July 2011—Sex between men is illegal in Malaysia and homosexuality is highly stigmatized. HIV organizations are consequently faced with the challenge of advocating for safe sex in an environment in which anal sex is prohibited and spaces where men meet are subject to police raids. In addition, clinical anecdotes suggest that HIV incidence may be increasing among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Malaysia.To assess HIV prevalence and understand risk behaviors and knowledge about HIV transmission among MSM in Kuala Lumpur, a study—funded by a grant to the Malaysian AIDS Council from amfAR, with additional support from the World Bank—was conducted among men from Malaysia’s three main ethnic groups attending local entertainment venues. A total of 517 Malay, Chinese, and Indian men completed a survey on their risk behaviors and received an oral, rapid HIV test.1
Surveys and HIV testing were conducted among MSM at a cruising park to determine levels of risk behavior. (Photo: CeRIA, University of Malaya Medical Center, Malaysia)
The high-risk behavior and lack of easily accessible HIV testing for MSM observed in this study raise concerns about the potential for further growth in the HIV epidemic among MSM in Malaysia. The study authors acknowledge the current restrictive legal and social environment, which makes prevention work and behavioral interventions difficult, but stress the urgency of providing effective HIV education to Malaysian MSM.
1. Kanter J, Koh C, Razali K, Tai R, Izenberg J, Rajan L, Van Griensven F, Kamarulzaman A. Risk behavior and HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in a multiethnic society: A venue-based study in Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia. International Journal of STD & AIDS. 2011;22: 30–37.