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HIV rates among gay men in Indonesia have increased five-fold, Human Rights Watch says

Posted by On 9:07 PM

HIV rates among gay men in Indonesia have increased five-fold, Human Rights Watch says

Email HIV rates among gay men in Indonesia have increased five-fold, Human Rights Watch says

Updated July 02, 2018 12:59:55

Dimas Alphareza poses for a photo in a dark street with his head down, making him unidentifiable. Photo: Dimas Alphareza runs a pop-up clinic, where people can get HIV tested without questions. (ABC News) Related Story: Patrolling the streets of Indonesia's most conservative province Related Story: These are dangerous times for Indonesia's LGBT community Related Story: Gay men flogged in Aceh after vigilantes find them having sex Related Story: How transgender Indonesians are 'enjoying' life in face of threats Map: Indonesia

The marginalisation of Indonesia's LGBT community is fuelling an HIV "epidemic", with HIV rates among gay men increasing five-fold since 2007, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Key points:

  • HIV among gay men surges to 25 per cent
  • Human Rights Watch blames "moral panic" for increasing rates
  • 2016 opinion poll showed 26 per cent of Indonesians disliked LGBT people

The prevalence of HIV among gay men in Indonesia has surged from 5 per cent in 2007, to 25 per cent in 2015, despite the Government making inroads against the deadly virus in the broader population.

"This is going to be very damaging for Indonesia " said An dreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch.

"It might bring Indonesia 20-30 years back to the 1980s when the HIV/AIDS virus was still new."

The Human Rights Watch report blames a recent "moral panic" against the LGBT community, which has forced vulnerable people into the shadows, effectively derailing public health outreach and safe-sex education efforts.

Being gay labelled 'mental illness'

In 2017, more than 300 LGBT people were arrested during "unlawful" raids by police and militant Islamist groups, the highest number ever.

Some of those arrested were paraded naked in front of the media. Condoms were used as "evidence", further discouraging their use.

In the province of Aceh last year, two men were publicly caned 83 times each after being caught having sex.

"Rangga" poses for a photo on a street while leaning against a pole. Photo: "Rangga", 32, has been living with HIV since 2013. (ABC News)

The national professional association for psychiatrists has proclaimed being gay or transgender is a "mental illness".

A 2016 opinion poll indicated 26 per cent of Indonesians disliked LGBT people, making them the most disliked group in the country, overtaking communists and Jewish people.

Living as trans in Indonesia


The Indonesian transgender community regularly faces verbal assaults from government and religious figures. While they are under pressure to change, some are living their lives undeterred.

"The discrimination is the reason people think of us as a disease. They think we are a curse," sai d 30-year-old outreach worker Dimas Alphareza.

He said it had become very hard to reach vulnerable people in his community.

"They're scared of being beaten up," he said.

"For example, we make an appointment through social media to meet, arrange a time and a place, but when we get there the person doesn't show up."

Mr Alphareza runs a pop-up clinic, where people can get HIV tested without questions being asked and said there had been a dramatic increase in the number of new infections since last year.

"Of the 20 people who were tested, nine of them were found to have been infected [with HIV]," he said.

Alarming attitudes towards safe sex

"Bintang" poses for a photo in a dark street with a mask on making his face unidentifiable. Photo: "Bintang" says he wasn't given appropriate sex education when he was growing up. (ABC News)

"Bintang" found out he had HIV in 2015, when he was just 20.

He blames the Islamic boarding school he was sent to because his parents thought he was too "soft and feminine".

"We were never taught anything about HIV, unlike state schools where they would have talks with experts from universities and the like รข€¦ I was so far away from sexual education of any kind," he said.

"Rangga", 32, has been living with HIV since 2013.

Now an outreach worker himself, he describes alarming attitudes towards safe sex within the gay community.

"They keep saying 'it doesn't feel as good with condoms'," he said.

"But they are not equipped with the knowledge of the dangers of not wearing them and of course they'll get HIV."

Late last month, Australia announced an additional $1.3 million for the AIDS response in Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and PNG.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, gays-and-lesbians, community-and-society, health, diseases-and-disorders, aids-and-hiv, indonesia, asia, aceh

First posted July 02, 2018 11:41:03

Source: Google News Network: Liputan 24 English | Berita 24 English | Warta 24 English | Netizen 24 Indonesi a

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