Medics should not impose moral values in the anti-HIV drug debate, says experts

AN infectious diseases expert has urged medical professionals to refrain from imposing their moral values on patients, amid pushback from some doctors against dispensing an anti-HIV drug.

According to former health ministry deputy director Dr Christopher Lee, only scientific evidence should be used by healthcare providers to offer advice.

“There is robust and overwhelming scientific evidence behind the efficacy of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which will be dispensed for free at selected public clinics next year.

“As healthcare providers, we are expected to inform our patients of all evidence-based treatment options,” Malaysiakini reported him as saying. 

Dr Lee, who also served as Malaysian AIDS Council president from August 2020 to May 2022 added that medical professionals should not impose their own personal moral values on their patients.

“It is their decision at the end of the day.”

Dr Lee was responding to Malaysiakini’s report that a group of Muslim healthcare professionals have opposed the decision to provide free PrEP at public clinics.

They claim the move appears to violate their faith because it is given to individuals who are not HIV positive and engage in sex outside of marriage or homosexual sex, which is forbidden in Islam.

Moreover, they asserted that this is not the same as treating HIV-positive patients, which they do without discrimination.

The doctors said they can only support the move if the prescription include “risk-reduction counselling” to deter patients from continuing to engage in high-risk lifestyles.

At private clinics, PrEP can cost between RM80 and RM140 a month.


On the first day of World AIDS Day, the Health Ministry announced that it will begin providing PrEP at public clinics in 2023. 

“If consumed according to prescription, PrEP can reduce chances of sexual transmission by 99%,” it said. 

The two-year programme involves dispensation of PrEP to up to 10,000 patients in up to 18 public clinics in selected states, according to health news website CodeBlue. This is made possible by a grant from the Global Fund Against Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa pointed out that the pilot programme will see if dispensing PrEP at public clinics can reduce HIV infections.

“Islamic experts have also been consulted on the religious edicts of dispensing the drug.”

In Malaysia, the main mode of HIV transmission is sexual transmission, which primarily involves men who have sex with men. PrEP reduces the viral load in an infected person’s blood, preventing them from transmitting the virus to others through sex or injection. – Dec 23, 2022


Main photo credit: Unsplash

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