Indonesian Government Should Take Action To Reduce Spread of HIV Among Homeless Children, Advocates Say
The Indonesian government should take action to reduce the spread of HIV among homeless children in the country, Ariest Merdeka Sirait, secretary-general of the National Commission for the Protection of Children, said Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reports. Sirait said homeless children are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because many are involved in injection drug use and "lack knowledge about reproductive health and about how to protect themselves from" HIV. He also said homeless children have been excluded from government-sponsored programs aimed at reducing the spread of HIV among high-risk groups, such as commercial sex workers and IDUs. "The spread of HIV/AIDS among street children should be tackled immediately, otherwise it will lead to a worse situation," Sirait said.
According to a 2006 study -- conducted in several urban areas across the country by the Indonesian Save the Children Foundation -- homeless children are at an increased risk of contracting HIV. The report found that most of the at-risk children were involved in drug use and sex work but were unaware of the dangers associated with such activities.
Husein Habsyi, -- vice chair of the Pelita Ilmu Foundation, a nongovernmental organization focused on HIV/AIDS-related issues -- said that more than 90% of homeless children in Jakarta, Indonesia, who use drugs also are found to be HIV-positive through foundation testing efforts. "Of the 1,000 children, 200 of them have undergone laboratory tests, and 193 of them are positive," he said, adding that the ratio has remained constant over several years. Habsyi called on the government to scale up its efforts to address the issue. "More must be done, not only preventive measures, but also curative," he said, adding, "Those already infected should also be referred to health centers to get proper treatment." Habsyi suggested that HIV prevention programs be conducted in the form of "youth-friendly counseling through youth centers, where they can have fun and learn how to protect themselves from infection." He also recommended that a training program for health officials be implemented so they would be better equipped to deal with homeless children.
Susanti Herlambang, director of services and social rehabilitation at the Social Services Ministry, said her office is working with UNICEF and other NGOs on a project to support children living with HIV/AIDS, particularly those from low-income families. "We also give working skills for their families and knowledge about how to treat their children," she said (Nurhayati, Jakarta Post, 8/10).