An Interview with Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman for the International Harm Reduction Conference

I am an Infectious Diseases Physician and am now the Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. I also head the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) that focuses on research in key affected populations. CERiA conducts translational research in HIV and related infections. 

What is the importance of this conference and harm reduction more generally to your work?

This conference has come at a time when more effort and resources need to be put into harm reduction programs so that they are to a scale where they can impact on the epidemic.

Locally, I hope it draws attention to the issues in Malaysia -- that although we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go to address the problems of substance use in general and harm reduction and the HIV epdicmic specifically.

What is the most pressing challenge in terms of harm reduction that you face in your work?

Drug policy and laws.

What is the importance of holding this year’s conference in Malaysia, and how do you think they’ve been a regional leader in harm reduction?

Malaysia has had some successes in implementing harm reduction but it has also had some recent set backs. Therefore, by having this conference here I hope it will help refocus local leaders to the need to rethink our response.

What changes in the field of harm reduction in Malaysia do you expect in the near future?

Hopefully we will see a complete change to community-based programs and closure of mandatory rehabilitation centres and scale-up of needle and syringe programs (NSPs).

What do you think may happen once the Global Fund leaves Malaysia?

We hope that the government will commit to funding these programs.

What is one key message you would like to share with everyone?

We know what works. We have shown that harm reduction works, including here in Malaysia -- so let’s find ways to overcome the barriers so that we can provide even better programs.