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Religions hindering AIDS fight: minister

Infections will increase if attitudes to condom use do not change

Religions hindering AIDS fight: minister
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi visits a patient in hospital in Jakarta
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

December 3, 2012

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Indonesia will experience a sharp rise in the number of HIV/AIDS cases if attitudes towards condom use by men and religious leaders don’t change soon, the health minister has said.

Warnings by the UN that the country would see 76,000 new HIV cases annually if preventive efforts are not taken seriously were likely to become true, Nafsiah Mboi said.

More than 81 percent of HIV/AIDS cases were caused by unsafe sex, according to Mboi, citing government data.

She added that more than six million men regularly went to commercial sex workers. However, only three percent of them claimed they used condoms.

“If all the men that go to commercial sex workers don’t want to use condoms, there will be many cases of infections per year,” she said.

Many of these men are married and their high risk behavior is behind a growing number of wives becoming infected by their husbands.

Other countries such as Thailand have curbed infection rates through successful condom use campaigns among high risk groups, Mboi said.

Indonesia has failed so far because attempts to launch similar campaigns have been frowned upon by religious leaders, she added.

She accused religions of concentrating more on forbidding the use of condoms than encouraging people to strengthen their faith.  

While she admits that fidelity and adhering to religious principles, which is espoused by the Catholic Church will help prevent infections, the government still needs to be able protect those who fall through the net.

“If those people don’t obey their religion, it’s our job to prevent them from getting diseases,”  Mboi said.     

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