The Thinker: The State of AIDS
The problem of HIV and AIDS infection in Indonesia remains troubling. The Ministry of Health reported last year that more than 300,000 Indonesians are infected with HIV, a number expected to rise to more than 800,000 by 2014 if preventative measures are not taken. A recent joint UN and National Aids Commission report described the country’s HIV epidemic as among the fastest growing in Asia.
Stemming the rise of HIV/AIDS is one of the 2015 Millenium Development Goals targets that our nation will find hard to achieve.
MDG targets are interrelated, hence stopping the growth of HIV/AIDS cases goes hand-in-hand with tackling poverty, education, gender inequality and environmental issues.
In 2006, a presidential act gave the National AIDS Commission (KPAN) a mandate to bring together ministries and other governmental bodies to conduct joint efforts in eradicating HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, coordination remains weak; of the 21 ministries and bodies that are members of KPAN, only 12 have allocated money for combating HIV/AIDS.
The government’s report for the UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS shows that in 2008 the national budget accounted for some 39 percent of a total budget of Rp 457 billion for AIDS/HIV projects.
The remainder came from foreign sources.
This disparity has triggered speculation that addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS is a priority of foreign donors, not the government.
KPAN members also include civil society organizations representing sex workers, transsexuals, AIDS victims as well as current and former drug users.
These groups are central to preventing the rise in HIV/AIDS cases under KPAN’s National Strategy, hence the 2006 act that mandates joint coordination among the various bodies.
But this begs the question: Is there enough cooperation?
In fact the act has turned out to be little more than words.
This becomes evident when some KPAN members (especially from governmental bodies) resist cooperating with transsexual, gay and sex workers.
Some also criminalize these groups. A Komnas Perempuan report in 2008 showed that among 37 local regulations against prostitution, six label gays and transsexuals as prostitutes.
A 2004 regulation in Palembang says that prostitution includes homosexuality, lesbianism, sodomy, sexual abuse and “other pornographic acts.”
Offenders face a maximum six months in prison and a fine of up to Rp 5 million.
There are similar regulations in Bukittinggi, Medan, Sawahlunto/Sijunjung, West Sumatra, and South Sumatra. KPAN chairman H.R. Agung Laksono said that the body’s national action plan is already comprehensive and in line with the 2010-2014 National Development Plan, but how can this be true when gays and transsexuals are still considered criminals here?
Gays and transsexuals are also losing their rights to hold discussions and form organizations.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association conference in Surabaya and a human rights training for transsexuals in Depok were both forced to cancel earlier this year.
If the government is serious about preventing the increase of HIV/AIDS cases, it must take several steps.
First, enact a special regulation covering the protection of sex workers, transsexuals and gays.
It is not possible to include them in the fight against HIV/AIDS without first recognizing their identity.
Second, repeal regulations that label sex workers, transsexuals and homosexuals as criminals.
These regulations accord local governments the legal leeway to imprison them and deny them access to health services.
These may raise issues on morality, but the right of citizens to good health comes first.
Anyone can be infected by HIV/AIDS.
The Ministry of Health in 2007 reported that about 30 percent of adult males had sex with at least two persons a year.
Some married men had sex outside marriage without using condoms, thus leaving the “good housewife” at risk of contracting HIV.
A 2009 UN AIDS report in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Cambodia and Bangladesh, showed that 43 percent of new HIV infections included women who contracted the disease from their unfaithful husbands.
Without reforms, cases of HIV/AIDS infection might well hit the one million mark in Indonesia by 2015.
If the government is still criminalizing sex workers, transsexuals and homosexuals, the odds are that much greater.
Hartoyo is general secretary of Ourvoice, a Jakarta-based gay rights group and member of a coalition of 41 NGOs advocating for progress on the UN MDGs.