Indonesian province considers electronic tagging of some people with hiv/aids

Indonesian province considers electronic tagging of some people with hiv/aids

Reports are coming in that the Indonesian Province of Papua is considering passing a law that would require some "sexually aggressive" people with HIV/AIDS to have tiny electronic devices implanted under their skin so they can be more easily identified, followed and prosecuted if they deliberately infect others.

While lawmakers are in favour of the bill, health workers and activists are against it, calling it abhorrent and a breach of human rights.

A well known activist in Papua, Tahi Ganyang Butarbutar, told the press that people with AIDS should not be treated like animals and their rights should be respected, said an Associated Press report. Opposers of the bill favour increasing spending on HIV/AIDS education and condom use.

With a population of 235 million, Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world and has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV spread in Asia. Prostitution and drug use are thought to be the main drivers of HIV infection in Indonesia. In Papua, tribal rituals that encourage partner swapping, and lack of education about AIDS and sexually transmitted infection, as well as the lack of condoms are thought to be particular reasons for the high rate of HIV spread.

Papua is Indonesia's poorest province and has a population of around 2 million people. An Indonesian government study released last year estimated that the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Papua is nearly 20 times the national average, reported Reuters.

Lawmakers such as John Manangsang told reporters that implanting a computer chip under the skin of HIV/AIDS patients who were likely to be "sexually aggressive" would help the authorities monitor their whereabouts and make it easier to prove if they deliberately infected others, a crime which carries a sentence of up to 6 months in prison or a hefty fine.

According to the Associated Press, Manangsang said the details still need to be worked out but he fully expected the bill to pass and go into law next month. Other lawmakers agreed, including Weynand Watari who said extraordinary action was needed to address an extraordinary health crisis.

Reuters reported that Constan Karma, the head of Papua's National AIDS Commission was quoted by the Jakarta Post newspaper on Saturday as saying the plan violated human rights.

The UNAIDS coordinator for Indonesia, Nancy Fee, told the Associated Press that the UN was not aware of any such legislation anywhere else in the world and said she had "grave concerns" about the idea of tagging HIV/AIDS patients.

Source: Reuters, Associated Press.

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Section Issues On Medicine: Disease