KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has defended the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the fight against HIV, despite calls against dispensing the drug to homosexuals in the country.
MMA president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai said in view of the high number of HIV infections being recorded, a more effective national prevention strategy, which includes PrEP, “is much needed”.
According to the health ministry’s Global AIDS Monitoring — Country Progress Report 2022, the cumulative number of reported HIV cases in the country is 128,638, while the number of reported new HIV infections is 2,760.
The total number of people living with HIV is 67,822, although MMA estimates that the actual number of cases is likely higher due to low rates of testing.
“With due respect to religious viewpoints expressed on the use of PrEP, the sole purpose of allowing people at the highest risk of HIV to have access to PrEP is to prevent the spread of HIV in the population and save lives.
“The intended use of PrEP is to prevent HIV infections. The decision to allow high-risk groups to have access to it has to be a decision based on scientific evidence in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for the community,” he said in a statement.
The Selangor mufti department recently opposed the dispensing of the drug to those who “practise a homosexual lifestyle”, saying it would be a form of complicity in sin.
However, Muruga Raj said PrEP was a “powerful tool” to prevent HIV infection, especially when combined with other preventive measures such as regular testing and wearing condoms.
When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduced the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%, he said.
Muruga Raj however said that PrEP alone was not the answer.
“There is still a need for continuous awareness campaigns on HIV prevention.”