Indonesia’s Health Minister Denies Free Condom Distribution to Teens
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Indonesia’s Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi reiterated on Monday that she was not going to distribute free condoms to teenagers in a move to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, as lawmakers summoned her to explain and clarify earlier statements.
“We will only distribute [condoms] in certain places, such as places of prostitution, massage parlors, tourism spots and other places that pose a high risk of sexual activities,” Nafsiah said before a meeting with members of the House of Representatives’ Commission IX, which oversees health and population.
“There is no distribution of condoms to teenagers,” she added.
Nafsiah further explained that free condoms would only be distributed among the “high-risk” poor, saying the government would not let them contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, just because they could not afford condoms.
As for schools, she said, it was more important to educate students on religious teachings and morals, as well as reproductive health and the danger of narcotic and stimulant use.
Nafsiah was the secretary of the AIDS Prevention Commission (KPA), which campaigned for the use of condoms to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia, among other things, before she was appointed as the new health minister earlier this month, replacing former health minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, who died of cancer on May 2.
Upon her appointment, the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) was quick to accuse her of being an “obscene, liberal” minister.
Nafsiah responded to the criticism via a YouTube video posted online on June 19, explaining that the Health Ministry would not distribute free condoms to teenagers; the campaign would only urge them to use condoms if they were going to have sex.
“We know that some groups engage in risky sexual relations,” Nafsiah said in the video. “They should be counseled to change their lifestyle, but if they continue to do it, we can only advise them to use condoms. Ignorance of this will lead to unwanted pregnancies and [the spread of] HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
House of Representatives deputy speaker Pramono Anung reminded Nafsiah on Monday that promoting condom use among teenagers would only encourage them to engage in free sex.
“That is yet to mention the fact that there are more urgent things to do, such as improving services of hospitals and Jamkesmas [the health insurance scheme for the poor], and many others,” Pramono said.