Indonesia Faces Prospect Of Explosion In Sexually-Transmitted HIV Cases

30 Nov

JAKARTA: Indonesia faces the prospect of an explosion in HIV infections transmitted through sex.

And, the social and economic costs of AIDS are expected to increase rapidly.

To prevent a possible HIV epidemic, Jakarta will for the first time launch a controversial campaign to promote condom use even between husband and wife.

Nancy Fee, Indonesia’s country coordinator for UNAIDS, said: “Indonesia has such a large population, the population is very mobile, the population is young, and all those are elements that give concern. And we’re still on the upward curve of the epidemic. We aren’t seeing figures levelling off at all.”

At last count, more than 200,000 Indonesians are infected with HIV.

Almost half of these are intravenous drug users.

But experience in other Asian countries shows that this pattern of infection will soon change.

More infections will be via sexual transmission and this will make the general population more vulnerable to the disease.

Nancy Fee said: “We are actually in the process of transition. Over the coming few years, the majority of new infections will come through sexual transmission. This is actually quite a dangerous time for an epidemic in Asia, and follows a general pattern in Asia where injecting drug use is like the engine of the train which starts the epidemic off.”

To put the brakes on the spread of the virus, Jakarta health authorities will actively encourage the use of condoms, starting with a week-long campaign.

This initiative is controversial and is expected to spark protests from conservative Muslim groups in the country.

They are likely to oppose any contraceptive measures on religious grounds and say the campaign to encourage the use of condoms will encourage promiscuity.

The condom campaign is not just targeted at those who buy sex or homosexual men.

Married couples have also been included as trends show that more husbands and wives are infecting each other.

Nafsiah Mboi, Indonesia’s National AIDS Commission secretary, said: “That is why we have decided to promote condom use in the family, even though there’s still a lot of controversy. But our condom promotion does not stand alone. We still say most Indonesians benefit from religious education, from what we called ketahanan keluarga – family resilience – those are two most important things.”

Meanwhile, international organisations are urging the Indonesian government to allocate more funds to fight the disease.

Currently, international donors provide 70% of US$66 million needed to prevent an AIDS epidemic in Indonesia. – CNA/ir

Channel News Asia

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