KOTA BARU: Voluntary screening for HIV infection has been made easier by the Health Ministry with the launch of a campaign on anonymous testing, which allows the public to be tested without fear or shame.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Suleiman Mohammad said both high-risk and non-high-risk groups could take the 15-minute test at 329 clinics nationwide without identifying themselves.
All they need is to provide their age, ethnic group and sex. The tests are free of charge, with the cost borne by the Government.
It is envisaged that with the launching of the hassle-free programme, many will come forward to check whether they are free of or infected by the virus, he said after launching the national-level Anonymous HIV Screening Campaign at a hotel here yesterday.
Among those present were Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamad Taha Arif and campaign organising chairman Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir.
The deputy minister explained the importance of the campaign since it was felt that many people did not know if they were HIV carriers.
It is important that individuals know that they are carriers as it will help reduce the chances of the virus from being transmitted to others, he said.
Dr Suleiman noted that many were either shy or afraid to take the tests because they feared repercussions.
I urge high-risk and non-high-risk groups to take the tests because it will help in the long run to help combat the spread of the disease, he said, adding that the campaign had started in February but was not widely publicised.
He said another objective of the programme was to reduce the chance of HIV-tainted blood being transmitted to patients seeking treatment at hospitals.
Dr Suleiman also said individuals found to be infected would be given counselling on being an HIV carrier and that any information on them would be kept confidential. Additional tests to confirm HIV-carrier status or AIDS infection would also be borne by the Government, he added.
Dr Suleiman said 51,256 people were infected by the HIV virus as of last year, out of whom 7,218 had contracted AIDS, while 5,424 had died of the disease. Based on statistics, an average of 19 people were identified as HIV carriers every day, he said. He also said the public had a role to play in helping the Government fight AIDS.
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