No HIV test, no marriage license, Jakarta tells couples

New rule in Indonesian capital part of efforts to curb rising number of HIV cases
No HIV test, no marriage license, Jakarta tells couples

An Indonesian couple prays during a Muslim wedding ceremony at a mosque in Jakarta in this file photo. Couples looking to get married in the Indonesian capital must be tested for HIV first, under a new bylaw that became effective at the start of the year. (Photo by Adek Berry/AFP)

Authorities in the Indonesian capital Jakarta have introduced a regulation requiring couples to take an HIV test in order to obtain a marriage license.

The regulation was drawn up in 2017 by Jakarta Governor Anies Rasyd Baswedan as part of efforts to curb a rising number of HIV cases and became mandatory at the start of this year.

It follows a similar rule introduced in 2016 by local authorities in Bogor, a city bout 55 kilometers south of Jakarta.

The test is free of charge and should take place about a month before the wedding, according to Khafifah Any, head of the Jakarta administration's health department.

The hospital will issue a certificate to couples to give officials at the Ministry of Religious Affairs in order to obtain their marriage license.

A marriage license will not be issued without that all important certificate, according to the new rules.

"This is important to reduce the risk of transmission not only to their spouse, but also to their children," Any said.

"If either the prospective bride or groom are found to be infected, they will be given antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and put on a prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission program," she said.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were about 630,000 people living with HIV/Aids in Indonesia in 2018, with 55,000 cases in Jakarta. Meanwhile, more than 8,500 babies are born with HIV every year in Indonesia.

Doctor Teguh Sasongko, head of Jakarta Archdiocese's Health Commission, welcomed the regulation, saying it is important for couples to know each other well, including their health status before getting married.

Anwar Abbas, general secretary of Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) said the policy will help foster healthy families.

"It is very good because its goal is to develop a healthy family. A happy life begins with a healthy family," he told ucanews.com.

Fitri Rahayu, 24, from East Jakarta, said she and her partner took the test two weeks ago and received a certificate from a nearby hospital.

"We had our blood checked. We also fill out a questionnaire on marriage. After that, we received the certificate," she said.

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