Six colleagues working in the HIV field were killed when their flight en route to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over the Ukraine. This report is drawn from the in memoriam keynote opening address given at the 12th International AIDS Impact conference in Amsterdam in 2015. It highlights their tangible and valued roles in the HIV response and looks forward to the road ahead. It describes the ways in which we can build on their legacy to address current global challenges in HIV prevention and treatment and to mobilise the intensified, focused resources that are needed to turn the HIV epidemic on its head.
Kelantan, a northeastern state in Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the states that has been acutely hit by injecting drug user (IDU)-driven HIV epidemic, in addition to having a high number of infected women in Malaysia. This cross-sectional study describes the socio-demographic characteristics, HIV risk factors, risk perception, and adoption of preventive behaviors among female partners of IDUs in Kelantan. Out of 101 women, the majority of them are from low socioeconomic background and have no other risk factors besides heterosexual HIV transmission from their male IDU partners. Although 45.5% have not been tested for HIV and more than half (53.5%) of them did not use condoms during sexual intercourse, only 44.6% of the women perceived themselves to be at risk of being infected with HIV. Most of the women (86.1%) were willing to undergo voluntary counseling and testing (VCT). Female partners of IDUs continue to be vulnerable to HIV due to having sexual contact with IDUs, and also due to their socioeconomic position in the community. To prevent HIV transmission among female partners of IDUs, consolidating HIV prevention efforts from multiple approaches is needed.
Stigma perpetuated by health-care providers has been found to be a barrier to care for vulnerable populations, including HIV-infected, people who inject drugs (PWIDs), and men who have sex with men (MSM) in multiple clinical contexts and remains unexamined among professional health-care students in Malaysia. This cross-sectional, anonymous, and Internet-based survey assessed the attitudes of medical and dental students toward HIV-infected, PWID, and MSM patients. Survey invitation was emailed to 3191 students at 8 professional schools; 1296 (40.6%) responded and scored their attitudes toward these patient groups using a feeling thermometer, indicating their attitudes on a sliding scale from 0 (most negative) to 100 (most positive). Compared to general patients (mean = 76.50), the mean scores for HIV-infected (mean = 54.04; p < 0.001), PWID (mean = 37.50; p < 0.001), and MSM (mean = 32.13; p < 0.001) patients were significantly lower and significantly different between each group comparison. Within group differences, most notably religion, ethnicity, and personally knowing someone from these populations were associated with significant differences in attitudes. No differences were noted between pre-clinical and clinical year of training. Health-care students represent the next generation of clinicians who will be responsible for future HIV prevention and treatment efforts. Our findings suggest alarmingly negative attitudes toward these patients, especially MSM, necessitating prompt and effective interventions designed to ameliorate the negative attitudes of health-care students toward vulnerable populations, specifically HIV-infected, PWID, and MSM patients in Malaysia.
This study explored responsibility attribution (RA) of HIV/AIDS infection (i.e., how an individual perceives the cause of their HIV/AIDS infection) and its relationship to coping styles among injection drug users (IDUs) with HIV/AIDS. In addition, this study investigated whether self-esteem, social support, and religiosity mediate the relationship between RA and coping styles of IDUs with HIV/AIDS. Participants were 201 adult IDUs with HIV/AIDS participating in the National Drug Rehabilitation Center in Malaysia. Five measures were used to assess the above constructs. Cluster analysis, analysis of variance, and mediation analyses were conducted. Results of this study indicated that IDUs with HIV/AIDS in Malaysia can be classified into four homogenous attribution groups: external, fatalistic, internal, and indeterminate. Mediator analyses revealed that combination of self-esteem, social support, and religiosity mediate the relationship between RA and coping behaviors. Clinicians working with IDUs with HIV/AIDS need to address the role of RA, self-esteem, religiosity, and social support as these psychosocial constructs are linked to coping with HIV/AIDS. Future researchers should investigate whether enhancing self-esteem, social support, and religiosity can promote active problem-solving coping and reduce the use of avoidance coping behaviors.
The objective of this study was to identify demographic characteristics and correlates of the uptake of HIV testing, willingness to be tested and perceived HIV-related stigma of Malaysian lay public. A cross-sectional computer-assisted telephone interview survey of a representative sample of multiracial Malaysians aged 18 years and above was conducted between December and July 2011. The survey collected information on demographics, knowledge about HIV transmission and religious beliefs on attitudes to HIV/AIDS. A total of 2271 households were successfully interviewed. The response rate was 48.65%. The HIV transmission knowledge score ranged from 0 to 15 (mean =10.56; SD±2.42). Three of the most common misconceptions about HIV transmission were mosquito bite (42.8%), eating in a restaurant where the cook is HIV positive (20.4%) and using a public toilet (20.1%). Only 20.6% reported ever having been tested for HIV, 49.1% reported a willingness to be tested for HIV and 30.3% had no intention of getting an HIV test. Low-risk perception (63.7%) constitutes a major barrier to HIV testing. Being Malay and Chinese (relative to Indian) were the strongest predictors of low-risk perception. Other significant predictors of low-risk perception were being male, being married and living in an urban locality. Perceived self-stigma if tested positive for HIV was prevalent (78.8%). Multivariate findings showed that being female, Malay, low income, living in rural localities and public stigma were significant correlates of self-stigma. These findings warrant interventions to reduce the disproportionate HIV transmission misconception, barriers to HIV testing and stigma and discriminative attitudes to involve considerations of sociocultural economic and demographic characteristics.
