Health Ministry: Spread of HIV among drug addicts drops under harm reduction programme

T.N. Alagesh

PEKAN: The Health Ministry’s Harm Reduction programme for intravenous drug users is a success as HIV infection among them has significantly dropped since its implementation in 2006.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the programme cut down HIV infections from 74 per cent in 2002 to 16 in 2015.

He said from 2015, the ministry had engaged non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to enhance the effectiveness of the programme.

He said the initial success of such a co-operation was at the government health clinic in Kuala Sungai Baru, Malacca, and more NGOs had since been enlisted to help out at 12 other clinics nationwide.

“We hope to expand the programme and ensure all the states participate in it,” he told reporters after launching the programme at Peramu Jaya health clinic here this afternoon.

The programme involved providing drug addicts with methadone treatment and free syringes as a means of controlling the spread of HIV.

Dr Hilmi said the co-operation of NGOs and the Malaysian Aids Council would ensure that the ministry achieved the objectives of the programme.

He said under the programme, NGOs would coax drug users to undergo HIV tests and methadone therapy at health clinics.

He said although the spread of HIV among drug users had dropped, there were about 170,000 infected people nationwide.

“We need them (drug users) to come forward and participate as some might be reluctant and are scared to join the programme.

He said this was where the NGOs could play their role and help achieve the objective of reducing new cases of HIV by 90 per cent.

“We want the drug addicts to be aware of their HIV status and undergo the neccesary treatment to recover,” he said.