Fri, 26 Aug 1994

AIDS campaign should be `tailor made', expert says

JAKARTA (JP): All efforts in the campaign against AIDS in Indonesia should be tailored to the specific needs of individual provinces in order to be effective, an expert says.

Meiwita B. Iskandar, M.D., Ph.D., from the Health Research Center at the University of Indonesia, said yesterday that the plan of action against the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, currently being drafted, will stress prevention and treatment, as well as monitoring and research.

However, it is imperative that the authorities pay similar attention toward the management of campaign programs at various levels, she told The Jakarta Post. "For instance, differing needs for the anti-AIDS campaign among provinces should be handled accordingly."

Dr. Meiwita is among three experts chosen by the Ministry of Health, and later approved by Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Azwar Anas, to draw up the plan of action for an anti- AIDS campaign. She was attending the first national workshop on AIDS which concluded yesterday.

During the discussion yesterday, at least three provinces (Bali, Irian Jaya and East Java) called for an anti-AIDS campaign which addresses problems specific to their regions.

Bali, whose thriving tourism industry is often associated with rampant drugs and sex industry, for instance, needs special programs of information dissemination for its tourism workers.

The province now has 33 confirmed HIV cases and ranks third after Jakarta and Irian Jaya in the number of AIDS patients and people infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which leads to AIDS.

According to a July report, Jakarta has 74 cases of HIV infections. Irian Jaya has 58 cases, but only eight of them were natives. The other 50 were fishermen from Thailand working for a fishery in Merauke city.

Citing how tourism industry in Bali attracts many people, from food vendors to drugs dealers and sex workers, the Bali representatives said in their report that they would use the tourism workers as starting points for their campaign. "The thousands of hotel employees, waiters, guides ...these people are a good place to start the education on AIDS."


The report also describes the difficulty Bali encounters in controlling the sex industry. "As for sex workers, in spite of the provincial administration's continuous effort, we just can't get rid of them completely," the report said.

At least two non-governmental organizations in Bali, namely Yayasan Citra Usadha and Yayasan Kerti Praja, are actively involved in the campaign against AIDS.

They provide information and counseling for male and female prostitutes, as well as others in high-risk groups, such as massage parlor hostesses and inter-city bus drivers who risk exposure to infection through encounters with prostitutes.

A report by representatives from Irian Jaya identified the regencies of Sorong, Kaimana, Timika and Fak-fak as the "most vulnerable" spots due to intensive contact with foreign workers.

"More and more foreigners are coming to Sorong," the report said. "In fact, there is a motel there which has become the place for workers from Thailand to hang out."

Experts agree that a good starting point for handling AIDS lays with the treatment of other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as syphilis because of the types of life-styles that expose people to both diseases.

Meiwita, along with her colleague Dr. Suprijanto Rijadi and Dr. Kartomo Wirosuhardjo, said in the draft plan of action that surveys, conducted consecutively in 1992, 1993 and 1994, found an increasing number of STD cases among male prostitutes, workers of bars, nightclubs and discotheques, and massage parlor hostesses.

The rates of infections among male prostitutes were 38.9 percent, 41.2 percent and 43.9 percent in the three years of surveys. The rates of infections among workers of bars, nightclubs and massage parlors, respectively, were 5 percent, 2.7 percent and 7.2 percent.

The 1992 survey involved 18,194 people from 14 provinces; 18,615 people from 26 provinces in 1993; and 15,998 people from 16 provinces this year. (swe)