Majority of new HIV cases involves youths aged between 20 and 39-years-old
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KUALA LUMPUR: More than 77 per cent of new HIV cases reported involved youths aged between 20 and 39 years old.
Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni said of the total, more than 90 per cent were young men.
"This shows that exposure to HIV started in school, and almost all the cases, or 97 per cent, were contracted via sexual activities," the Dewan Rakyat heard today.
As of 2022, there were 69,589 people living with HIV, including 3,177 new infections the same year.
He said the government was embarking on the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine pilot project to prevent the spread of HIV infection, especially among the youths.
He said PrEP could be accessed in private clinics or pharmacies but it would cost between RM90 and RM120 for a bottle, a steep price especially for those still in universities.
"We can promote abstinence, but the other issue is substance abuse, which brings a huge challenge to prevention.
"Therefore, PrEP is an additional prevention method that is effective, which must supplement prevention through advocating abstinence, the usage of condoms, and others.
"Additionally, prevention with PrEP is only temporary, compared to someone who is living with HIV who would have to take antiretroviral medication for life."
Lukanisman was responding to a question from Datuk Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi (Perikatan Nasional-Kuala Langat), who had asked the rationale for setting the age of 18 and above as the target group for the PrEP initiative.
Ahmad Yunus had also questioned if providing PrEP medication would encourage unnatural sex.
To this, Lukanisman said the ministry had conducted engagements with several stakeholders including with religious leaders and groups.
"The PrEP programme is to reduce the rate of infection, not to encourage unnatural sex."