Indonesia on Verge of AIDS Epidemic, Piot Says
Indonesia is facing a major HIV/AIDS epidemic and needs to take action quickly to curb the spread of the virus, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said Monday at the start of a four-day visit to the country, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The Indonesian government estimates that between 90,000 and 130,000 HIV-positive people live in the country. However, other statistics indicate that at least 600,000 injection drug users live in Indonesia and about half of them are believed to be HIV-positive, according to Alwi Shihab, coordinating minister for social welfare. In addition, "alarmingly high and increasing" numbers of cases are being detected among commercial sex workers and their clients, and in the eastern province of Papua, HIV is being spread through heterosexual sex, Piot said. "We have these three different epidemics going on, and we know from experience that once it starts like that it's only a matter of time before HIV spreads outside these fairly defined populations," Piot said. He added that although President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made a commitment to fight the disease, "we need that same level of commitment from all levels of society." Piot said he has chosen to spend World AIDS Day, on Dec. 1, in Asia because he wants to put a spotlight on the epidemic in the region. He said he selected Indonesia because the country "is the new frontline of the AIDS epidemic," but he added, "The opportunities are enormous to really stop the epidemic, to nip it in the bud" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/28).
Number of TB/HIV Co-Infection Cases Rising in Indonesia
The number of people co-infected with HIV and tuberculosis is rising in Indonesia, and some advocates and health experts say that a lack of knowledge is contributing to the increasing number of deaths associated with the diseases, the Jakarta Post reports. Tom Malik, executive director of the Coalition for a Healthy Indonesia (KUIS), said the mortality rate for HIV/TB co-infection should be under control because the government provides treatment at no cost for both diseases. However, according to a 2003 study by the Ministry of Health in four provinces -- Jakarta, West Java, East Java and Bali -- many patients living with both diseases receive inadequate treatment. Malik urged regional governments to allocate funds to ensure that co-infected people receive adequate care. Indonesian health expert Kartono Mohamad said regional administrations should focus more attention on the issue and establish regulations to help co-infected people. According to KUIS data, about 250,000 new TB cases are recorded in Indonesia annually, and the country has the third largest TB burden after India and China. The disease kills nearly 400 people in Indonesia daily, or 140,000 people annually. In addition, between 90,000 and 130,000 people in Indonesia are living with HIV/AIDS, according to KUIS. About 14 million people are co-infected with HIV and TB in Southeast Asia, but regional administrators have lagged on action to treat patients, according to Malik (Rukmantara, Jakarta Post, 11/28).