Thu, 02 Oct 2003

Bogor a new hot spot for spreas of HIV/AIDS

Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post, Bogor

As a melting pot of migrant workers, Bogor is one of many areas in the country that are vulnerable to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Bambang Irianto, a volunteer at the Indonesian Committee for Humanity (KKI), said on Wednesday that 500 people in Bogor alone were infected by the as yet incurable virus.

Referring to a survey by the International Labor Organization (ILO), he told a seminar on HIV/AIDS prevention that the infected residents came from various walks of life.

"Some of them are sex workers, transvestites, prisoners and even housewives. Most are migrants who live far from their families. The ready availability of nightspots and prostitution and money in their pockets have contributed to the spread of the virus," he said.

The seminar, which was organized by the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) and KKI, was aimed at preventing further spread of the virus at workplaces that usually attract young people, and eliminating discriminatory policies toward infected people.

The seminar was opened by KKI chairman Mar'ie Muhammad, who is also chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI).

KKI executive director Abdul Aziz revealed that 65 percent of Indonesians infected by the virus are at a productive age of 18 to 25. Ministry of Health data states that 2,077 of 4,143 HIV/AIDS cases reported as of June 2003 were people of a productive age.

The chairman of the Bogor chapter of Apindo, Antoni Halim, said that employers were being encouraged to distribute information to their workers, "in the hope that we can minimize the risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS, while anybody who has already been infected won't suffer from discrimination."

A recent survey carried out by the ministry and non- governmental organization Stop Aids Action/Family Health International (ASA/FHI) said that some provinces had already identified areas where the number of people living with HIV or AIDS was up by 15 percent annually.

The provinces are Riau, including Batam island, Jakarta, West Java, Papua and Bali.