Malaysia’s leading HIV organization has spoken out strongly against LGBT discrimination. It says discrimination and stigma are the main causes of new HIV cases in the country.
‘We speak against homophobia, transphobia, and fear mongering against LBGT people for being the “biggest contributors” of new HIV infections in Malaysia as reported by a number of media outlets this past week,’ said the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) in a statement.
Malaysia is one of 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region that accounts for 95% of new HIV cases.
Last year, 84% of new HIV infections were sexually transmitted: 46% of those were men who have sex with men (MSM).
In 2010, sexually transmitted HIV became the leading cause of new HIV infections for the first time. That was ahead of unsafe drug injecting practices and other modes of transmission.
MAC worked with Malaysia’s Ministry of Health and other organizations to introduce successful strategies to target those at most risk of acquiring HIV. Those most at risk are female sex workers, trans people and MSM.
Access to HIV testing was not only improved, but more people were getting tested over the past few years.
Already this year more than 1,400 high risk people were tested for HIV at Government health centres.
‘We are particularly heartened by this encouraging development. Key populations once driven underground due to fear, stigma, and discrimination have begun to come forward to access lifesaving HIV healthcare services,’ MAC said.
‘However, we are fearful of the adverse effects of homophobia, transphobia, and LBGT fear mongering on the progress of ending AIDS by 2030 – the ultimate goal of the national AIDS response.
‘There is enough evidence to prove that in settings where LGBT people are targeted, discriminated against, and persecuted, the AIDS epidemic thrives.’
The organization is concerned its ‘significant progress in the national AIDS response’, is being undone by ‘fear mongering’.
‘If we are serious about making ending AIDS by 2030 a reality, we must not allow homophobia, transphobia, and anti-LBGT sentiments to pervade HIV and AIDS discourse in our society,’ MAC said.