Experts warn that health workers’ reluctance to treat LGBT people is hampering efforts to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia, putting lives in danger and failing high risk groups.
Rohana Manggala, head of the Jakarta branch of the Commission on HIV/AIDS Prevention (KPA), said on Thursday that health facilities in the capital needed to be more inclusive.
“Generally, health services for HIV/AIDS tests and treatment is getting better, but we have to admit there are still many health workers who attach strong stigma to certain groups,” she said.
Tono Purnama Muhammad, national coordinator for a gay and transsexual network, said many of his group’s members were reluctant to seek health services because of the stigma.
“Most health facilities in Jakarta provide health services for sexually transmitted infections and voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS, but only a few have proper understanding about gays, bisexuals and transgendered people,” he said. “As a result, many people from this community are reluctant to have themselves checked because they don’t want to be judged.”
To remedy this problem, government officials are working closely with HIV/AIDS prevention groups to draft policies designed to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people access services more freely.
The program will also include sensitivity training for community health center workers across Jakarta’s five municipalities.
Relatively few men in Asia identify as gay due to societal norms. Men that do have sex with other men are more likely to engage in brief high risk encounters and are, in turn, less likely to seek treatment for infection. But when they do, it is imperative that health workers do not turn them away or act in a way that discourages them seeking further assistance.
Estimates published on HIV/AIDS prevention charity website avert.org shows that there are about 314,000 people living with HIV in Indonesia, which, it notes, has the fastest growing epidemic in Asia.
If left unchecked, those figures are set to more than double by 2014. You can read more here.