Bill To Implant Microchips in ‘Sexually Aggressive’ HIV-Positive People in Indonesian Province Generates Support, Criticism
An Indonesian bill that includes a bylaw requiring "sexually aggressive" people living with HIV/AIDS to be implanted with microchips is causing debate between some lawmakers, who argue that the bill is necessary to curb the spread of the virus, and advocates, who say the bylaw is discriminatory and a violation of human rights, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. According to John Manangsang, a lawmaker who supports the bill, authorities would be able to identify, track and punish people living with HIV/AIDS in the country's province of Papua who intentionally spread the virus with a $5,000 fine or up to six months in jail. In Papua, the HIV prevalence is 15 times the national average at 61 cases per 100,000 people (Karmini, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/24).
According to Reuters, Manangsang said the microchip is "a simple technology. A signal from the microchip will track their movements and this will be received by monitoring authorities" (Anjani, Reuters, 11/22). According to the Jakarta Post, the microchips would only be implanted in people living with HIV/AIDS who are labeled as "aggressive." Manangsang said, "Aggressive means actively seeking sexual intercourse" (Flassy, Jakarta Post, 11/22). According to the AP/Star Tribune, a committee would be created to establish which HIV-positive people should be implanted with microchips and to monitor their behavior. The technical and practical details of the bill are still being decided by lawmakers. The provincial parliament of Papua has given its full support to the measure, which will be enacted next month if it receives the expected majority vote (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/24). Manangsang said the program is "one way to protect healthy people" and that "real action" must be taken "because 47% of (the country's) HIV/AIDS (cases) are in Papua."
Critics of the bill say it is discriminatory toward people living with HIV/AIDS and a violation of human rights, the Post reports. Constan Karma, executive director of the Papua AIDS Commission, said the law "will violate the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS because they will be implanted with microchips." Gunawan -- a liaison officer of the West Papua chapter of Save Papua -- said that people living with the virus "do not always have sex, especially those with AIDS." He also questioned how officials would measure aggressiveness. Although reported incidents of discrimination against HIV-positive people in Papua have declined, Enita Rouw -- coordinator of the Papua branch of the Indonesian Network of People Infected with HIV -- said that "stigmatization is still there. So please don't use microchips. We are humans, not animals" (Jakarta Post, 11/22). Tahi Ganyang Butarbutar, an advocate in Papua, said that increased funding for sex education and condom promotion would be more effective for addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. He also said the people living with the virus "aren't animals; we have to respect their rights" (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/24).
Weynand Watari, a lawmaker who supports the bill, said the region's "health situation is extraordinary, so we have to take extraordinary action." According to the AP/Star Tribune, the HIV epidemic in Indonesia is one of the fastest-growing in Asia, with as many as 290,000 cases in the country's population of 235 million. HIV/AIDS in Indonesia primarily is spread through commercial sex work and injection drug use (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/24). According to Reuters, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in the Papua region primarily is because of inadequate education programs, lack of condoms and partner swapping rituals that take place in the region (Reuters, 11/22). According to the Post, Manangsang said that people should not concentrate solely on the bylaw but should focus on the entirety of the bill, which requires universal HIV testing "so that preventative measures can be taken early on." He also said that "if we respect the rights of the people living with HIV/AIDS, then we must also respect the rights of healthy people" (Jakarta Post, 11/22).