Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Schools reluctant to join the HIV/AIDS discussion

P.C. Naommy, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An activist said that most schools in Jakarta would not allow their students to join a talkshow about HIV/AIDS and sex education because "they are too young to know and understand those issues".

Baby Jim Aditya, head of Partisan organization that focuses its activities on HIV/AIDS issues, emphasized on Saturday the importance of sex education and information about HIV/AIDS so that teenagers would not get inaccurate or incomplete information.

His statement was supported by Emir Caesario, a student from SMP 11 state junior high school in South Jakarta.

"There should be an event like this, at least once a month. It's really important to learn about sex education and HIV/AIDS in a fun way," he told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a discussion titled: Youths Talk about Sex, Drugs and AIDS at the Bulungan Youth Center in South Jakarta.

The discussion was held by Partisan and the Coca Cola Foundation Indonesia to commemorate World AIDS Day which fell on Dec. 1.

Emir suggested the organizers move the venue to attract more students to come.

"They'd better hold such events from one school to another."

He added that he had read some information on how HIV/AIDS was transferred.

"I knew that it could be transferred through needles and unprotected sex but this discussion provided more detailed information and the way they delivered it helped me to understand better," he said.

Data from the United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA) shows that half the people living with HIV, aged between 15 and 24 years old, spread the virus because of their lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS.

There are around 150,000 cases of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia, with some 80,000 of them infected with HIV in this year alone, according to data from the United Nations. Of the 80,000 cases, 68,000 were infected by sharing needles when injecting drugs.

The data differs with figures released by the Ministry of Health that the total accumulative number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country since 1987 is 3,926.

On the sidelines of the discussion, Deki, who is living with HIV, regretted the discrimination from the public, mostly caused by a lack of knowledge about the issue.

"People must change their mind-set about individuals with HIV/AIDS. We can still do a lot of valuable things," he said.

The 22-year-old activist at the Pelita Plus Foundation said that for three months he had refused to accept the fact that he was infected with HIV after a drug rehabilitation program.

"I was very distressed and refused to talk to others, even to my own family who has always encouraged me to survive," he said.

Deki joined the foundation around three years ago to assist other individuals with HIV/AIDS.