Blaming LGBT won’t cure HIV, AIDS, council says

The Malaysian Aids Council said hate attitudes against people with HIV or AIDS will worsen the current situation in the country. — Reuters pic
The Malaysian Aids Council said hate attitudes against people with HIV or AIDS will worsen the current situation in the country. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Taking a combative and homophobic or transphobic attitude towards people with HIV or AIDS will not stop the disease from spreading, the Malaysian Aids Council (MAC) said today.

It added that such hate attitudes, especially if adopted by medical professionals, will worsen the current situation in the country where infection rates have already reached a whopping 84 per cent.

“With the rise of sexually transmitted HIV (which accounted for 84 per cent of new infections last year), certain quarters were quick to point the finger of blame to these sexual minorities and the LGBT community.

“In response, we warned about the harms of hate and fear mongering and spoke against allowing homophobia and transphobia from pervading the HIV/AIDS discourse,” ,” MAC president Bakhtiar Talhah said in a statement to mark World AIDS day today.

LGBT stands for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

MAC, the country’s biggest non-governmental organisation on HIV/AIDS, had earlier this week come under fire from local transgender advocacy group Seed Foundation for its silence after a doctor, Dr Robiah K. Hamzah allegedly made discriminatory comments against sexual minorities at a World AIDS Day event organised by the Health Ministry (MOH) on November 25.

According to a SEED statement posted on its Facebook page November 28, Dr Robiah allegedly said in Malay: “Mak Nyah kenapa nak tukar fitrah?... Siapa nak mandikan kamu bila kamu mati?... Mak Nyah mati sebagai lelaki.” [Translation: “Why do trans women change their innate human nature? Who will wash you when you die? Trans women die as men”]

SEED also questioned MAC and MOH for inviting Dr Robiah as a speaker to the event.

“As the biggest HIV/AIDS NGO working with the Ministry of Health, MAC should be at the forefront of condemning the decision to invite Dr Robiah to speak.

“MAC should know better than most, that comments like those that were made at the event, only make the work we do harder and have very real impact on the lives of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and the communities we work most closely with,” the transgender advocacy group said.

Dr Zainudin Abdul Wahab, director of the Federal Territory Health Department, has since sought to put a distance between Dr Robiah’s reported remarks and the ministry.

News portal Free Malaysia Today reported Dr Zainudin saying today that Dr Robiah’s remarks were “her personal view, based on her experience dealing with HIV patients” and did not reflect the MOH’s stand.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story wrongly stated the MAC president’s name. The error has since been corrected.

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