PETALING JAYA: The health ministry has denied an activist’s claim that a RM60 charge has been imposed on Malaysians seeking HIV screening at government hospitals, saying this applies only to foreigners.
“Payment for HIV screening is RM1 inclusive of registration, consultation and investigation fees,” the ministry said in a statement sent to FMT.
It said all medical charges for Malaysians came under the Fees (Medical) Order 1982 and Fees (Medical) (Amendment) Order 2017.
The statement was a response to an allegation made by Martin Choo, managing director of the Asia-Pacific Council of AIDS Service Organisations.
Choo said in a Facebook posting last month he had been informed by reliable sources that the ministry had begun charging new amounts with the coming into effect of a fee structure gazetted five years ago.
“Malaysians walking into a primary care clinic for HIV screening will now be charged RM60,” he said, claiming that at least one government facility in Kuala Lumpur was asked to impose the fee.
The ministry said the fee structure Choo was referring to, which comes under the Fees (Medical) (Cost of Services) 2014, applied only to foreign patients.
It said the RM1 charge would be imposed on couples wishing to undergo a pre-marital HIV test as well as patients whose HIV investigations had been ordered by a government medical officer.
In his Facebook article, Choo warned that the RM60 fee was beyond the means of Malaysians in the bottom 40 (B40) income category and that charging walk-in clients for HIV screening would deprive populations at risk of HIV of taking regular screenings.
He later told FMT he was informed that the health ministry had no record of exemption of HIV fees for the public, citing a leaked email that said the federal treasury’s secretary-general might exclude Malaysians from paying medical service fees upon request.
The ministry said the 1982 fees order stipulated that patients from the B40 group could be exempted from payment, wholly or partially.
“In our bid to support the National Strategic Plan for Ending Aids 2016-2030, the ministry would continue to charge RM1 for HIV screening,” it added.
Choo, responding to the ministry’s statement, said he was thankful for the clarification.
“However, we also stand by our whistleblower, who provided sufficient credible evidence to warrant raising the alarm,” he said, adding that the person was a healthcare worker.