The National News Agency Antara and Bisnis Indonesia report that thousands of customers engaging in commercial sex in Bali are at risk of HIV infection. In an effort to reduce the number of new cases, the Commission for the Control of AID (KPA) is launching a pilot scheme in a number of Bali regencies to heighten monitoring activities.
The Working Chairman of KPA for Bali, Kesuma Kelakan, told the press that the increased monitoring will include health reviews of sex workers and their customers on a routine basis. These "health inspections" will be jointly conducted by the Department of Health, local community organizations and traditional villages.
Statistics from the Bali Department of Health estimate that for every 4,000 consumers of commercial sex services on the Island not less than 2,500 are at immediate risk of HIV infection.
The Working Chairman of KPA who is also the Vice-Governor of Bali cautioned the press, "close supervision in prostitution areas does not mean that commercial sex is being legalized or that new red light districts are being established".
He went on to explain that in confronting prostitution and its related problems in Bali there are two views open to those seeking a common understanding of the problem. First there is the goal of complete elimination of prostitution followed by those who seek to work with the community and the underlying causes of the problem – poverty, ignorance and a lack of employment opportunities.
Kelakan said the rapid and uncontrolled spread of HIV is causing uneasiness in the community, explaining: "In Tabanan, a husband and wife recently died because of AIDS. Their deaths were followed by their 10 year old child. Now the only family member left is a 12 year old child."
Similar tragic cases have been recorded in Buleleng, Karangasem and other regions of Bali. "How is it that so many villagers are being infected with HIV?" posed Kelakan. In an effort to explain, he added: "One reason for the high number of cases (in the villages) is tied to the commercial sex transactions in red light areas. Unwittingly, husbands are having unprotected sex without the aide of condoms in the many commercial sex areas spread across the Island."
Because the symptoms of AIDS can manifest over a period of 5-10 years, Kelakan believes that many infected with HIV unwittingly spread the disease among their families. Often undetected and untreated, HIV clams lives and eventually becomes the moribund inheritance passed on to the next generation.
Kelakan said local villages and their leaders can no longer lift their hands and not care about the presence of commercial sex operations in their communities.
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