Papua microchip plan for HIV patients decried
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Lawmakers in Indonesia's remote province of Papua are expected soon to approve a controversial bill requiring some HIV/AIDS patients to be implanted with microchips - part of extreme efforts to monitor the disease.
Local health workers and AIDS activists called the plan abhorrent.
"People with AIDS aren't animals; we have to respect their rights," said Tahi Ganyang Butarbutar, a prominent Papuan activist.
But legislator John Manangsang said that by implanting small computer chips beneath the skin of "sexually aggressive" patients, authorities would be in a better position to identify, track, and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others, with up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.
The technical and practical details still need to be worked out, but if the proposed legislation gets a majority vote as expected, it will become law next month, he and others said.
Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country and has one of Asia's fastest growing HIV rates, with up to 290,000 infections among 235 million people, fueled mainly by intravenous drug users and prostitution.
But Papua, the country's easternmost and poorest province with a population of about 2 million, has been hardest hit. Its case rate of 61 per 100,000 people is 15 times the national average, according to internationally funded research, which blames lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.
A committee would be created to decide who should be fitted with chips and to monitor patients' behavior, but it remains unclear who would be on it and how they would carry out their work, lawmakers said yesterday.
Nancy Fee, the UNAIDS country coordinator, said the global body was not aware of any laws elsewhere involving HIV/AIDS patients and microchips.
"No one should be subject to unlawful or unnecessary interference of privacy," Fee said, adding that while other countries have been known to be oppressive in trying to tackle AIDS, such policies don't work.
Tahi Ganyang, the Papuan activist, said the best way to tackle the epidemic was through increased spending on sexual education and condom use.