Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Chairwoman of the National AIDS Council Nafsiah Mboi has clarified that an aggressive condom-use campaign does not endorse promiscuity.
Speaking at the official launch of National Condom Week in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Saturday, Nafsiah warned against a common misconception: "National Condom Week doesn't legalize free sex ... we do not approve of this. But if we already have youths who are sexually active, what we're doing now is merely giving them a means of protection," Nafsiah said, adding that the number of HIV infections had recently spiked among the 15 to 24 age group.
She said the weeklong drive, jointly organized by the National Family Planning Board, the AIDS Council, and DKT Foundation, a condom manufacturer, was aimed at educating people on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, including the proper use of condoms.
"We believe society has the right to receive correct and complete information on HIV/AIDS.
"It's similar to wearing a helmet when riding a motorbike, if you're not riding a bike then you don't need to wear one," said Nafsiah, who is a pediatrician.
According to Nafsiah, as of September this year the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases stood at 16,000.
Nafsiah denied religious organizations were against the campaign. "It's important to remember that condoms are part of the national family planning program which has been endorsed by all religions, including the Catholic Church in Indonesia, since 1972."
UN country coordinator for AIDS programs in Indonesia, Nancy Fee, said raising awareness by talking about condom use in a culturally-sensitive way was very important in AIDS work.
"Previously, the majority of new HIV infections were among injected drug users, but the epidemic is changing ... while the drug problem remains very serious, the majority of new infections are sexually transmitted. Condoms are very important in preventing a larger AIDS epidemic."
Another important element in preventing AIDS, she said, was for parents to talk to their children about the disease when they were still young.
"It's very important for parents to focus on values, good communication, good decision making."
"Because when we inculcate that in children, when they are small, when they become teenagers and their attention is drawn to drugs or sex, they will have core values and be strong -- and that is what will protect them."
Over 400 youths gathered at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle Saturday to protest the condom campaign.
Coordinator Ivan Ahda said the campaign was intended to promote free sex; Mental Rehabilitation Center Foundation spokesman, Ginanjar, even questioned whether condoms could prevent HIV/AIDS.
"Condoms cannot prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Research in the United States has proven HIV viruses, which are 1/250 micron in size, can pass through condom pores that generally are 1/60 micron," said Ginanjar.
Instructions on how to use condoms and how they can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, are part of National Condom Week, which runs from Dec. 1 to 8, with activities in cities including Bandung in West Java, Pekanbaru in Riau, Pasuruan in East Java and Manado in North Sulawesi. (amr)