Scroll To Top




The next time you look toward space, you'll be seeing one of the last great frontiers in AIDS research. In October a rocket took off from Kazakhstan and transported a global crew of astronauts to the International Space Station, and during the 12-day mission, Malaysia's first astronaut conducted HIV protein experiments.

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a 35-year-old orthopedic surgeon and part-time model, was chosen by Malaysian officials from over 11,000 applicants. Initially some critics panned his participation -- his country's government secured a spot on the mission after spending $1 billion on Russian fighter jets -- but his research was vital. Shukor studied microgravital effects and space radiation on cellular growth, which could lead to an HIV vaccine.

"By putting our man in space we want to raise the bar for Malaysia," says Jamaludin Jarjis, the nation's science minister. "This investment is for Malaysia's future, to create a knowledge-based society."

Shukor's homecoming was heartbreaking -- while he was treated to a hero's welcome, the celebration was dimmed by his having missed the funeral of his brother, who unexpectedly died while he was in space.

It may seem ironic that the crew member tasked with HIV experiments would be Muslim, but that reflects the pandemic's advances in the Islamic world -- where infections are rising in many nations, including Malaysia.

As for gays in Malaysia, their situation also remains precarious. The country prohibits sodomy, which is punishable by whipping as well as up to 20 years in prison. In early November, just two weeks after Shukor returned from space, police raided a gay sex party on Penang Island, arresting 37 men.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories Editors