South China Morning Post Examines Efforts To Raise Awareness About HIV/AIDS Among Sex Workers in Bali, Indonesia
The South China Morning Post on Tuesday examined efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among commercial sex workers in Bali, Indonesia. Official figures show that about 4,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Bali as of August 2007 and that at least 1,000 more will contract the virus this year. In addition, more than half of the new cases will be transmitted through sexual contact, according to the Kerti Praja Foundation, which is Bali's chapter of the National AIDS Commission.
According to the Morning Post, commercial sex work is fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS in Bali, yet most local officials refuse to acknowledge such businesses exist. Although sex work is illegal, establishments operate openly in the community or in nightclubs and are patronized by locals and tourists. Deputy Gov. Alit Kesuma Kelakan was ostracized by other officials after proposing to legalize commercial sex, the Morning Post reports. Kelakan said he made his proposal in order to "take a humanitarian perspective on this problem," adding, "What I'm doing is to implement stricter monitoring of the areas already known for such activities, in order to limit" the spread of HIV.
KPAD Bali Founder and Director Dewa Nyoman Wirawan said a foundation survey last year estimated that at least 8,800 sex workers operated in Bali and that up to 14% of them had contracted HIV. He said that sex workers in Bali have a customer base of about 85,000 people and that most customers refuse to wear condoms. The research also showed that 8% of sex workers know about the importance of using a condom, Wirawan said.
KPAD Bali and Kelakan are working together on a program that provides education, prevention measures, medical attention and other support to sex workers. Kelakan said the program provides HIV/AIDS education, condoms and no-cost health checkups to sex workers. "We cannot wait for people to die first, and then set up a prevention program," Wirawan said (Scarpello, South China Morning Post, 3/11).