KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) and the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) have denounced a speech made by a religious teacher, Datuk Mohd Izhar Ariff Mohd Kashim, at the Health Ministry’s (MoH) 2022 National World AIDS Day Celebration Programme in Seremban today.

In a joint statement, both organisations said that Izhar — a Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) lecturer on Islamic subjects — had made disparaging and hurtful remarks towards people living with HIV, the LGBTQ+ community, and other “key populations” at the event.

To note, LGBTQ+ is an acronym commonly used to encompass people with sexual orientations other than heterosexuality.

“Stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV are counterproductive and will advertently discourage people at risk from seeking health services.

“We recognise the negative impact of stigma and discrimination on access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and just as importantly, the health and wellbeing of people living with or at risk of HIV,” read the statement.

Furthermore, MAC said that it had raised its concerns with MoH before the event and had been assured that the speaker would not make discriminatory remarks.

“MAC urges media, governments, and communities to respond with a rights-based, evidence-based approach that avoids stigma and discrimination.

“We also urge the organisers to include MAC in the screening and vetting of the speakers for future events,” it said, adding that it will be sending an official letter of complaint on the matter to the MoH.