Dr M: HIV response requires pragmatism, safe sex discussions

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad delivered the speech on behalf of the Prime Minister. — Facebook/Malaysian AIDS Foundation
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad delivered the speech on behalf of the Prime Minister. — Facebook/Malaysian AIDS Foundation

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — Malaysians need to be more pragmatic and acknowledge the need to talk about safe sex practices to effectively deal with HIV, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

The prime minister acknowledged the country’s efforts against HIV, such as providing free first-line HIV treatment at government healthcare facilities and being the first country in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Region to be recognised for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Yet he said more needs to be done, primarily in including educating the masses on safe sex practises as part of its HIV response.

“Despite these achievements, the battle is far from over. The virus in Malaysia is now driven by sexual transmission where 90 per cent of all new infections is transmitted through sex.

“And while, some may not want  to talk about sex, it is about time we do in the context of public health. We cannot sit on our moral high ground and look for who to blame for this occurrence.

“We need to be pragmatic. We need to continue saving lives,’’Dr Mahathir added in his speech, which was delivered by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad at theTun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner 2018 at the Hilton Hotel here today.

The Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award aims to celebrate individuals and organisations who have contributed much to the efforts against the HIV epidemic in the country.

Ancom Berhad chairman Datuk Siew Ka Wei (left) with Former Bersih leader Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (R) during the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner 2018 at Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel December 16, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Ancom Berhad chairman Datuk Siew Ka Wei (left) with Former Bersih leader Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (R) during the Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner 2018 at Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel December 16, 2018. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

In the keynote address, Dr Mahathir also urged all stakeholders, including civil society, to contribute to strengthening HIV prevention services.

He said HIV also has an impact on the economy and it is essential for the country to invest in a policy that will provide support for those infected and affected by HIV at the workplace.

“HIV discrimination is unlawful and should not be tolerated in this day and age.

“To this end, the initiative by the Malaysian Business Consortium on HIV/AIDS at the Malaysian AIDS Foundation to have a Regulation in place to protect the rights and manage HIV positive employees at the workplace in Malaysia should be given attention.

“In recent weeks several Cabinet members too have stressed on the importance of having regulations to stop discrimination of HIV-positive employees,’’ Dr Mahathir said.

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