KUALA LUMPUR: Following the success of Cambodia in reducing the number of HIV/AIDS patients and new infections, a medical specialist called on the need for stronger HIV/AIDS programmes and for a one-stop centre for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Hospital Sungai Buloh senior consultant and infectious disease physician Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the programmes, however, should be integrated for a stronger network to better combat HIV/AIDS.
“We already have the programmes in place. We have programmes for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and Hepatitis C, but these are all stand-alone programmes.
“Some have already began to integrate, it is just the matter of speeding up and strengthening the whole process,” he said at the 7th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention 2013 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, here, yesterday.
He said the integration system done in Cambodia was exemplary, and that Malaysia is already in the right direction.
In the conference, director of the National Centre for HIV, Dermatology and STI (sexually transmitted infections) of Cambodia Dr Mean Chhi Vun in his opening plenary remarks said Cambodia had managed to reduce the HIV prevalence from an estimated 1.7 per cent in 1998 to a projected 0.7 per cent in 2011.
It also managed to reduce the number of annual new HIV infections from 20,000 in the early 1990s to around 1,300 in 2012.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dr. Lee said it is important to make treatment easy and accessible to people living with HIV/AIDS and that stakeholders and the society at large should understand that it is a country’s problem.
“We need early and focused interventions that are proven to not only reduce costs, but also be more effective in combating the spread of HIV.” There should be more focus on the high-risk group, he added, and that it was important to have updated data on the people who are at risk.
“Times have changed. Maybe ten years ago, people only used heroin but now there are all sorts of party drugs that can contribute to the transmission of HIV in many ways.
“It’s not just about drug abuse. There is also the factor of multiple sex partners and mother-to-child transmissions, and we will have to move our focus along with the changes in the epidemic,” he added.
Separately, Dr Lee said that there were special clinics to ease transition of children living with HIV to becoming adults living with HIV.
He said there was a missing link as adolescents living with HIV, where they are not getting the proper services to progress from treatments as children, and treatments as adults.
“As children, they may not fully comprehend what they are dealing with. They are being given the medication and will take it without much question. “As they grow older, they begin to understand what they have to deal with and this might bring their self-esteem down,” he said.
He added that with the availability of new treatments, more children are surviving and this should encourage more adolescent clinics, focusing on how the affected group can progress to adulthood with ease.
Dr Lee said an adolescent clinic run in Hospital Kuala Lumpur helps the adolescents living with HIV to phase out from child-HIV treatment to phasing in to adult-HIV treatment.