Jacob (not his real name) is a 54-year-old man living with HIV for more than two decades. He lives with his elderly mother, who he is taking care of, in Puchong, Selangor.

Jacob has been taking his HIV medication for 25 years. In 2014, his doctor advised him to change to a more advanced second-line medication after he complained of side effects such as fatigue, depression and psychotic symptoms from the first-line treatment that he was on at the time. This had resulted in his poor performance as a sales executive and Jacob was unable to earn as much commission as before.

Burdened by the high cost of the drugs, he visited the Social Welfare Department at his regular hospital. The officer in charge sympathised with his financial struggle while also dealing with mental health issues. Jacob was introduced to the PAL Scheme run by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation to help him have access to much-needed lifesaving medication.

Once he enrolled on the programme, Jacob was able to get free second-line HIV treatment and his health greatly improved. This is reflected in the increase of his CD4 level (immune cells) from 275 to 614 and his viral load successfully reached undetectable level. His mental health also improved as he no longer experienced any psychotic symptoms after taking the new medication.

After he got better, Jacob was able to carry out his job efficiently and achieved better sales, which in turn, earned him higher commission from his company. This guaranteed a more comfortable life for him and he was able to continue taking care of his sickly mother.

“Good mental health is important in order to function properly. I would never have attained the peace of mind if it wasn’t for the PAL Scheme which gave me access to free second-line treatment. I am truly grateful to the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and Yayasan Sime Darby, the main sponsor of PAL Scheme, for this new lease of life,” said Jacob.