9 Dec 2005

Indonesian soldiers in Papua urged to learn about AIDS risks in province

10:48 am on 9 December 2005

A Papua Aids activist says soldiers in the Indonesian province are vulnerable to contracting HIV/Aids owing to their lack of awareness about the issue.

The Jakarta Post quotes Robert Sihombing as saying that because soldiers are being assigned from city to remote areas and vice versa, there's a likelihood that they have multiple sex partners.

Mr Sihombing helped treat six young Indonesian soldiers infected with HIV/Aids, for between four and six months each, until their deaths between 2002 and early 2004, after being ostracized by their units.

He says a large number of soldiers are also said to be providing protection for the sex trade, thus placing them in a high-risk environment for the spread of the virus.

Mr Sihombing says that the army is working together with non-governmental organisations only at the counseling level thus far, and is doing nothing to treat the victims.

He suggests that soldiers are taught about HIV/Aids before being posted to Papua to prevent them from becoming infected.