What Actually Is HIV/AIDs & Is It Still A Taboo In Malaysia?
HIV, short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that attacks a person's immune system
If left untreated, HIV can lead to an advanced stage known as AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
HIV primarily spreads through specific body fluids, such as blood, sexual fluids, and breast milk. High-risk activities include unprotected sexual intercourse and sharing of needles.
Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV completely, so once someone has HIV, they have it for life.
The good news is, with advances in technology and proper medical care, HIV can be controlled.
HIV became a taboo because many of our ideas about it originated from early 1980s images when the virus first appeared.
However, many of those early images do not accurately represent the reality of the condition today.
In the past, HIV was viewed as a guaranteed death sentence. However, this is no longer the case.
Many people with HIV now live long and healthy lives with the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART), which has transformed HIV into a manageable chronic condition.
ART prevents the virus from multiplying in a person's body, giving their immune system a chance to recover and produce infection-fighting CD4 cells again.
With consistent treatment and successful viral suppression, individuals with HIV also eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners, allowing them to have healthy relationships.
In fact, Malaysia is committed to the United Nations' global vision of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030
Joining the worldwide goal, the country is actively working to achieve UN's 95-95-95 target.
The aim is to diagnose 95% of all HIV-positive individuals, provide ART to 95% of those diagnosed, and achieve viral suppression for 95% of those treated.
As of 2021, Malaysia's scorecard stands at 83-66-82.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) estimates that there are 81,942 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Malaysia.
Of this number, 83% are aware of their status, 66% are actively receiving treatment, and 82% have achieved viral suppression.
This is encouraging, as the public healthcare system is moving towards ensuring all services are delivered without stigma and discrimination.
Besides that, HIV testing and treatment is also offered for free in virtually all government hospitals and public health clinics.
As open discussions about safe practices, condom use, and needle exchange programs increase, the country has also witnessed a substantial decline in new HIV infections
From 2002 to 2021, new HIV infections decreased by 70.2%, with 6,978 cases reported in 2002 compared to 2,760 cases in 2021.
In 2021, Malaysia was also certified as the first country in the Western Pacific Region to have eliminated mother-to-child (vertical) transmission of HIV, ensuring that no infants were born with the infection to HIV-positive mothers.
While the statistics highlight Malaysia's progress in managing and preventing HIV/AIDS, there are still many areas that require continued attention
But by promoting compassion, improving accessibility, and dispelling the stigma around HIV/AIDS, people will feel more comfortable seeking information and support.
This will, in turn, help individuals make informed choices, seek regular testing and treatment, and ultimately, end the AIDS epidemic in the country.
If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS, here are places that can help you: