Unprotected sex now leading cause of HIV transmission, says Health Ministry study

This picture taken on January 22, 2013 shows a worker testing condom quality at the production line at Karex industries in Malaysia's southern seaside town of Pontian. — AFP pic
This picture taken on January 22, 2013 shows a worker testing condom quality at the production line at Karex industries in Malaysia's southern seaside town of Pontian. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — Unprotected sex became the main cause for HIV transmission in Malaysia last year, far oustripping drug abuse according to the latest figures from the Health Ministry.

The ministry registered a total of 2,752 new HIV cases that were transmitted sexually in 2014, accounting for 78.2 per cent of the total cases reported.

The findings mark a sharp increase in the percentage of sexually transmitted cases compared to 2004, when HIV passed on through unprotected sex accounted for between 20 and 30 per cent of the total cases, Malay daily Berita Harian reported quoting an academic.

“It cannot be denied that injection drug users (IDU) epidemic was a major factor, but there has been a progressive increase of cases that are sexually transmitted,” University Putra Malaysia public health expert Prof Madya Datuk Dr Faisal Ibrahim was reported as saying.

“Although the number of IDUs are high, but the number of cases that are sexually transmitted is higher because sex is human nature,” he said, adding that the number of HIV cases transmitted through the sharing of needs has seen a 50 per cent decline since the 1990s.

Ministry figures showed that the number of sexually transmitted HIV cases had progressively increased over a five year period, with 2,498 cases reported in 2013, higher than the 2012 figure of 2,192 cases, 1,931 reported in 2011 and 1,773 in 2010.

Faisal said needle exchange programmes have helped curb the spread of HIV, but warned that IDUs face an additional risk when they practice unsafe sex.

“IDU actually have additional risk of infection as on top of sharing needles when injecting drugs, they also have sex, be it with spouses, girlfriends, sex workers, or homosexuals,” he said, adding that 28 per cent of sexually transmitted HIV recorded was between men.

The Health Ministry’s latest statistics show that there have been 105,189 cases of HIV reported in Malaysia as of December 2014.

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