Malaysia's Health Ministry is urging women to carry condoms to protect themselves against being exploited by their partners, in view of the rising number of women contracting HIV, dpa reported.
"This is not to debase them but to protect them," Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad told the press conference after launching the International AIDS Memorial Day Saturday in the central state of Selangor.
He also urged the Malaysian leaders and non-governmental organization to increase cooperation and efforts in championing the cause.
It was the first time that Malaysia, a relatively conservative Muslim nation, openly celebrated International AIDS Memorial Day.
According to the Health Ministry statistics, the trend of women contacting HIV and diagnosed with the AIDS syndrome is on the rise, the Star daily reported.
Apart from sex workers, many women were believed to have been unknowingly infected by their husbands who may have been drug users, president of the Malaysian AIDS Council Adeeba Kamarulzaman said.
Studies have revealed that in the year 2007, three people died of AIDS everyday in Malaysia.
Official statistics have also shown that the ethnic Malays formed the largest group of HIV sufferers at 58,267 in total, followed by the Chinese at 11,886, Indians at 6,532 and foreigners at 2,722.
"One reason why Malays are the highest (recorded) is because of our large population and high number of injecting drug users," Adeeba said.
Twenty per cent of the 40 million people living with HIV and AIDS globally are found in the Asia-Pacific region. AIDS has claimed more than half a million lives and more than 1 million people became newly infected in the region last year alone.