Wednesday, July 05, 2006

HIV test for all Muslim couples

NST PUTRAJAYA: Muslim couples in all States will soon have to undergo compulsory HIV/AIDS screening before they can marry.
Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general Datuk Mustapa Abdul Rahman said yesterday all State Governments had agreed in principle with the department’s proposal.
At least eight States have either implemented or are in the process of implementing the move this year, he said.
Selangor is the latest to join Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Johor, Perlis, Kedah and Pahang in agreeing to have compulsory HIV/AIDS screening.
"All States have tentatively agreed with the proposal. Only a few more have yet to announce their decisions officially," Mustapa said.
"We expect them to do so at next month’s State Jakim directors’ meeting."
He said Jakim could not force the States to implement the proposal as religious matters were governed by the State Governments.
He said Terengganu and Kelantan had agreed to adopt the screening method implemented by the Johor Islamic Affairs Department.
Mustapa aslo said that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had told Jakim to carry out a study on the most acceptable and suitable screening method.
The positive feedback received by Jakim had prompted the department to come up with the proposal.
Mustapa said so far, only 0.03 per cent of couples who underwent screening voluntarily had been found to have HIV/AIDS. Counselling would be provided to those with HIV/AIDS. This is especially important for couples who insist on going ahead with their marriage plans despite the discovery that one, or both, of them have the disease.
The move to make it compulsory for Muslim couples to undergo an HIV/AIDS screening before being allowed to marry is part of measures being introduced to curb the spread of the disease.
Last month, the Government had proposed a mandatory jail term for anyone who donates blood knowing that he or she has HIV/AIDS.
Najib had said that the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 would be amended to provide for fines and a jail term.
The Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation had projected that there would be more than 300,000 Malaysians with HIV/AIDS by 2015.
At present, the figure stands at 71,676.
It is also estimated that more than 6,000 people would be infected with AIDS annually, unless effective measures are taken to address the problem.

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