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Indonesia En Route to HIV Epidemic, Experts Warn

The World Health Organization has sounded its concerns about HIV-infected cases growing by leaps and bounds in Indonesia//, and announced a ‘generalized HIV epidemic’ in Papua, one of the country’s most remote regions.

Talking numbers are frightening –there is an estimated number of 169,000 to 216,000 HIV cases in the most populous Muslim nation of the world, which has a head count of 220 million.

Higher incidences are seen among a special group- drug addicts and sex workers.

Though measures against the virus are satisfactory in more developed regions of the nation, it is woefully the opposite among the less educated and the poor, and especially negligible in far off villages.

One of the factors contributing to the country’s economy is prostitution and the repercussions are been seen. Drug addicts and sex workers are spreading the extent of the virus to terrifying distances.

Says Bjorn Melgaard, WHO senior health consultant: “Indonesia is facing a huge threat."

Most worrying is Papua, the country's most remote province. It has by far the largest population of people living with the AIDS virus. This accounts for 20 times the national average or around 50 percent of the country's total number of cases. In other words, two in every 100 persons in Papua is carrying the HIV.

In 2006, here were 2,873 new full-blown AIDS cases, a 140 percent increase from 1,195 in 2004 and most of the cases were found in intravenous drug users and commercial sex workers.

Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari had warned in November that the country could see half a million HIV cases by 2010, and double that if preventive steps are not taken.

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