Warief Djajanto Basorie, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Bandung
Kapanlagi.com Anti Narkoba (Kapanlagi.com is against drugs) reads a sticker on the dashboard of a yellow angkot (public minibus) in Bandung, 160 kilometers southeast of Jakarta.
Kapanlagi.com (Kapan lagi, if not now, when?) is a website that aims to prevent youth drug abuse.
With support from websites, businesses and civil society groups, Bandung, the capital of West Java, has taken its drug awareness campaign to the streets.
Karaoke clubs in the city's semi-red light district on Jl. Braga also place banners at their entranceways: No drugs. Another banner on the perimeter of the fence of the mayor's office encourages passersby to act against drug abuse and stop the spread of HIV.
There has been a clear connection between the use of injecting drugs -- like heroin -- and HIV/AIDS.
Health Ministry figures up to September 2007 show that 49.5 percent of all AIDS cases in Indonesia are caused by injecting drug use with contaminated needles.
A needle may have been used before or shared within a circle of common users.
Nationally, injecting drug use is now the primary cause of HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS. Second is unprotected sex among heterosexuals with 42 percent of all cases.
In West Java, 81.2 percent of AIDS cases stem from injecting drug use. This is the highest percentage by province.
Also by province, West Java ranks second in the country after Jakarta in terms of the number of AIDS cases.
Yayasan Masyarakat Sehat (Community Health Foundation, YMS), has a two-story office next to a slaughterhouse on the main road of Banjaran in Bale Endah, an area just outside Bandung's southern limits.
The YMS has an HIV/AIDS prevention program that focuses on behavioral change communication among injecting drug users (IDUs) in the districts of Bandung and Subang.
It has reached out to 450 IDUs in Bandung district and 320 in Subang. The majority of IDUs are in the 20-35 years age group.
"Generally they are not aware of the behavioral hazards of sharing needles," YMS manager Dedi Junaedi Jusuf said.
The YMS, with support from the U.S.-based Family Health International, aims to wean users off their drug habit from two to three injections a day to a full stop in six to seven months. IDUs get free packets of sterile needles to help in the weaning process.
This sterile needles service also concerns harm reduction -- measures taken to address drug problems that are open to outcomes other than cessation of use. Harm reduction is government approved. In a statement last Dec. 7 to mark World AIDS Day, National AIDS Commission chairman Aburizal Bakrie, concurrently the coordinating minister for people's welfare, said Indonesia has 120 sterile needles programs nationwide.
Dedi, 42, however, underscores that sterile needles receivers must adhere to a standard operating procedure. First they must comprehend the YMS' program of behavioral change. Used needles must be handed in for eventual incineration.
"Behavior starts to change after we give information. Counseling, particularly VCT (voluntary counseling and testing of HIV infection) reduces their risk level," Dedi added.
It helps that many of the case managers and the outreach workers YMS employs are former IDUs. Such peer support in weekly meetings strengthens the IDUs' resolve to quit.
Field coordinator Iwan Ahmad Anwari admits relapse is a problem. "Long term users ache to stop. Creative joint activities like designing and printing T-shirts helps to keep their mind off drugs," he continued.
Meanwhile, SMP Negeri 1 Bale Endah -- a local state-run junior high school, a 10-minute drive away -- has introduced drug abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention education. Herdy Luthfiady, 46, the deputy school head, explained the purpose of the awareness activity was to "prevent pupils from falling into it" (into behavior that leads to drug abuse and HIV infection).
Herdy relates a case five years ago when a 13-year-old boy was caught with marijuana in school. His parents pulled him out before the school could expel him. From that incident, the school regularly consults with parents on drug awareness, Herdy said.
Preventive education is also promoted by Gerakan Nasional Anti-Narkotika, (Granat, the National Movement against Narcotics).
Djoni Widjaja Aluwi, 62, the chairman of Granat's West Java chapter, said the primary aim of the community-based organization is prevention. It gives talks on drugs in schools, as well as faith-based and community groups. If you see a negative change in your children's behavior, you should inspect their bedroom for any hidden drugs, Djoni, a practicing lawyer, advises parents.
Drug abuse and AIDS are problems that will not go away soon. The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) estimates Indonesia has four million IDUs. Whatever the number of IDUs, more conscientious former users, more dedicated teachers, more caring parents, and more selfless members of civil society must emerge to curb the drugs scourge.
If not now, when?
Warief Djajanto Basorie is a freelance writer and can be reached at email@example.com