KUALA LUMPUR: There were 3,293 new cases of HIV among Malaysians last year, says Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.
Out of that number, 47 of them consisted of children below the age of 18, he said.
The figure also meant that Malaysians were infected by HIV cases at the rate of 10 cases for each 100,000 residents last year, said Dr Lee (PH-Gopeng) in Parliament during the Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday (July 17).
“Based on information provided by the Malaysian Aids Council, they have given financial assistance to 13 shelter homes which accept HIV patients, such as Rumah Solehah KL and Casa Harapan in Pahang, which accept children with HIV.
“The function of the Health Minister is prevention, care and treatment in hospital or basic care. This does not include providing temporary shelter homes.”
Dr Lee said this in response to a question by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang), who asked the Health Ministry to state the latest statistics on children infected with HIV in Malaysia.
Azalina also asked the number of HIV home-based shelters that were managed by the government and the private sector, as well as the type of assistance provided by the ministry.
According to Dr Lee, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry initially covered the cost of managing shelter homes. However, in 2017, it stopped funding the cost, and this was taken over by the Health Ministry.
“Even though the Health Ministry doesn’t have a special allocation for this, based on humanitarian grounds, a part of the management cost was paid using the Health Ministry’s funds for NGOs (non-governmental organisations).
“This has impacted the prevention programme because allocations for NGOs are limited and should have been focused on the prevention of HIV.”
Azalina subsequently raised a supplementary question, asking if the Health Ministry had plans to introduce laws to protect HIV patients, particularly children, from discrimination.
In response, Dr Lee said the Health Ministry could consider introducing such laws and pointed to the government’s efforts in preventing HIV transmission among children, which included screening pregnant mothers and also providing anti-vitro viral treatment (ART) for children.
“For the welfare of children, they are protected under the Child Act, and this has nothing to do with the Health Ministry, according to the data given,” he said.
Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali (BN-Bagan Serai) raised a supplementary question on whether the government would strengthen its existing harm reduction programme for intravenous drug users or addicts injecting drugs.
In response, Dr Lee said that out of the entire HIV patient population in Malaysia, only 3.4% of them had been infected by injecting drugs.
“We have succeeded in reducing the HIV rate from 28.5 per 100,000 residents in Malaysia in 2002, to 10 cases per 100,000 residents in 2018.“This is a big achievement, and we will continue the effort of providing methadone as harm reduction therapy for IV drug users,” he said.