Wed, 25 Sep 2002

Condom ads halted, anti-AIDS drive goes on

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Some young men were visiting a brothel. Upon seeing a smiling and inviting young female sex worker, one of them says, "Look at her. Isn't she clean and pretty? She must not be infected (with HIV/AIDS)." But another man says, "If you want to be safe, use that," pointing his finger at a stall selling condoms.

This is part of a short scene on the use of condom commercial, whose slogan is, "Use a condom otherwise you'll get infected."

Several TV stations, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations dealing with the HIV/AIDS aired the commercials to encourage people to use condom as a way of preventing the lethal disease.

Unfortunately, the condom ads are no longer aired on TV stations such as TVRI, TPI, Indosiar, Lativi, and Trans TV have stopped advertising due to criticism from a number of Muslim groups who said that the ads would encourage promiscuity.

"Those TV stations have stopped airing the commercials though the contract (with our organization) has not yet expired," Pandu Riono, surveillance consultant with Aksi Stop AIDS (Stop AIDS Movement), which makes the advertisement told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

However, Pandu who also works as a public health lecturer at the University of Indonesia, revealed that his organization would proceed with other ways to campaign the use of condom as part of the HIV/AIDS prevention program.

"We will continue our program, including providing advocacy toward high-risk groups, such as the sex worker and distributing free condoms to them," said Pandu.

Radical Muslim group Indonesia Mujahiddin Council (MMI) are among groups harshly protesting the ads being aired in the public media TV stations, or being published in the print media as they consider the ads are promoting free sex rather than the use of condom in the HIV/AIDS prevention.

"We call upon the TV stations to stop airing the ads," said Fauzan Al Anzani of the MMI.

Earlier last month, MMI had filed a complaint to the police against the broadcasting of the ads, saying that it depicted pornography and encouraged promiscuity.

Fauzan criticized that some scenes in the commercials, which depicted among other things, a situation at a brothel and the body language showing a sexual intercourse, should not be aired at the public sphere like in TV programs.

"How can we explain such things to our children who also watch the ads ?" Fauzan said.

Similar opposition was also launched earlier by the Society Against Pornography (MTP) which urged that these ads be reviewed for the use of condom simply means an indiscriminate campaign that advocates free sex to the public.

Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS activist Baby Jim Aditya blamed the people for having so-called "double standards" in their attitude toward HIV/AIDS infection.

"In one hand, they harshly rebuke the practice of casual sex intercourse, but they are tightlipped to the facts that such practices could easily be found among our society," said Baby.

Baby blasted such hypocritical attitude would only make the core problem of the prevention of the HIV/AIDS infection remain untouched.

She said that unsafe sexual intercourse had contributed significantly to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. The other means of transferring the disease were through sharing syringes, blood transfusions, and breast-feeding.

Baby revealed that around 120,000 people have been infected by the HIV/AIDS throughout the country with a rising trend every year.

"The campaign on the use of condom coupled with proper sex education to children as well as youth, are important ways to prevent the infection from spreading through the practice of unsafe sex," said Baby.