Saturday, June 24, 2006

Stigma worse than HIV infection itself

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The stigma attached to HIV victims and the discrimination they face may be far worse than the infection itself.
They have been identified as the most important factors holding back victims from seeking treatment.
Public health expert Datuk Dr Faisal Ibrahim said many victims could not fight these factors and shied away from treatment.
"Why should they hide? People should not look at them as criminals because they are not," he told the New Straits Times.
To date, there are 70,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country but the National HIV/AIDS Treatment Registry published 2003 showed that only 1,785 were undergoing highly active anti-retroviral therapy in government hospitals.
Dr Faisal said providing access to treatment was one of the core objectives of the soon-to-be finalised National Strategic Plan on the Control and Prevention of HIV/AIDS.
The plan which details strategies to combat the epidemic until 2010 was endorsed in March by the Cabinet which also approved RM300 million to implement it.
Implementation is likely by next month with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who chairs the Cabinet committee on HIV/AIDS, to oversee it.
The RM300 million will be used for prevention, education, diagnosis, treatment and care programmes and is distinct from the Health Ministry’s budget of RM200 million for the purpose.
Dr Faisal said a good way to encourage victims to come forward was to make use of infrastructure at the community level.
He said existing health infrastructure should be maximised to help HIV victims.

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