Kuching Division tops registered HIV cases in Sarawak

Fatimah (standing, third left) and other distinguished guests in a group photo with performers in traditional attire. Also seen are Jamilah (second left) and Cheah (third right).

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, July 6: As many as 2,720 people have tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) since 2015 in Sarawak, of which Kuching Division recorded the highest number of cases with 800 positive cases or 29.4 per cent of the cumulative figure.

The other four divisions identified as major contributors to HIV cases in Sarawak are Miri Division with 488 cases (17.95 per cent), followed by Sibu Division 454 cases (16,7 per cent), Bintulu Division 366 cases (13.5 per cent) and Samarahan Division 143 cases (5.3 per cent).

According to records between 2015 to March 26, 2022, Sarawak also registered 1,093 Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases with Sibu Division having the highest number at 243 cases or 22.2 per cent.

Miri Division came second with 236 cases (21.6 per cent), followed by Kuching Division 189 cases (17.3 per cent), Bintulu Division 177 cases (16.2 per cent) and Mukah 53 cases (4.8 per cent).

Sharing these statistics, Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg noted that the young population aged 20 to 29 constitutes 41.4 per cent or 1,125 HIV cases, followed by those between 30-39 years of age with 855 cases (31.4 per cent).

For AIDS cases, the group with the highest case rate was 30-39 years old with 390 cases (35.7 per cent), followed by 20-29 years old with 313 cases (28.6 per cent).

“Reports also showed that majority of HIV cases was reported among men (2,382 cases or 87.6 per cent) and women (338 cases or 12.4 per cent), while for AIDS cases, men accounted 84.6 per cent of cases (925 cases) as compared to 15.4 per cent among women (168 cases).

“However, there has been a considerable dip in the number of HIV cases in the past two years, possibly due to the Covid-19 testing and movement restrictions.

“The highest number of HIV infections was reported in 2018 with 465 cases, which was an increase of 210 cases or 82 per cent as compared to cumulative cases in 2015 at 255. In 2019, HIV cases dropped by 40 cases (nine per cent) compared to 2018 (465 cases),” he said.

Abang Johari highlighted this in his text-of-speech read by Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Well Being Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah when officiating the Malaysian Aids Foundation (MAF)-Sunway partnership for The Borneo Hope Project at Teratak Kasih Tok Nan, Jalan Crookshank here today.

MAF, a non-profit organisation, has been supporting people with HIV in Sarawak for more than two decades through funds raised for prevention, treatment as well as various programmes and strategic interventions.

Abang Johari emphasised that Teratak Kasih Tok Nan, the first-ever halfway home and one-stop support centre for people living with HIV or AIDS, is instrumental in linking patients from rural Sarawak to life-saving treatments at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH).

“The impact of the home cannot be underestimated. Low income patients who were previously forced to neglect their treatment because they couldn’t afford to stay overnight in town are now able to seek comfort and refuge at Teratak Kasih Tok Nan,” he said.

As young people represent a growing share of people living with HIV/AIDS, Abang Johari said that health education focusing on prevention including for other sexually transmitted diseases must be continued in schools.

“Apart from that, expanding Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) and creating support groups are equally important,” he added.

Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dato Seri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, MAF chairman Prof Dato Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Teratak Kasih Tok Nan MAF Sarawak Branch patron Puan Sri Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu, Ministry of Health HIV/STI/Hepatitis C Sector head Dr Anita Suleiman, Sarawak State Health Department deputy director Dr Rosemawati Ariffin and Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) Mayor Datu Junaidi Reduan were present. — DayakDaily