Two HIV-Positive Couples Forced To Leave Village
Penajam Paser Utara. Two married couples have been forced from their village in East Kalimantan after information circulated that they had been infected with HIV.
HIV/AIDS activists said the incident highlighted the lack of awareness about the disease — which has caused discrimination and even violence in many places across the country — especially among those people living in rural areas.
Jodi, head of the HIV/AIDS community at Penajam Paser Utara, said on Sunday that the two families had left their village in the Babulu subdistrict last week, after a group of villagers visited their homes and asked them to leave.
“They are two husband-and-wife couples who have tested positive by the local health office with the HIV virus. The local residents, who couldn’t accept their condition, told them to move to villages that could accept them,” Jodi said, adding that he currently had no indication of the two families’ whereabouts.
Jodi said the information about the couples’ condition spread through the village after a health official leaked it to his friend.
“Based on the law, such information was supposed to be kept a secret,” he said.
“We regret that it was made available to the public.”
Adi Supriadi, the HIV/AIDS program head at the East Kalimantan-based Laras Foundation, said the lack of awareness on the transmission of the virus was behind the villagers’ actions to force the two couples out of their village.
Adi said it was time for the government to boost its efforts to better educate the public about HIV/AIDS.
“We are concerned that more discrimination about the syndrome is still taking place,” Adi said.
Jurnanto, secretary of East Kalimantan’s Aids Commission, said his office would meet with the local authorities to prevent any similar incidents taking place in the future.
People living with HIV/AIDS or with HIV-positive parents still face rejection and discrimination in their neighborhoods, schools and offices, activists have said.
On World AIDS Day in 2011, the country was rattled by an incident where the Don Bosco elementary school in North Jakarta rejected a child because her father, Fajar Jasmin, was HIV-positive.
The school argued that it was the other parents who rejected the child, and they demanded that the parents submit a letter certifying that the child was not infected with HIV.
Iswandi Mourbas, a commissioner of the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection (KPAI), said the country’s laws guaranteed the right of every child to have education and health services that were free from discrimination.
The commissioner added that KPAI had already recorded several school rejections of HIV-positive children, as well as those with infected parents.
She said many parents often could not tolerate the discrimination against their children and instead opted to take the child out of school.
KPAI chairwoman Maria Ulfa Ansor said the minister of education and culture should issue a policy that could be used as an instrument for the commission to monitor discrimination against children.
Indonesia has one of the fastest-growing HIV transmission rates in Asia, and in most instances the actual number of people living with HIV is believed to be far higher than the official data shows. The World Health Organization estimates there are 300,000 people in Indonesia living with HIV/AIDS, with the worst-affected places being Jakarta and the province of Papua, where 2.3 percent of the population is infected.