Tuesday, June 14, 2005

In The News Today

I read an article in one of the local newspaper here reporting that Malaysia will be on a brink of a HIV epidemic if necessary steps are not taken quickly to stem the spread of the disease. It seems that HIV cases are currently in the increase and that the largest group on record living with HIV in the country are the intravenous drug users. With that in mind, the government is considering a free needle and condom program targeted to these people. Of course there are some quarters in Malaysia are up in arms about the program saying that it is a waste of public funding and that it promotes drug usage and sexual activities.

While I applaud the governments plan to distribute free needles and condoms to drug addicts, I am wary of the effectiveness of the delivery system should a government agency be responsible for the distribution. For one, would they be really impartial to those who come to their centers seeking these free items. Would these addicts feel safe enough to come forward and claim these free needles if they fear that they would be arrested by the police if they came to the distribution centers for them? It would indeed be a waste of public funding if this program does not meet its objective just because of faulty execution.

I guess that in these situations, the NGOs like Pink Triangle and the like would be the best avenue for distributions. I’ve read somewhere that they have done something similar with the sex workers before so I don’t think that it would be a stretch to expand the distributions to include free needles. The only limitations that I see here is that these NGOs are mostly concentrated in the urban areas which leaves those who need this program in the rural areas out in the cold.

I hope that they seriously consider the distribution logistics carefully so they can maximize the impact of this program if they really decide to follow though with it. I do believe that this is a good program if done properly and proper awareness provided directly to those who need it. On that note, the article also says that the fastest growing group newly infected by HIV in Malaysia are those who contracted the disease through sexual contact. I am very disturbed by this fact and have personally heard how some people are wholly ignorant of safe sex practices.

I came to age in a time where everyone knew about the dangers of HIV and AIDS. I learn that sex must be practiced in a safe way. No protection meant no sex no matter what. Going for your first HIV test was a rite of passage every sexually active person had to go through. Somewhere along the way, the things that we learned back then are not passed down to the next batch of sexually active people. Where did things go wrong?

No comments: