KUALA LUMPUR: The nearly 50% rise in new HIV/AIDS cases caused by transmission through sexual contact between 2001 and last year is cause for concern, said Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng.
He said the growing numbers also reflected high-risk behaviour among drug users.
“The increase of new cases is 46%, which was 1,218 last year compared with 834 in 2001. To a large extent, they are also drug users,” he said after a cheque presentation of a RM4mil grant to the Malaysian AIDS Council at his ministry yesterday.
Chua said that a study conducted on drug users at pusat serenti (rehabilitation centres) in 1998 had also shown that 82% of them had had sexual relations with their wives, girlfriends or sex workers.
“The findings of this study show that there is a potential for an increase in HIV infections through sex after high-risk behaviour among drug users involving the sharing of needles and having sex without condoms,” he added.
He also said the HIV/AIDS statistics in Malaysia were “fairly representative of the epidemic in the country” although more emphasis was placed on testing drug users in prisons and rehabilitation centres nationwide.
“We have other screenings like when we screen blood donations from more than 300,000 donors. There is also the testing of (pregnant) mothers for mother-to-child transmission, where more than a million mothers are screened.”
Chua added that injecting drug users made up 76.3% of all reported HIV infections last year.
Until December last year, there were 51,256 HIV infection cases reported to the ministry. Of these, 7,218 were AIDS cases while 5,424 had died of the disease.
Council president Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir received the cheque from Chua.
The RM4mil grant is the first of 10 to be given to the council and its affiliates over 10 years for the development, implementation and monitoring of HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and care and support programmes.
Marina said the just completed external evaluation of the council by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS emphasised the need for the council to do two years of strategic planning on what should be done by its affiliates in managing HIV/AIDS.