HIV/AIDS cases in Bali are spiraling upward with 100 new cases found every month across the island since early 2013, compared to only 50 additional cases every month in 2012, an official confirmed.
Ketut Suarjaya, head of Bali Health Agency, stated that up to April 2013, the number of people with HIV/AIDS had already reached 7,400. In late December, the number of people with HIV/AIDS stood at 7,100.
Suarjaya, a medical doctor, acknowledged that limited knowledge and understanding of the disease was part of the cause for the increase in cases. Many people in risk groups frequently ignore the need to use condoms to prevent their own infection, as well as that of their partners, during sexual intercourse.
“A large number of people with HIV/AIDS are heterosexual. Around 70 percent of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, are spread by heterosexuals,” the doctor said.
What bothered him particularly was the rocketing number of poor, rural housewives, especially pregnant women, who are being infected with HIV/AIDS.
“The health office has been paying extra attention to this situation. The transmission of HIV/AIDS to housewives and pregnant women has opened new doors to the increasing number of infected babies,” said Suarjaya.
Ketut Sukananta, chairman of the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (PKBI), admitted that HIV/AIDS was increasingly affecting women in the last three years.
“The number of women infected with HIV/AIDS this year is around 50 percent of new cases,” Sukananta said.
The disturbing facts revealed that the new cases mostly affected women in remote rural areas where access to healthcare services was very rare.
“Those unfortunate women have almost no understanding or information about HIV/AIDS. Let alone how to prevent it,” Sukananta noted.
It was assumed that these women had been infected by unfaithful husbands with unhealthy sexual behavior, he added.
Dewa Nyoman Wirawan, a medical professor at Udayana University and chairman of Kerti Praja Foundation, lamented that commercial sex workers were also vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and transmitted it to their clients.
The foundation’s rough data estimates that there are 3,000 commercial sex workers in Bali, 20 percent of whom are HIV positive. Meanwhile, the number of people who use their services is estimated to reach around 80,000.
“There is high demand and supply in this industry, making it difficult to eliminate this business,” the professor said.
Previously, the Bali HIV/AIDS Mitigation Commission (KPAD) launched a five-year triple-zero program to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The program set an ambitious target of stopping new cases of HIV/AIDS in Bali, achieving zero infections. It also aimed to eliminate any form of discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS and hoped no more people would die of the disease.
The program has already started in Badung and Denpasar, which have the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases in Bali.
Designers against AIDS will launch the website www.baliagainstaids.org later this month, with the hope that the mentality of Balinese youth will change, so that they won't endanger their own and their partner(s) health anymore due to a lack of correct information, unlike their parents. Information is one of the Universal Human Rights and if it depends on us, we'll make damn sure that Bali's youth will get it!
Photo: with thanks to the Bali Spirit Festival