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Is Malaysia Ready For PrEP Treatment? Healthcare Professionals Clash In Views

Is Malaysia Ready For PrEP Treatment? Healthcare Professionals Clash In Views

A discussion about Malaysia’s readiness to introduce the PrEP treatment to prevent HIV transmission showed some stigmas still prevent people from getting the help they need.

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Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication used to prevent HIV transmission through sex or injection drug use.

PrEP is available in two forms: pill or injection. According to the CDC, there are currently two pills approved for use as PrEP named Truvada and Descovy, and one injection (shot) named Apretude.

Each medication or treatment comes with its own requirement and side effects, depending on the individual or patient.

The use of PrEP is said to be able to reduce the risk of contracting HIV from sex by about 90% when taken according to prescription.

In Malaysia, the Health Ministry (KKM) is carrying out a pilot project using PrEP in several hospitals to assess its effectiveness and safety in reducing the risk of HIV infection.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the pilot project was necessary before it can be certified by KKM for public use.

READ MORE: MOH Will Provide Free HIV Prevention Medication

Is Malaysia ready to introduce PrEP?

However, conservative views and stigma regarding the disease in the country have long hampered the access of PrEP to affected Malaysians.

There have been worries that with the availability of PrEP, some people will actively engage in unprotected sex.

Universiti Sains Malaysia Medical Professor Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar’s recent comments during a discussion about the readiness of Malaysia to implement PrEP treatment sparked an online debate over the matter.

During the live debate, Dr Rafidah alleged that the availability of PrEP treatment in Malaysia will encourage ‘risk compensation’ or fear that people will engage in condomless sex.

She also claimed that people become homosexuals because they were disowned by their families and sexually abused.

Dr Rafidah also voiced her worry that PrEP could increase and encourage homosexual lifestyles.

In response, KKM’s Head of HIV Sector Dr Anita Suleiman said medical professionals should ensure fair treatment for all patients regardless of their background.

Dr Anita said the PrEP treatment is not a long-term treatment and patients can stop taking it if there are no more risks present.

Give them a chance to prevent themselves from being infected. Be fair to them.

KKM’s Head of HIV Sector Dr Anita Suleiman

President of Yayasan AIDS Malaysia (MAF) Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman voiced similar sentiments and said there’s no way people will turn homosexual the minute they take PrEP.

Prof Adeeba said it’s also stigmatising to say people get HIV due to unnatural sex. She also corrected Dr Rafidah’s earlier statement and said that gay men get depressed and do drugs because their families and society rejected them.

She explained that PrEP needed to be given to homosexual couples because they’re already at a higher risk of contracting AIDs.

Prof Adeeba further explained that such a narrow stigma prevents the people who needed help from getting the help they need.

The prevention of getting the help they need is what drives these people to depression and suicide.

She added that no one is making right (menghalalkan) what is wrong but there can be no discrimination in medicine and no preventing patients from receiving the treatments they need.

We have to try from every angle. Don’t object something that’s proven to prevent people from falling ill.

President of Yayasan AIDS Malaysia (MAF) Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman

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