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HIV Spreading at Rapid Rate in Indonesia's Papua Province


New figures show HIV in Indonesia's remote Papua province is spreading at a rate of 15 times that of the national average and is now in the general population, not just in high risk groups. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more on a new report by Indonesia's National Aids Commission.

The Indonesian minister of welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, says the new report shows the incidence of HIV and AIDS is increasing sharply in Papua, one of Indonesia's poorest provinces.

He says the report should be taken as a big warning to the government, which needs to make a cohesive effort to handle the spread of the disease.

The report, which was funded by the World Bank, the U.S. government, and U.S. nonprofit Family Health International, found nearly half of the residents of Papua had never heard of HIV/AIDS.

This is not surprising as Papua province lies on a remote, mountainous island with little infrastructure and few schools and hospitals. Many people do not have access to television or radio, which makes it hard to obtain health care information.

The report recommended that more money be spent on education programs and on making condoms readily available to help stop the spread of the disease.

The report said the very low level of condom use in Papua was linked to availability. Only about 17 percent of the people in Papua say it is easy to get condoms, which can help protect people from sexually transmitted diseases.

Nafsiah Mboi, the chairwoman of Papua Task Force on the National AIDS Commission, says AIDS education programs must be taken to remote communities.

She says efforts must be made to educate people on risky behavior along with community-based health awareness programs.

The government estimates nearly 200,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Indonesia, which has a population of around 225 million. According to the latest AIDS report, about 40,000 of those with HIV are in Papua, which has a population of just over two million.