Thu, 25 Aug 1994

Government drafting plan of action for AIDS

JAKARTA (JP): Some 380 high-ranking officials, policy-makers and activists of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attended the first national workshop on AIDS, demonstrating the government's seriousness in combating the deadly disease.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Azwar Anas opened the two-day workshop yesterday by promising that the government will soon establish a uniform, concerted plan against the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome.

"This meeting will produce a concrete, applicable five-year plan of action for all related institutions," Azwar said. "We are seeking ways to strengthen our commitment to fight the disease, increase awareness about its dangers, solidify policies and communicate these programs to the general public."

Among the participants are several ministers, governors from all 27 provinces, health and demographic experts, and representatives of donor agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

In an effort to wage a unified fight against the spread of the deadly disease, President Soeharto recently set up an inter- ministerial commission to coordinate the campaigns.

Involving at least nine ministers, the commission's main task is to stress prevention as well as the dissemination of information, particularly at the local level. The Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare chairs the commission which reports directly to the President.


From yesterday's discussion, however, it is apparent that the government is trying to jump-start the drive by establishing a team of consultants to prepare a draft five-year plan for the national campaign against AIDS.

Dr. Supriyanto Rijadi, Dr. Meiwita B. Iskandar and Dr. Kartomo Wirosuhardjo have recently completed the draft, which delineates in detail the basic principles and procedures Indonesia will use to combat the epidemic.

The Ministry of Health has also prepared a number of training manuals for the handling of AIDS patients and distributed them to doctors, paramedics, counselors and surveillance workers.

According to Azwar, up to last month, 175 Indonesians had tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which leads to AIDS, while 60 others have full-blown AIDS. Azwar, however, acknowledged the figure could be 200 times higher.

Officials and experts have predicted that by 1995, some 500,000 people may be infected by the disease which is spread through sexual contact, the use of needles or through contaminated blood transfusions.

Quoting the United Nations Development Plan's report, Azwar said that by the year 2000 Indonesia will have to spend some US$ 81 million in medical costs for a projected 5,000 AIDS patients.

Each AIDS patient will require an estimated US$1,490 for medical costs annually, and 10 times that figure for other health facilities. Indonesia's current per capita income is US$685.

The health ministry has allocated some Rp 5 billion for its anti-AIDS campaign this year. During the last five years, WHO has extended some $3 million to help Indonesia with its campaign.

Accompanying Azwar in meeting the press yesterday were Minister of Health Sujudi, Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Taher, Minister of Social Services Inten Soeweno and Minister of Population Haryono Suyono.

Tarmizi said his office is responsible for setting up a mechanism for information dissemination by religious leaders. Officials at Islamic marriage registration offices, for example, will be obligated to provide people who want to get married with information about the disease.

Sujudi said the Ministry of Health will step up its programs for surveillance, research and management of AIDS.

Almost four million people worldwide are believed to have AIDS, compared to 2.5 million in July 1993, incorporating an eight-fold increase in Asia from some 30,000 to 250,000.

The latest report by the WHO's Global Program on the disease estimated that by the end of the decade 10 million people in Asia alone will be infected with HIV. (swe)

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