Sat, 02 Dec 2000

Men, please take care of your reproductive health: Khofifah

JAKARTA (JP): Chairperson of the National Family Planning Board Khofifah Indar Parawansa called on Friday for all Indonesian men to improve their awareness of the health of their reproductive system.

"A survey shows that men are a little unaware of health care and are more reluctant to get medical treatment than women," she said during a ceremony marking this year's World AIDS Day, which bore the theme "Men Make A Difference".

According to Khofifah, who is also State Minister for Women Empowerment, the lack of attention of Indonesian males to seriously take care of their reproductive health has made them prone to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) infection.

"Based on the fact that men have more sex partners than women, the disease is likely to infect more males than females (in this country). Men are more likely to force themselves upon women and women often have limited capacity to determine when, where and whether sex takes place," the official said.

Therefore, the decision to name men as the focus of this year's AIDS awareness campaign has been very appropriate and significant, she told the crowd attending the ceremony at the Nusantara Industrial Zone, in North Jakarta.

Also attending the ceremony, which is home to thousands of factory workers, were, among others, Minister of Health and Social Welfare Achmad Sujudi and Deputy Jakarta Governor on People's Welfare Affairs Djaelani.

Official data disclosed that the number of those infected with HIV and AIDS in this country has risen to an alarming level in the past few years.

In the first 10 months alone, the number of new AIDS/HIV infected people have more than doubled compared to the 225 cases in all of last year.

Between January and October this year, the country recorded 478 new cases -- 314 HIV cases and 164 AIDS cases.

This brings the total number of HIV and AIDS carriers in Indonesia to 1,521 people, with about 64 percent of them men.

But observers have suggested that the figure is just the tip of an iceberg. The United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has said the number may already have reached some 52,000 people.

Minister Sujudi admitted that the data issued by his office might bear weaknesses because it was compiled simply by taking samples.

"We can't test each and every person. We only examined people with high risks, such as prostitutes and blood donors," he said during the ceremony.

As for the significant rise this year, several surveys conducted by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and hospitals show that the significant rise is due to an increase in the number of drug users and the sharing of needles by intravenous drug users (IDUs).

"Therefore, campaigns against HIV and AIDS should be integrated as there is significant correlation between HIV/AIDS and drug addicts," Khofifah said.

NGOs focusing on drug abuse or HIV/AIDS that are currently conducting their campaigns independently should be integrated, she added.

"Similar efforts should also be made at the National AIDS Committee (KPA) and National Drugs Coordination Board (BKNN)," the minister explained.

According to data from the ministry of health, Jakarta -- with 538 cases -- tops the list of cities with the biggest number of HIV/AIDS-infected victims.

Out of 46 HIV cases recorded in Indonesia in October, for example, 40 of them are found in Jakarta, and 22 of the 27 AIDS cases were in the capital.

"Mostly IDUs," city official Djaelani said. (hdn)