MOH To Make HIV Prevention Drug Available For Free Starting 2023

The Ministry of Health also reported that new HIV cases have fallen by 70% in the last 20 years.

Cover image via World Orgs & NPR

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) will soon make human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention medicine available for free at select public health clinics in states with high HIV prevalence

In conjunction with World AIDS Day yesterday, 1 December, the ministry said it is strengthening its efforts and renewing its commitment to see the end of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) as a public health issue in the country by 2030.

"New HIV and AIDS cases have fallen by 70% in the last 20 years, and the use of antiretroviral medicine among people living with HIV has increased to 66% in 2021, compared to only 28% in 2015," the ministry said in an encouraging statement.

However, to achieve the end goal, MOH said better health services to treat, test, and prevent the sexually-transmitted infection (STI) has to be made more accessible.

A World AIDS Day celebration organised by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) on 1 December.

Image via Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (Facebook)

The ministry said it will be introducing the HIV prevention pills — also known medically as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — in Selangor, Klang Valley, Johor, Penang, and Sabah in 2023

Dr Raja Iskandar Shah Raja Azwa, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Univeristy of Malaya, told CodeBlue that about 18 health clinics will stock the medication, but the plan is to scale it up to more clinics in the future.

"These clinics are already being accessed by key populations, which are the people living with HIV, so they have built that good relationship and trust with populations at risk," he explained.

The prevention medication is targeted for the use of people at risk of acquiring HIV, especially partners of those living with HIV.

According to MOH, people living with HIV who are on treatment as prescribed may live normal lives and have undetectable levels of HIV in their blood, and thus, will not transmit the virus to their sexual partners. If taken properly, PrEP further eliminates the risk.

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The two-year programme is run under the Malaysian AIDS Council, in collaboration with the MOH and is funded by The Global Fund

Raja said the project will be handed full over to MOH, and be run nationally, if it is shown to be successful in its uptake among the targeted populations.

In the meantime, the ministry will continue running HIV/AIDS testing and treatment in community clinics, as well as introduce HIV self-test kits, to encourage Malaysians to take their own initiative to curb the infection.

According to CodeBlue, the global AIDS target by 2030 is for a country to achieve the 95-95-95 goal: 95% of those living with HIV to know their status, 95% of them to be on treatment, and 95% of those on treatment to be virally suppressed.

As of 2020, Malaysia stands at 87-58-85, still short of the goal.

In another recent healthcare win, Selangor will also be implementing a free sanitary pad programme next year:

Here are other common sexually-transmitted infections in Malaysia:

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