In Malaysia, more students getting HIV, many through sex

Ikram Ismail, MM

Young Malaysians between the ages of 20 and 39 formed the largest segment of those infected with HIV over a five-year period.

That is pretty much general knowledge, but the most alarming piece of statistic is the dramatic jump in the number of students contracting HIV.

The total number of new cases of Malaysians infected with  HIV and AIDS had held steady over the five years since 2008.

The number of cases in 2008 was 4,633, while in 2012, the figure was 4,799.

The number of deaths from HIV and AIDS over the period, however, declined from 1,050 in 2008 to 702 in 2012.

In 2008, only 28 students contracted HIV and seven contracted AIDS.

That figure rose to 35 and six in 2009, 44 and eight in 2010 and 69 and 15 in 2011.

But in 2012, a startling 170 students contracted HIV while 16 contracted AIDS.

The number of students contracting HIV that year saw an explosion of 148 per cent — from 69 to 170.

In contrast, the increase of new HIV cases from 2008 to 2010 was at a steady 25 per cent.

These figures are striking compared to those from the period between 1986 to 2007.

Over the earlier 22-year period, only 205 students had been found to be HIV positive, while only 48 were found to be suffering from AIDS.

Over the 2008 to 2012 period, 35 students died from either HIV or AIDS.

The ministry was not forthcoming in outlining the details, but it is believed that the majority of students newly-diagnosed as HIV infected were college and university students.

Malaysia Aids Council Executive Director Roswati Ghani said they are deeply concerned by the growing number of new HIV infections among students.

“What’s also alarming is the proportion of new HIV cases reported in the younger age group of 13-29 years, to the overall population (1 to 4 in 2012),” she said.

“We are also cognizant of this situation; and that the HIV epidemic in this country continues to be driven by sexual transmission since beginning 2010.”

She encouraged students, especially those who engage in high-risk behaviours, to get tested regularly and be aware of their HIV status.

“To address the rising number of new HIV infections among students, the management of universities and colleges must also make accurate HIV information accessible to their students,” she said.

“They  should formalise HIV education in the curriculum and provide counselling services that are evidence-based while, at the same time, respecting the students’ sensitivities and rights.”

The health ministry, upon learning of a student diagnosed as HIV positive or having AIDS, will set in motion a chain of actions.

The amount spent in response to HIV and AIDS, such as on antiretroviral therapy and treatment, medicines and campaigns, since 1993 has reached RM1.23 billion.