KOTA BARU: The number of women living with HIV/AIDS in Malaysia has increased dramatically, making up an estimated 10 per cent of cases.
Malaysian AIDS Foundation president Datuk Dr Raj Karim said Health Ministry statistics showed that of the 94,841 cases between 1986 and December last year, 9,494 were women.
"The steep increase could be attributed to infection through unprotected sex with their spouses.
"Most women face a greater risk of infection because their husbands or partners had taken drugs or had contracted a sexually transmitted disease," she said at a press conference after launching a business management programme for women in collaboration with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
Kelantan, she said, also had the highest number of cases of people living with HIV/AIDS.
"The figures have not changed much since a decade ago and this could be due to many factors, including its geographical location near the Thai border," she said.
Last year, Dr Raj added, 3,479 new HIV/AIDS cases were reported.
"The disease is no longer confined to minority groups such as homosexuals and drug addicts but has spread to the general population.
"If we do not take appropriate steps, Malaysia could be headed for a crisis," she said.
Dr Raj also noted that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among women could have a huge social and economic impact on the community.
"Many women living with HIV face difficulties looking for a job.
"We hope that programmes such as this would help them become more independent," she said.