This study determines the validity and reliability of the Malay version of the World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL) assessment instrument in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. A cross-sectional study on 157 patients with HIV seen at the Infectious Disease Unit, Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II, Kota Bharu, Kelantan was conducted. Factor analysis identified five major domains: physical needs, spirituality, social relationship, psychological, and environment. Significant correlation was found between each domain scores and the general health questions. The instrument was able to discriminate between asymptomatic and symptomatic HIV positive patients for all domain scores except for the spirituality domain. The internal consistency of the five domains ranged from 0.70 to 0.83. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) ranged from 0.60 to 0.87 across all domains. In conclusion, the Malay version of WHOQOL-HIV BREF is a valid and reliable instrument in assessing quality of life in HIV positive patients.
Despite the growing HIV threat among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Malaysia, there is a dearth of information on their HIV risk behaviour. This study focused on identifying specific risk behaviours that distinguished HIV positive IDUs from those who were not. For the first time, data on IDUs not in treatment were obtained through a cross-sectional survey of 526 subjects recruited from five selected cities across peninsular Malaysia. A structured questionnaire and face-to-face interviews were utilised to collect detailed information on their drug use practices and sexual behaviours. On-site serological testing determined their HIV and hepatitis C status. The findings indicated that ethnic Malays, who are also Muslims, form the majority of IDUs not in treatment. Bivariate analysis identified six risk factors associated with HIV seropositivity: being 44 years or younger; not holding a regular job; initiating drug use at age 23 or younger; being a morphine user; sharing injecting equipment and having multiple-sex partners. However, only the last two remained significant in multivariate analysis. That sharing contaminated injecting equipment is a significant risk factor strongly justifies the widening of the pilot needle and syringe exchange programme initiated hesitantly in late 2005 as a reaction to the worsening HIV/AIDS situation. Condom use, though not independently significant, remains important because consistent and wider use could neutralise the second risk factor--having multiple-sex partners. The finding that injecting drug use is increasingly occurring in groups underscores the need for outreach programmes that emphasise safe injecting practices in group settings. In addition, counsellors should endeavour to convince drug users to enter treatment since being in treatment appears to reduce risk behaviours. Finally, conservative Muslim unease about harm reduction must be assuaged quickly since Malay Muslims form the majority of IDUs not in treatment.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has spread widely among injecting drug users (IDUs) in countries to the north and west of the 'Golden Triangle' region of South-East Asia; it is likely to have spread southwards to Malaysia as well. In order to assess HIV seroprevalence among IDUs in north-east Malaysia and describe risk factors for HIV infection in this population, we performed a cross-sectional seroepidemiological study among 210 IDUs recruited at the detoxification ward of the General Hospital in the capital city of the north-eastern Malaysian state, Kelantan. Subjects were sequential entrants to the detoxification ward, interviewed about HIV risk behaviour, and tested for antibody to HIV and to syphilis. Nearly a third (62/210, 30%) of these IDUs were HIV seropositive. Three-quarters (159/210) had travelled to Thailand in the preceding 5 years, of whom 32% (51/159) were HIV seropositive; this was associated with injecting in Thailand, but not with sexual contact there. Of those who had not left Malaysia in the preceding 5 years, 26% (11/43) were HIV seropositive, a rate not significantly different from those who had travelled. Travel within Malaysia was common (144/210, 69%) among IDUs interviewed, as was unsafe injecting and unsafe sexual behaviour (20% had shared injecting equipment and 21% had had unprotected intercourse) in other states. In every locale, rates of unsafe injecting behaviour were high (55% sharing in last month), even among those who knew they were HIV infected, and rates of condom usage were low (93% of 160 sexually active IDUs had never used a condom). Syphilis was not associated with HIV infection, but with contact with Thai prostitutes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
HIV status disclosure plays a crucial role in reducing risk behaviors of drug and sexual partners and thereby limiting HIV transmission. As people who inject drugs (PWID) bear a significant HIV burden and disclosure research among PWID is relatively few, we reviewed the literature to highlight what is known about disclosure among HIV-positive PWID. Searches of articles published from 2000 to 2015 yielded 17 studies addressing different aspects of disclosure, and results are presented by major themes. Our results suggest that despite the difficulties, most PWID (64-86%) disclose their HIV-positive status to trusted individuals (family members and intimate sexual partners) and to those who are known to be HIV-positive. Disclosure to non-intimate sexual partners and fellow drug users is relatively lower. Disclosure decision-making is primarily driven by the perceived positive and negative consequences of disclosure. Subsequent risk reduction practices following disclosure are influenced by the feeling of responsibility, as well as partners' willingness to accept risk. Cultural family values, ethnicity, and different localities were several contextual factors that affect patterns of disclosure and risk behaviors of PWID. Areas for future research are recommended.
HIV testing services are the gateway into HIV treatment and are critical for monitoring the epidemic. HIV testing is recommended at least annually in high-risk populations, including people who inject drugs (PWID). In Malaysia, the HIV epidemic is concentrated among PWID, but their adherence to testing recommendations and the proportion of HIV-positive PWID who are aware of their status remain unknown. We recruited 460 PWID in Greater Kuala Lumpur using respondent-driven sampling and conducted HIV testing. We examined past testing behaviors, estimating testing frequency, correlates of testing in the past 12 months, and the proportion of those living with HIV who were aware of their status. Results showed that most PWID living with HIV (90.4%, 95% CI: 83.6%-95.9%) were aware of their status. Among those never previously diagnosed with HIV, few had accessed HIV testing in the past 12 months (14.3%, 95% CI: 11.1%-18.0%). Prison (57.0%) and compulsory drug detention centers (36.1%) were the primary locations where PWID reported ever being HIV tested, and the main correlate of recent testing in regression was recent criminal justice involvement. Although awareness of HIV status may be high among PWID living with HIV in Kuala Lumpur, testing occurs primarily in prisons and compulsory drug detention centers, where it is involuntary and linkage to care is limited. A shift in HIV testing policy is needed to align health and human rights objectives, replacing mandatory testing with voluntary testing in settings where individuals can be rapidly linked to HIV care.
We studied behavioral risks among HIV-infected and uninfected adolescents using an audio computer-assisted self-interview. A prospective cohort study was initiated between 2013 and 2014 in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. HIV-infected adolescents were matched to uninfected adolescents (4:1) by sex and age group (12-14 and 15-18 years). We enrolled 250 HIV-infected (48% male; median age 14.5 years; 93% perinatally infected) and 59 uninfected (51% male; median age 14.1 years) adolescents. At enrollment, HIV-infected adolescents were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for a median (IQR) of 7.5 (4.7-10.2) years, and 14% had HIV-RNA >1000 copies/mL; 19% reported adherence <80%. Eighty-four (34%) HIV-infected and 26 (44%) uninfected adolescents reported having ever smoked cigarettes or drunk alcohol (p = 0.13); 10% of HIV-infected and 17% of uninfected adolescents reported having initiated sexual activity; 6 of the HIV-infected adolescents had HIV-RNA >1000 copies/mL. Risk behaviors were common among adolescents, with few differences between those with and without HIV.
In Peru, HIV is concentrated among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW). Between June 2015 and August 2016, 591 HIV-positive MSM and TGW were recruited at five clinical care sites in Lima, Peru. We found that 82.4% of the participants had achieved viral suppression (VS; VL
Missed clinic visits can lead to poorer treatment outcomes in HIV-infected patients. Suboptimal antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence has been linked to subsequent missed visits. Knowing the determinants of missed visits in Asian patients will allow for appropriate counselling and intervention strategies to ensure continuous engagement in care. A missed visit was defined as having no assessments within six months. Repeated measures logistic regression was used to analyse factors associated with missed visits. A total of 7100 patients were included from 12 countries in Asia with 2676 (37.7%) having at least one missed visit. Patients with early suboptimal self-reported adherence <95% were more likely to have a missed visit compared to those with adherence ≥95% (OR = 2.55, 95% CI(1.81-3.61)). Other factors associated with having a missed visit were homosexual (OR = 1.45, 95%CI(1.27-1.66)) and other modes of HIV exposure (OR = 1.48, 95%CI(1.27-1.74)) compared to heterosexual exposure; using PI-based (OR = 1.33, 95%CI(1.15-1.53) and other ART combinations (OR = 1.79, 95%CI(1.39-2.32)) compared to NRTI+NNRTI combinations; and being hepatitis C co-infected (OR = 1.27, 95%CI(1.06-1.52)). Patients aged >30 years (31-40 years OR = 0.81, 95%CI(0.73-0.89); 41-50 years OR = 0.73, 95%CI(0.64-0.83); and >50 years OR = 0.77, 95%CI(0.64-0.93)); female sex (OR = 0.81, 95%CI(0.72-0.90)); and being from upper middle (OR = 0.78, 95%CI(0.70-0.80)) or high-income countries (OR = 0.42, 95%CI(0.35-0.51)), were less likely to have missed visits. Almost 40% of our patients had a missed clinic visit. Early ART adherence was an indicator of subsequent clinic visits. Intensive counselling and adherence support should be provided at ART initiation in order to optimise long-term clinic attendance and maximise treatment outcomes.