Sat, 06 Dec 2003

'Govt action crucial in curbing HIV/AIDS'

Many people are not aware of what HIV/AIDS is all about, treating it as a personal problem. This lack of awareness causes the stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS. Experts and activists blame the government for not seriously dealing with the increasing threat. The Jakarta Post talked to several people about the issue.

Jukimin, 42, formerly a becak (pedicab) driver, is now a community organizer for a number of slums in his neighborhood, Kemayoran, Central Jakarta:

I know enough about HIV/AIDS from TV. Even my 8-year-old son knows about it from TV.

But I don't think information is enough to curb the spread of the virus. What's more important is action, particularly from the government.

I live near a red-light area. During my four years here, not once did I see government officials, say from the health agency, visit the place, distribute information or examine the health of sex workers.

I once advised the owner of a cafe here to send the waitresses to hospital for HIV tests, as they moonlight as prostitutes, but the guy was mad at me instead, and still is.

Anti, 25, is a graphic designer for a shoe company in Tangerang and lives in a boarding house in Cipete. She works during the day and is studying for her masters degree in the evening:

I know some things, but not that much. I know the basics, that the cause of AIDS is HIV, and that it is transmitted sexually or through blood. Also, there is as yet no cure for AIDS.

I'll treat people with HIV/AIDS just like everybody else: I'll be at ease with them. I know how HIV is transmitted so I won't do anything that would put me in danger.

Well, I don't care about HIV/AIDS but I'm not ignorant either. I'll take care that I and my loved ones won't doing anything that will expose them to the virus.

But I'm not up for the serious stuff. I'll buy a red ribbon or attend a concert for AIDS, but won't join a rally or be a volunteer for HIV/AIDS campaigns.

The Jakarta Post