PERSONAL STORIES
When A Policeman
Turns Advocate For
HIV/AIDS

After decades of crime busting and putting the bad guys behind bars, Tan Sri Zaman Khan did not retire in a leisurely fashion. Instead, he took up a cause that was a complete U-turn from his policing days: Getting involved in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness work.

Although he had been involved in HIV/AIDS work years before that, Zaman went in full throttle and was eventually elected President of MAC president from 2010 to 2012.

He is still remembered at the MAC office as someone who turned up at the office every day.

“Sometimes, I would turn up even before the staff and I would wait at the coffee shop nearby,” he adds. And that was in the days before he was elected into office when he dropped by the office to catch up on reading materials on HIV/AIDS.

Zaman’s long career in the police force saw him serving in many positions, most notably as Federal Criminal Investigation Department director and Prisons director-general.

His interest in fighting the disease started when his two nephews were diagnosed with HIV. Zaman says one of them was a drug user who was infected and subsequently, he, his wife and child died.

“We were so ignorant about the existence of such a disease,” he remembers.

His other nephew, Zaman adds was infected via sexual transmission.

He remembers the episode vividly when he returned from the United States after attending a meeting and received news that his nephew’s condition was serious. He rushed back but could not cross the Malaysian-Thailand border at night and ended up visiting his nephew the next morning.

“I saw him, he saw me. We were all around him. He smiled,” he says.

“Then I went out to say hello to other people who were outside. Almost immediately, someone came and said he was gone.”

This rude awakening of sorts to the horrible truth of the disease was coupled with the fact that he got involved with the Drug Prevention Association of Malaysia (PEMADAM).

During one of the talks, Zaman met Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman and Professor Nick Crofts, epidemiologist and public health practitioner. The duo encouraged him to get more involved in HIV/AIDS work that eventually led him to be involved in harm reduction.

He was part of the group that went to meet the then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Mohammad Najib Tun Abdul Razak, who chaired the national committee on drugs.

Approval for harm reduction was given and Zaman is quick to note that no other government has used the country’s budget to fund such a programme.

In current times, Zaman says that while certain areas have improved in reducing new infections, there are other locations such as the Klang Valley where things have stagnated.

“We are not open in talking about condoms,” he says.

He adds that although those from the MAC had done a good job so far, more needs to be done.

“They must go more often to the ground and be of assistance and try to improve things.”

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