KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) condemned today “fear mongering” against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community through recent media reports linking them to HIV.
It said key groups once driven underground due to stigma and discrimination, like men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people and female sex workers, have been coming forward over the year to receive HIV-related services, due to community-friendly measures and other stigma reduction efforts.
“However, we are fearful of the adverse effects of homophobia, transphobia, and LGBT fear mongering on the progress of ending AIDS by 2030 — the ultimate goal of the national AIDS response.
“There is enough evidence to prove that in settings where LGBT people are targeted, discriminated against, and persecuted, the AIDS epidemic thrives,” said the non-profit umbrella organisation.
The MAC was referring to a Malaysiakini video report published last Friday that quoted an officer from the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) who cited Health Ministry statistics in his claim that the LGBT community was the main cause of the spread of HIV/ AIDS in Malaysia.
National newswire Bernama quoted a Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya Health Department officer last Tuesday as saying that according to statistics obtained up to June this year, 96 per cent of HIV infections were from sexual transmission.
She reportedly claimed 65 per cent of the infections came from gay and bisexual people, while 31 per cent were from heterosexual transmissions.
The MAC, however, acknowledged that of the reported 3,397 new HIV infections last year, 84 per cent or 2,864 were sexually transmitted — 1,553 homosexual/ bisexual (46 per cent) and 1,311 heterosexual transmissions (38 per cent).
It said it has been intensifying work in reaching out to target groups like female sex workers, transgender people and MSM, and working with the Health Ministry to provide community-based HIV prevention and treatment services nationwide. These include venue-based outreach, case management, treatment adherence peer support, and more recently, community-based HIV testing.
“Linkages to and uptake of existing HIV testing and treatment services provided for free at government healthcare facilities have markedly improved over the years, owing to the introduction of community-friendly measures and other stigma reduction efforts.
“In Kuala Lumpur, for instance, more than 1,400 MSM, transgender people, and female sex workers received HIV-related services in eight government healthcare facilities between January and August this year alone,” said MAC.