Dr Azlee (third right) with Sarawak AIDS Concern Society (SACS) president Dr Yuwana Podin (second left) launching the charity run.

KUCHING: The public has been urged to accept those living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) with an open mind, so that more patients would come forward to seek treatment.

HIV is a virus which attacks and destroys the body’s immune system which causes AIDS.

Kuching Divisional Health officer Dr Azlee Ayub said till today, people living with HIV still face discrimination and poor treatment worldwide.

“We wish to change that, we hope you (public) do too. Our aim is to ensure that nobody feels rejected or shameful because of their HIV status,” he said during the launch of ‘Stand By Me’ Charity Run held in conjunction with World AIDS Day at Saradise Kuching, BDC, yesterday.

Dr Azlee said the people’s acceptance would give HIV sufferers the support and confidence in acquiring appropriate treatment and with proper treatment, they could actually lead a normal life.

“We must understand that HIV is not a dirty disease, hence, there is no reason to avoid and discriminate people living with or affected by HIV,” he stressed, noting that the number of HIV cases in Sarawak was increasing and becoming a worrying issue.

“For Kuching Division, a total of 144 HIV cases were reported and 12 of them passed away due to AIDS-related illness in 2018,” he said, adding that in 2013, the number of HIV cases was at 65.

He said HIV mostly affects male population in the age range of 20 to 40 years old.

“Early detection and initiation of treatment is very important which can control HIV disease progression, prolong life expectancy and help prevent transmission of HIV to intimate partners, allowing people living with HIV to lead normal productive lives,” he pointed out.

He said HIV patients can now receive treatment at primary health care facilities such as polyclinic, thus, making it easier for patients to get treatment. 

Dr Azlee (third right) with Sarawak AIDS Concern Society (SACS) president Dr Yuwana Podin (second left) launching the charity run.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), since the beginning of the epidemic, 75 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 32 million people have died of HIV.

At the end of last year, globally, 37.9 million people were living with HIV. 

HIV virus cannot survive outside the human body (such as on the skin and clothes). It is not transmitted through kissing, hugging, shaking hands, sharing food and utensils, sharing public amenities, sneezing, cough, sweat, urine, insect or animal bites.

The virus is spread through unsafe sex, when HIV spreads from an infected person to another through the transfer of body fluids. It can also spread when drug users share infected needles and syringes. An infected mother can transmit HIV to her baby during pregnancy or at childbirth.