KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 — Some 42 per cent of Malaysian HIV patients are not receiving Antiretroviral therapy (ARV), according to the Health Ministry.

“This situation is of grave concern as it hampers the progress that we have made towards achieving our goal of ending AIDS goal by 2030,” said Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) chairman Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman in a statement.

According to her, ARV medication is able to reduce the spread of the virus in the body to an undetectable level if taken consistently as prescribed.

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The Ministry provides free treatment for the first-line of treatment for HIV patients but those in need of stronger medication have to pay on their own due to high costs and unavailability.

Dr Adeeba said the price for second-line ARV treatment medications can cost an average of RM700 per month, a steep cut from the income of patients living within the B40 income group.

She added that religious stigma and discrimination remains a ‘regrettable’ barrier that prevents HIV patients in the Malay Muslim community from getting treatment.

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Meanwhile, Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) member Dr Yusri Mohammad presented zakat (tithe) collection worth RM210,000 to MAF for 25 asnaf (eligible tithe recipients) HIV patients in KL at ceremony on Wednesday at the MAF headquarters in Sentul.

This serves as a continuation of support between MAIWP and MAF since 2020 towards the Medicine Assistance Scheme.

“The HIV epidemic is, by and large, concentrated in Malay Muslim populations,” Dr Yusri said in a statement.

“As such, it is our duty to continue supporting MAF in efforts to promote the health and well-being of our community through HIV treatment.”

Dr Yusri wants the contributions by MAIWP to give recipients a chance to rebuild their lives and livelihoods to overcome poverty.

MAF hopes that the collaboration with MAIWP and other Islamic organisations will end stigmas and taboos against HIV, breaking the chain of infection in the community.