In 2015, when I wrote about how homosexuality carried as many as 18 times more risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) based on a research paper, which reflected my concerns too of HIV/AIDS epidemic among gay (MSM) and transgenders (and far from being homophobic as claimed by certain quarters as I do befriend gay and TG), Sisters in Islam (SIS) highlighted to me a statement by Malaysian AIDS Council that we should be concerned of heterosexuals as they made the bulk of the cases.
I’ve written time and again that we should not be looking at the absolute numbers, but instead to look at the RATE of infection. Absolute numbers, will give a false sense of comfort, as heterosexuals are majority, thus for sure the numbers they produce is bigger.
RATE of infection means how fast the disease can spread in a given community. It is calculated by how many members in the population get HIV, divided the numbers of people in the community. If the community has relatively small numbers of members, the RATE or % will be higher.
In 2014, the RATE of infection of HIV for both gay and TG communities was more than 5%. The RATE of infection of HIV in the whole of population of Malaysia is around 0.4-0.5%.
If we understood this, it is of no surprise that in 2016, homosexuals (gay, bisexual, transgenders) has overtaken heterosexuals in new cases of HIV infection.
But to justify the current trend of homosexuals predominate numbers of new cases, some people are saying that it is due to the fact that more gay and transgenders are coming forward to be tested and screened.
But interestingly, in a more developed country like US, where acceptance of LGBT community is very much higher than us, they also show similar trend, with gays, transgenders and bisexuals overtaking heterosexuals in new cases of HIV.
Whether or not, more people volunteered for HIV screening is the case, we should not dismiss the fact that the RATE of infection in homosexuals be they gay, bisexual and transgender, is still higher. A worldwide meta-analysis study showed that transgenders, carried 48.5 times more risk of getting HIV /AIDS and that is a very high risk.
So back to SIS’ assertion in 2015 that we should be more worried of heterosexuals (which we did by the way with many NGOs advocating say no to extramarital affair, say no to zina and avoid drug injection), that kind of advise in defense of LGBT in the name of human rights, appeared to be incorrect and short-lived.
The latest figures in Malaysia shows that among the 1553 new cases of HIV in homosexuals and bisexuals, 40% of them are in the age group of 19-29 years old, many are students. While 31% are made of professionals age from 30-39 years old.
With this current development, the right strategy should be employed, and safe-sex should not overemphasize the role of abstinence. Human rights arguments should not overshadow medical facts, these information should be readily available and discussed thoroughly for the benefits of everybody, the minority and the majority.
Studies are not conclusive about genetic being the sole factor for sexual orientation, in fact environment still plays an important role eg history of being sexually abused, family breakdown etc. Recent reports in Berita Harian also showed that many online applications are luring students and youngsters to explore these homosexuals activities.
An aggressive campaign of abstinence, religiously, morally and from medical perspective, SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER THE HUMAN RIGHTS ARGUMENTS OF ACCEPTANCE AND SAFE-SEX MEASURE, IN THIS MATTER to allow our youths to be well informed and make wise decision.
Prof Madya Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
Vice president I-Medik
International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ)