12 Oct 2022
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens people’s defense against many infections and some types of cancer that people with healthy immune systems can more easily fight off. As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient. Immune function is typically measured by CD4 cell count. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which can take many years to develop if not treated, depending on the individual. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections or other severe long-term clinical manifestations.3
According to WHO, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed 40.1 million [33.6–48.6 million] lives so far. There were an estimated 38.4 million [33.9–43.8 million] people living with HIV at the end of 2021, two thirds of whom (25.6 million) are in the WHO African Region.3
New data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) revealed that more than 1.5 million people worldwide were newly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV virus) in 2021, with 260,000 coming from Asia and the Pacific region.2
The Philippines and Malaysia are among the countries with rising epidemics. The most prominent risk factors identified are sexual transmission and drug users, including people who share drug equipment. “Sexual transmissions have become the main mode of HIV infections in Malaysia for the past few years, instead of transmission among drug users”, said health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.1
HIV can be diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests that provide quick results. This greatly facilitates early diagnosis and linkage with treatment and care. However, no single test can provide a full HIV positive diagnosis; confirmatory testing is required, conducted by a qualified and trained health or community worker at a community centre or clinic. HIV infection can be detected with great accuracy using WHO prequalified tests within a nationally approved testing strategy and algorithm.
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1. Bernama. (11th December 2021) 94% of HIV infections sexually transmitted, says Khairy. Free Malaysia Today. Accessed on 10 Oct 2022
2. TheStar (1st August 2022) HIV/AIDS is on the rise again, Malaysia among countries with rising numbers. Accessed on 10 Oct 2022
3. WHO (27 July 2022) HIV Fact Sheet. Accessed 10 Oct 2022