Since the first case of HIV/AIDS was identified in 1986 in Malaysia, the number of infected individuals has increased steadily each year, so that by the end of 2002 the cumulative number of people living with HIV/AIDS was 57,835 (51,256 with HIV and 6,579 with AIDS), with 5,676 AIDS deaths. The epidemic in Malaysia, currently in a concentrated epidemic stage, is primarily fueled by drug use, but there is ample evidence that heterosexual transmission has increased over the last few years. A strategic plan that includes prevention, care, support, and treatment run by both the government and nongovernmental organizations has been in place since the beginning of the epidemic. However, Malaysia will need to take a more pragmatic approach to reduce new infections (which numbered 19 each day in 2002) among the youth on whom the country relies for development. Leaders need to recognize that HIV/AIDS is not just a health issue, but also a socioeconomic concern that can eliminate all the developmental gains achieved over the years. Working together, Malaysians can overcome the epidemic, but there is a need to act quickly and to act in effective ways so that the devastating effects (already evident in the number of AIDS orphans and widows) can be reduced.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.