The AIDS End Game

Theme-for-World-Aids-Day-2
By Datuk Dr. Raj Karim
President of the Malaysian AIDS Council

World AIDS Day. December 1.KUALA LUMPUR, 1 December 2015 – This year’s World AIDS Day marks the end of the five-year Getting to Zero global campaign, which envisions a world that will have halted and reversed the AIDS epidemic effectively, bringing new HIV infections, discrimination and AIDS-related deaths to an all-time low by 2015.

Indeed, achievements in the AIDS response during the Getting to Zero phase have been nothing short of stellar.

UNAIDS – the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS – reports that globally 15.8 million people had already been reached with life-saving antiretroviral treatment, an 84 per cent increase since 2010. New HIV infections have fallen by 35 per cent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 42 per cent since the peak in 2004 worldwide.

Nationally, new HIV infections recorded a 49 per cent reduction from the peak at 6,978 cases in 2002 to 3,517 last year, owing largely to the success of the harm reduction strategy introduced by the government a decade ago.

Harm reduction, comprising the needle and syringe exchange programme and methadone maintenance therapy, has more than halved new HIV infections among people who use drugs – from 3,127 cases in 2006 to 680 last year – and according to a recent return-on-investment analysis, averted an estimated total of 12,653 HIV infections since its implementation.

The commitment and hard work of our Partner Organisations nationwide in delivering community-based HIV health services have also paid off. With more than 18,225 people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender women and people living with HIV collectively reached and 5.1 million clean needles and 2 million condoms distributed nationwide in the last year alone, we have mobilised our communities, commodities and resources closer towards our shared vision of a healthier, stronger and a more resilient Malaysian society than ever before.

The world is now once again united by a renewed global development agenda that seeks to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. While undeniably ambitious, this goal will put us on a trajectory that is set to change the course of the AIDS epidemic through bolder commitments and innovations.

On World AIDS Day this year, the Malaysian AIDS Council will join the Ministry of Health Malaysia and embark on the journey to Ending AIDS by 2030.

Taking stock of the successes as well as the challenges in the Getting to Zero phase, we will strengthen existing partnerships with all stakeholders and foster new ones with a look to sustaining the momentum of the AIDS response.

We will fast-track the Ministry of Health’s efforts to break new grounds in improving the health outcomes of key populations through expansion of community-based HIV testing services, early initiation of antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV, improved access to methadone maintenance therapy for people who inject drugs, cutting-edge sexual and reproductive health outreach programming and increased social protection for people living with HIV.

Admittedly, Ending AIDS by 2030 is no easy feat. Sustainability is key and it is catalysed by a strong sense of leadership and shared accountability from all fronts – government, community, civil society, policy makers and healthcare providers. HIV health investments must continue to be guided by evidence and their spending monitored for impact.

The Ending AIDS era absolutely leaves no room for attitudes, beliefs and practices that stigmatise and discriminate against anyone for their HIV status, gender identity, sexuality and high-risk behaviour. It is an era of strengthened community systems and improved healthcare services delivered with dignity and respect, and it begins now.

Malaysian AIDS Council

The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) was established in 1992 to serve as an umbrella organisation to support and coordinate the efforts of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on HIV & AIDS issues in Malaysia. MAC works in close partnership with government agencies, the private sector and international organisations, to ensure a committed and effective NGO-led response to the HIV epidemic. In addition to providing nationwide coverage of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services, MAC and its Partner Organisations serve as the common voice for communities most affected by HIV & AIDS in the country. Learn more at www.mac.org.my