 people. To date, we have reached 1,233 people. As for methadone therapy which the Ministry started in October last year, we also targeted 1,200 people, but have enrolled 1,240,” he said.
Datuk Dr. Chua said the Government hoped to enrol 5,000 IDUs for the therapy by the end of 2007, and increase the number of venues providing such therapy nationwide. UNICEF is working in partnership with the Government to enhance collaboration, at a senior level, between law enforcement and other arms of Government to ensure the Harm Reduction initiative is supported by complementary policy frameworks and operating procedures for front line practitioners.
According to Dr. Sunoor Verma, Senior Advisor to UNICEF Malaysia, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health have also established the Institute of Health Management and UNICEF Collaborative Centre for Health Policy, Enhancement and Appraisal to contribute to the Government’s efforts to enhance research on HIV and AIDS related issues.
“The mission of this Collaborative Centre is to provide accurate and timely information to health care decision-makers and analysts as sound, evidence-based and forward looking policy will contribute to efficient and effective services that will bring sustained benefits to the people of Malaysia,” said Dr. Verma. “This initiative builds on more than fifty years of collaboration between UNICEF and the Government of Malaysia.”
The event also honoured the work of PT Foundation’s Mak Nyahs (transsexual), a local community-based program which was one of five recipients of the Red Ribbon Award presented at the International AIDS Conference in Vancouver, August 2006. The Award supports and publicises the most outstanding and least recognised communities who are finding innovative and effective ways to address HIV/AIDS and secure livelihoods around the world.
The Malaysian UN Theme Group (UNTG) on HIV/AIDS provides joint UN support for collaboration through close partnership with all key stakeholders in Malaysia. The Malaysian UNTG is currently chaired by the World Health Organisation and comprises representatives from the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The theme for World AIDS Day 2006 is “Accountability” with the slogan “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise”.
NOTE TO EDITOR:
World AIDS Day