Since the HIV epidemic was first established in 1986, a total of 65,235 cases of HIV have been cumulatively reported in the Malay Muslim community, which constitute 71% of the total caseload. Injecting drug use, the main driver of the epidemic in Malaysia, is another factor that predisposes Muslim Malays to the risk of HIV infection.
The profile of injecting drug users (IDU) in the country has been, through the years, predominantly male, young, of Malay ethnicity and heterosexual. Strict and prohibitive legal, religious and socio-cultural environments also negatively impact on access to appropriate HIV and AIDS education, and treatment, care and support services in the Muslim Malay population.
Recognising the low level of engagement of Islamic religious authorities in the community-based responses to HIV and AIDS, the Malaysian AIDS Council took the pragmatic approach of building strategic partnerships with national and state level religious departments. The HIV & Islam programme was born out of this initiative in 2009, breaking new grounds in amplifying the visibility of Islamic authorities leading the efforts to address the needs of Muslim PLHIV and other most at risk populations.
Partnership with principal collaborator, the religious policy-making Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) in particular has successfully opened doors of opportunities for, inter alia, more meaningful engagement with religious leaders and other key players in open intellectual discourses to advocate for evidence-informed public health approaches to effectively respond to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. As a result, principles previously founded on staunch conservatism have now been replaced with pragmatism.
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