What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that damages the body’s immune system, making the infected person prone to various infections and cancers. AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the advanced stage of HIV infection when the infected person develops a specific infection or when specific immune cells (T helper cells) drop below 200/ul. The virus is found in blood, semen, body fluids, vaginal secretions and breast milk of infected persons. People who are infected with HIV will carry (and be able to pass on) the virus for the rest of their lives.

HIV is spread by exposure to HIV infected blood and body fluids such as occurs during sex, by sharing needles among drug abusers, from mother to baby (before or during birth or by breast feeding).

The virus is not spread by casual contact like living in the same household or working with an infected person. Since the first reported case of AIDS in 1986, by 2016, there are 111,916 reported HIV infection and 16,352 AIDS cases in Malaysia.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Infected babies and children usually have no symptoms at the beginning. As the infection progresses and the immune system weakens, they may demonstrate symptoms such as:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes, liver or spleen.
  • Skin rash.
  • Thrush (white patches in the mouthie fungal infection/thrush).
  • Recurrent, persistent or unusually severe infections.
  • Persistent fever or diarrhea.
  • Failure to grow.

These symptoms usually occur within two years in children born with HIV infection. At the late stage, the person will eventually die from various types of infections and cancer.

What are the complications?

HIV is a serious and progressive infection. Complications occur with progressive weakening of the immune system, resulting in increased susceptibility to “opportunistic” infections and cancers. In children it causes growth failure (unable to put on weight and grow normally) or delayed milestone.

Is there any cure for HIV infection?

There is still no cure for HIV infection. However, HIV antiviral drugs are available. Treatment consists of combination drugs that help in controlling viral growth and thereby slowing down the damage to the immune system and are effective in prolonging life and improving quality of life as long as the infected person are taking these drugs.

Is it preventable?

HIV infection is preventable.

  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes.
  • Avoid unsafe sex or sexual promiscuity.
    • practice monogamy.
    • use condoms.

Early antiviral treatment of the infected mother can decrease the chance that her baby will become infected. Therefore women who are pregnant should be tested for HIV as early as possible and early preventive measures taken.

HIV test for pregnant women are providing free of charge in government hospitals and health clinics. If a pregnant woman is found to be infected, there are treatments available for her to reduce the chance of transmitting the disease to her newborn.

Are there any support groups?

Children infected or affected by HIV may get help from the Malaysian AIDS Foundation Paediatric AIDS Scheme (ask your doctor for information).

More information or counseling can be obtained from:

Malaysian AIDS Council (
Tel: 03-40474222

Malaysian Aids Council or MAC can also be found at social network of facebook ( )  and twitter.

You may also contact the local HIV/AIDS support groups in your area (ask your doctor for information) for help or counseling.

Last reviewed : 28 August 2020
Content Writer : Dr. Chan Kwai Cheng
Reviewer : Dr. Zainab bt. Kusiar