Debates have raged in the United States in recent years about the place of preventative sex education for the youth of the country but it’s not the only place that has witnessed this dialogue. Indonesia has also had a strong conservative reaction to the promotion of condoms as preventative measures in the fight against HIV.
Many religious conservative groups in the country, made up of a chain of islands which sit between Australia and Thailand, have resisted this new program to provide condoms and education to people throughout the population. These conservative Muslim leaders have expressed concern that the availability and marketing of condoms encourages young children to have sex, the Guardian reports. Conservatives align the campaign with the condoning of sexual activity in general.
Proponents of the condom campaign see the situation differently. Much of the emphasis in providing protection to all people, including sex workers, is an attempt to curb the spread of HIV throughout the country and also encourage an understanding of the virus and how it gets transmitted. The Guardian quotes Nafsiah Mobi, a health minister in Indonesia, regarding the promotion of condom use:
Growing religious conservatism in recent years means some red-light districts have been closed, but unregulated [sex work] is rampant – there’s [sex work] in every harbour in the archipelago.
The government launched the national condom campaign in 2006. This program promotes a “100% condom use” approach. This campaign is mostly directed at the sex worker industry where transmission risk is high. Recent studies show that, globally speaking, sex workers are some of the most at-risk groups for contracting HIV. In Indonesia at least 200,000 people are infected with the virus and the number of infections tripled between 2006 and 2011.
The University of California in San Francisco notes that 8,300 Indonesians died of AIDS in 2009 and that about 88,000 of the HIV infections are women. The Guardian also notes that although there is a large segment of Muslim conservatives concerned the government is promoting promiscuity and sexual activity in young people, condom sales doubled between 2006 and 2011.
This week United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC. She stated that the US government is also committed to AIDS prevention and treatment through education, condom availability and medical materials. In her own words:
We’re focusing on what we call combination prevention. Our strategy includes condoms, counseling and testing, and places special emphasis on three other interventions: treatment as prevention, voluntary medical male circumcision, and stopping the transmission of HIV from mothers to children.
However, the United States has also taken a strong stance against helping global AIDS campaigns that are involved with sex workers, blocking funding for grantees who wish to aid sex workers. Indonesia is taking a stand in which the government recognizes that sex workers have human needs and are an at-risk group in the fight to prevent further HIV infections in the world. Indonesia joins Botswana in a concerted effort to combat growing HIV rates around the world in recent years, even when influential segments of the population push against such movements.
Photo Credit: Gunkarta