A Malaysian official urged women in the country to carry condoms to protect themselves from contracting HIV—on the same day that the nation commemorated International AIDS Memorial Day for the first time, the Associated Press (AP) reports (ap.google.com, 6/1).

Deputy Health Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad publicly made the suggestion on May 31 in order to reduce stigma for people living with the virus in the Muslim-majority nation, according to the Associated Press. International AIDS Memorial Day had previously been held behind closed doors, the AP reports.

“This is not to debase them but to protect them,” Ahmad said. “Women are the first ones to get exploited by their [HIV-positive] partners, but this is just a suggestion, it’s up to them.”

Government officials said nearly 81,000 Malaysians are infected with HIV. Less than 10 percent are women, but the number is rising, according to the AP.