It is crucial for Malaysia to invest in a policy that will provide support for those who are infected with HIV, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad delivered a speech on behalf of the premier at the Malaysian Aids Foundation's Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award Gala Dinner at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur today.
In the speech, Mahathir said that HIV discrimination is "unlawful" and should not be tolerated in this day and age.
"The stigma and discrimination continue to be a stumbling block in Malaysia's response to the disease.
"Because of stigma, people are wary to even take the first step of being tested. Testing is key to knowing one's status and if they are tested positive, they can then move forward to get the necessary treatment which allows them to lead essentially normal, healthy, and productive lives.”
The premier noted that 89 percent of people with HIV in Malaysia are in the “prime of their lives” and make up the majority of the working population.
He added that in the effort to combat the disease, society could not sit on the moral high ground and look for parties to pin the blame on.
"And while, some may not want to talk about sex, it is about time we do in the context of public health.
" [...] We need to be pragmatic. We need to continue saving lives. All stakeholders must be allowed to do their jobs whether in sex education or promoting the concept of safe sex," the speech said.
During the event, Mahathir's wife Siti Hasmah Ali presented an award to Rumah Solehah founder Matron Fadzilah Abdul Hamid for her contributions towards the goal of eradicating AIDS from the country.
Rumah Solehah is a shelter home that has supported more than 400 women and children living with HIV.
Also present were Malaysian AIDS Foundation patron Marina Mahathir, deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye and the foundation's chairperson Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman.