Lack of Awareness Leaves Indonesian Youth At High Risk of Contracting HIV
Nearly 80 percent of Indonesians aged 15 to 24 are at risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, due to lack of knowledge.
“According to our rapid survey in 2011, only 20.6 percent of youths aged 15 to 24 have comprehensive knowledge [about sexually transmitted diseases],” Minister of Health Nafsiah Mboi told a press conference on Wednesday ahead of the annual National Condom Week.
The figure makes reaching this year’s target of 85 percent awareness about sexually transmitted disease among Indonesian youths seem far-fetched. For 2014, the ministry has set a seemingly unattainable goal of 95 percent awareness.
But Nafsiah said her office is not giving up on that dream yet, refusing to settle on a more realistic target highlighting a recent study that found that 42.3 percent of people with HIV/AIDS are between the ages of 20 and 29 while 33.1 percent are between 30 and 39.
“These people were infected years ago, which means that they were still teenagers [when they contracted HIV],” she said of the first age group. “Which is why we target teenagers.”
Nafsiah said that if low HIV/AIDS awareness continued, the rate of high-risk sexual activity would remain high.
“There are a lot of Indonesian youths committing high-risk activities, particularly in having sex. Abortion among youths is also on the rise,” she said.
The National AIDS Commission estimated in 2025 there would be 1.8 million people with HIV/AIDS in Indonesia but added that a proper prevention program would save around 1.1 million lives.
Data gathered in the January to 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.
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 the high number of housewives infected meant that many of their husbands visited prostitutes.
Several groups like the Indonesian Family Planning Association have called for a regulation penalizing those who visit prostitution dens. But the Indonesia AIDS Coalition executive director Aditya Wardhana said the move would be counterproductive.
“Criminalizing [those visiting prostitution dens] will not solve the root cause of the problem … which we all know stems from poverty, human trafficking and low access to education among women,” he said.
“Instead of providing protection, regulations [like this] will make the ‘key population’ more vulnerable to HIV infection. It is wrong for Indonesia to apply policies other countries have proven to be counterproductive in AIDS prevention.”