The proliferation of HIV/AIDS in West Java has left more housewives prone to the deadly disease than commercial sex workers.
“The spread of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia is the fastest in Asia, and West Java has the fourth highest [rate] in Indonesia,” said Panca Widi, secretary I of the West Java AIDS Prevention Commission (KPA) on Monday.
Data gathered in the January-September period by the West Java Health Agency showed 7,308 new HIV cases and 319 new AIDS cases in West Java.
The data also revealed a shift in the groups being infected, with 747 housewives infected with HIV over the past two years compared to only 464 cases reported from commercial sex workers in the same period.
“Many housewives learned that they were infected only when their babies were sick and were declared HIV positive. The housewives were shocked because that would mean they were also HIV positive. It turned out that they were infected by their husbands,” said Panca.
Panca added that men who regularly bought sex didn’t understand the social stigmas, unlike the commercial sex workers.
In West Java, unprotected sex was most conducive to the spread of HIV, with a contribution rate of 63 percent, while sharing needles for intravenous drug use only contributed to 16 percent of the spread of HIV.
The cumulative amount of HIV/AIDS cases in West Java since 1989 has reached 14,596, the fourth highest in the country after Jakarta, East Java and Papua.
Cianjur district head Tjetjep Muchtar Soleh said that several wives of Cianjur officials were found to have been infected with HIV/AIDS.
“Many officials’ wives have been infected with HIV. This means that some officials like to [hire prostitutes],” said Tjetjep during a seminar on HIV/AIDS and narcotics control in Ciloto, Bogor.
Tjetjep added that it’s public knowledge that many officials and their families liked to use narcotics. He also lamented the high number of residents who regularly visit prostitutes.
His main concerns, he said, is that the spread of HIV has shifted from the conventional high-risk groups to housewives.
“Right now, many innocent housewives are infected with HIV. It’s so sad. They could transmit it to their children,” he said.
Tjetjep said that officially, there were 350 HIV cases recorded at the Cianjur Health Agency.
“But that’s still far from estimates, because many people were reluctant to report their HIV status or are still afraid to take the test. Similar to other places, the HIV epidemic in Cianjur is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Meanwhile, Erniawati Lestari, head of the rehabilitation facility section of the National Narcotics Agency, said that drug addiction should be treated as a disease to help addicts recover.
“Drug addiction should no longer be treated as a mental disorder but as a chronic relapsing disease, just like hypertension and other diseases,” she said.
Erniawati said that drugs change the brain’s chemistry and function and ruins the nervous system. As a chronic disease, the recovery of drug addicts is lengthy and they cannot fully recover, she said.