Malaysia must address the worrying number of HIV-positive intravenous drug users who are major transmitters of HIV and AIDS.
United Nations International Drug Control Program regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific, Dr Sandro Calvani said the current drug control policies adopted by countries in Asia were inadequate as they did not address the issue of HIV-positive intravenous drug users.
He said the high priority given to abstinence-oriented treatment and HIV prevention limited to information and awareness would not suffice to contain or curb the epidemic among drug users.
Instead, he proposed four measures for successful intervention to control the spread of HIV among the drug users.
These include early intervention, making available needles and syringes, establishing more treatment and rehabilitation programs and reaching out with the involvement of the drug user community, he said at the UN Regional Task Force Meeting On Drugs and HIV/AIDS Vulnerability, launched today by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin.
Statistics last year showed that some 40,000 of the 200,000 drug users in the country were intravenous drug users of whom 33,919 were also HIV-positive.
The implementation of the required intervention in containing the spread of HIV, Calvani said, would cost the country some RM5 million annually.
Zainal, in his speech, said the number of people infected with HIV saw an increase of 4,500 cases a year, prompting the Government to allocate more resources for treatment and care.
The Government, Zainal added, in its effort to combat the spread of the virus had initiated strategic actions including national and regional co-operation in HIV/AIDS programs.
Also present at the event were National Dadah Agency director-general Datuk Wan Ibrahim Wan Ahmad, United Nations Development Program resident co-ordinator in Malaysia Maxine Olson, UN Development for AIDS officer Angeline Ackermans and the United States Agency for International Development representative Dr Carol Jenkins.
The two-day meeting was attended by more than 40 representatives from the UN, European Union and ministries and non-governmental organisations in the region.
Investbio.com, 17 Jul 2002