Saturday, 16 March 2013


HIV/AIDS is a relatively 'new' category of diseases. As a fourth-year undergraduate student in microbiology, and while learning immunology and cancer, I came to know about immune deficiency in 1980. While microbiology was already advanced at the time, immunology and cancer were new areas and Carl Landsteiner's book was what we used. There was barely anything known of cancer - not much to discuss in class. I had studied about the TMV (tobacco mosaic virus) under Mina Hector but nothing was known of the HIV/AIDS viruses then.

I then went to UCR (University of California, Riverside campus) to study biochemistry under Prof Frances Anne Jurnak. Prof Jurnak was the only female expert on protein crystal structures and we studied bacterial protein structures. I also studied the structure of fullerenes and other stable structures, including that of viruses. The actual study of the structure of viruses would come under virology but virology was still a small field back then in 1980-82.

Back in Malaysia in 1982, nothing was known of HIV/AIDS and I never heard it being mentioned at our medical school nor in the newspapers or TV news. I had thought immune deficiency wasn't a problem in Malaysia then. Then I forgot about immune deficiency altogether.

In February 1985, when I was in transit at the Sydney University International House for two weeks orientation for new students under IDB/AIDAB, I overheard a lady trainee lecturer mentioned her fears of a 'new disease' - HIV/AIDS, to two male lecturers. I listened and tried to understand her fears. I flashed back on what I had studied in fourth-year microbiology. Even though I had studied about immune deficiency but it was only very much later that it became known as HIV/AIDS, probably after 1982.

In 2013, Malaysia-wide, we have a large group of HIV/AIDS sufferers among apparently healthy couples and working adults. It pays to research about what we can do to try and help out this rather alarming and disgusting disease that knows no end. How do we stop it? Stop what? Stop free sex! I know it is impossible to halt free sex altogether. Prof Peter Piot said in the LSHTM video that he didn't expect an immune deficiency disease to be connected to sexual preference.

I feel we have a big health problem today - HIV/AIDS, that won't go away that easily without human intervention in the way we live, and especially on our sexual preference. How in the world do we address sexual preference at the world stage? What do we have to tell the world? Where do we begin? What do we have to say?

I feel the people who are alive today are not overly concerned about free unlimited sex and its worst consequences and expected outcome - HIV/AIDS. Because HIV/AIDS is a chronic disease, it takes a rather long time to manifest; people don't get to see the consequences of free unlimited sex, so they don't connect free unlimited sex to HIV/AIDS at all. Moreover, HIV/AIDS sufferers shun the news and media, so we don't see them when they are sufferers or in the 'ugly state'. When these sufferers die, there is just a mere mention of so-and-so have died of HIV/AIDS and that's that, full-stop. Nothing else matters. If only we can make the public stop and think, and look at the course of this terrible disease and appreciate having abstained from free unlimited sex, that should help raise some awareness. Having no awareness at all about HIV/AIDS is the worst and terrible thing to happen to humans today. We have to begin at some point.

Meet Prof Peter Piot

Prof Baron Peter Piot was whom I wrote to, to request help with finding and confirming which of the early Malay doctors had studied at the LSHTM (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) in UK.

The information obtained from the LSHTM is included in Appendix 4: Malay Doctors who Attended the LSHTM, on page 274, in Research on the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore. There were probably many more doctors who attended the LSHTM but I only gave six names to Prof Peter Piot to help search for me. In Appendix 4, I listed only these six names of early Malay doctors and the time they were at the LSHTM:

  1. Dr Shaik Mohamad Baboo bin Ahmad Albakish, 1929
  2. Dr Megat Khas bin Megat Omar, 1950
  3. Dr Mohamed Said bin Mohamed, 1947-48
  4. Dr Abbas bin Haji Alias, 1949-51
  5. Dr Mohamed Din bin Ahmad, 1951
  6. Dr Sulaiman bin Mohd Attas, 1950*
* from family account

Prof Peter Piot is the Director of the LSHTM. He is a distinguished medical professor and researcher who looked into gay health and HIV/AIDS at the global level. At that time, HIV/AIDS was unknown to the world and it was just beginning, in Zaire, Africa. Prof Peter Piot's work received worldwide acknowledgement and the world then came to know about HIV/AIDS. You can watch his video about how HIV/AIDS became known as we know it today.

Peter Piot reflects on his career (LSHTM video)