I am glad to read that the HIV cases have dropped drastically since the introduction of Harm Reduction Program in 2005.
I was called by one Menteri Besar of a PAS government that I was probably the most stupid Health Minister that this country has ever had.
Since under the Needle Exchange program, the MOH has been giving needles and condoms to high-risk individuals and HIV carriers. A lot of people reacted with horror to my suggestion although it is proven to be successful in many other countries.
I must admit some of the resistance came from Ministry of Health officials who think that this is religiously correct to oppose to the Harm Reduction project.
To ensure that the Harm Reduction program is a success, I also push for Methadone replacement therapy for the addicts who constitute the main source of HIV infection thru the sharing of needles.
Under the Methadone replacement therapy, the drug addicts are no longer dependant on the needles but of oral intake of liquid methadone.
In this respect, I must thank the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for their strong political will and support to the program.
It was with their support that the program was able to push through the Cabinet and the special committee on HIV.
Today, I am glad to know that the number of HIV cases has dropped from 6756 cases in 2003 to 3452 cases (end of this year).
In order to sustain these successes, it is important that there should be:
1) Education with greater awareness
5) Training of MOH health personnel and counselors
6) Continuous close work with NGOs especially the AIDS council and supporting group
7) Political commitment and common sense.
We cannot depend on pre-marital mandatory HIV testing to control HIV infection. It is only good at that point of time and provides a false sense of security.
It is education and awareness of HIV spread that is more important.
The logistic involved in mandatory testing is huge and the pick-up rate is low, which is about 5 cases per 10, 000 testing. These resources should be used for counseling and treatment of HIV patients.
A lot of HIV patients are not captured in our usual medical services provider and are poorly managed.
A better understanding of its mode of transmission of HIV and its prevention is the best tool to fight HIV, not mandatory pre-marital testing.
With better understanding, individual will go for testing voluntarily.
There must be confidentiality and follow-up management if test is positive.