Inadequate measures allowing HIV/AIDS to worsen

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aidsThe World Health Organization warned Tuesday that HIV/AIDS was on the rise in Indonesia because of a lack of firm action on the part of the government.

WHO HIV consultant for Drug Injecting Users David Jakka said the government should prioritize treatment for injecting drug users, who comprise more than half of those infected with HIV.

"The government's action, despite its cautiousness, is still ineffective and imprecise," said Jakka, who attended a workshop at the Health Ministry commemorating World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

Creating access and distributing preventive tools, such as condoms and clean syringes, were yet to be openly discussed with the community, he said.

"The government might still be afraid of the community backlash because this still considered by many to be a taboo subject," Jakka said.

Muslim leaders have strongly opposed a government scheme to distribute free condoms in places like red-light districts on the grounds that it would constitute condoning adultery.

Jakka said that even though it was undesirable from a cultural perspective, it was still necessary to implement programs to prevent further HIV transmission among high-risk people such as drug users and commercial sex workers.

In other Asian countries, such as Thailand, China and India, the epidemics are decreasing because their governments have taken active preventive measures and focused on each country's high risk areas, he added.

The Health Ministry says that in Indonesia, where HIV has spread to 32 of the 33 provinces, there were 6,987 reported cases of AIDS in which 1,651 people had died by September 2006. West Sulawesi is the only province which has not reported any HIV/AIDS cases. But the Health Ministry estimates that the actual number of cases nationally is anywhere between 169,000 and 216,000.

Injecting drug users, who often share syringes, account for 52.6 percent of the country's HIV/AIDS cases, while 37.2 percent are heterosexual sex-related and 4.5 percent homosexual sex-related.

Most of the infected people are male, according to official statistics.

"Access to clean syringes for infected drug users is low. The Indonesian police don't protect the users, who face jail terms if they are caught carrying needles," Jakka said.

"Only less than 10 percent of drug users in Indonesia have access to clean syringes. In Bali, there are only two NGOs who distribute clean needles to infected people," he said.

"Moreover, the doctors and medical teams in the country still have limited knowledge of the disease. The health personnel here always look busy with other things," he said.

The ministry predicts that there will be around 500,000 people in Indonesia infected by HIV by 2010. The figure could rise to 1 million people if no effective prevention measures are implemented, the ministry warns.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said that in Indonesia social and cultural local behaviors such as sharing syringes and not using condoms were hard to change.

She added that people infected with HIV should seek treatment as early as possible.

"We will improve access to medical treatment and its quality around Indonesia. By 2009, every regency in the country should have its own medical facility that can receive HIV and AIDS patients," Siti said.

source - The Jakarta Post 

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on November 29, 2006 10:25 PM.

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