More women with HIV in Malaysia

The rise of HIV infections among women in Malaysia has been
steady for the last few years, claiming victims who we think are
the innocent members of society. Our perception of HIV remains
focused on the sins that propagates this disease, resulting in many
unwilling to put their faces openly in the fight against this
deadly virus. We have been talking about HIV for many decades now.
Activists have been fighting for greater awareness among the
general public against a tide of religious constraints. Many, in
their idealism, prefer not to talk about sex or drugs, but rather
retreating to their comfortable rhetoric of marital fidelity. Drug
addicts are often forgotten and left in their decrepit condition.
To date we have failed
miserably to address issues that are so important in the fight
against HIV. Tackling the problem of sexual practices and drug
abuse is compulsory if we are to win this fight. Therefore, it will
be no surprise that if we continue to take the current stance, an
epidemic of greater proportions will soon unfold. Regulating
prostitution in a predominantly Muslim country is an almost
impossible task. Any mention of safe sex is tantamount to promoting
promiscuity drawing ire from religious quarters. This problem of
prostitution will not go away. We should take the bull by its horns
and accept some hard facts. Despite ongoing raids on suspected
brothels , this industry will continue to thrive, driving it
further underground. I sincerely feel that we need to regulate this
industry if we are to win this war against HIV in the short term.
It will take enormous courage, no doubt for a politician to bring
this issue up , which can either define or destroy his or her
career. We need also to openly promote the use of condom for safe
sex. When many other countries are educating their teens on safe
sex , Malaysia prefers not to thread this ground. Avoiding this
issue will only deprive our youths of important information that
may protect them and their loved ones from harm. Drug addicts are
another forgotten lot in Malaysia. We prefer to arrest them and
sweep them from view. Unfortunately, our rehabilitation process is
fraught with inefficiencies and corruption. Our fight against drug
trafficking is surprisingly lax apart from frequent warnings of the
death penalty and the occasional drug bust. Lying in a major artery
for drug trafficking, it is amazing that we are only detecting few
cases every now and then. Corruption among the police and
immigration officials is the apparent probably cause here. Harm
reduction exercises, for example needle exchange programmes are
only done in pockets of Kuala Lumpur. The government and police
have never been brave enough to openly declare that such programmes
exist, lest they be accused of colluding with the addicts and
encouraging addiction. Thus many addicts do not come forward for
fear of being identified and prosecuted. HIV infection cases will
continue to rise if Malaysia does not change its strategy in
fighting this deadly virus. Soon it will devour the productive
layer of society, which is the most vulnerable, crippling Malaysia
further. World
AIDS day is held every December 1st, but the war is
year-long.

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