Indonesian Fishermen At Increased Risk Of HIV

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fishermanin Indonesia are at an increased risk of HIV because of several social factors,according to a study recently conducted by Bali, Indonesia, researcher MadeSetiawan, who holds a doctorate degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Jakarta Post reports.

For the study, Setiawan observed and talked with fisherman at ports anddormitories and interviewed 29 crew members of small fishing boats. He foundthat fisherman often place themselves in risky situations because they areseparated from their wives and families, as well as their status as migrantworkers. In addition, many fishermen use alcohol and have sex with commercialsex workers, according to the study.


Setiawan also found that fishermen and officers can influence their peers orsubordinates toward either safer or riskier behaviors because they often haveeither accurate information about HIV/AIDS and access to services or areunaware of the virus or how to prevent it. Although the government and localnongovernmental organizations encourage sex workers to use condoms, mostfishermen will not agree to use a condom, the Post reports.Instead, many fishermen have sex with sex workers who are younger and appear tobe healthy, take antibiotics prior to sex, wash after sex and stay healthy,which they believe make them immune to sexually transmitted infections, includingHIV. In addition, many fishermen insert plastic or glass implants in theirpenises, which often leads to infection and increases risk of HIV and otherSTIs.

Few efforts have been made to implement effective and acceptable interventionprograms that address the social, cultural and economic contexts that placefishermen at higher risk of HIV, the Post reports. According toSetiawan's research, knowledge about HIV and access to condoms likely will notencourage fishermen to engage in safer-sex practices if their peers or culturalbeliefs do not support such practices.

According to UNAIDS, the estimated HIV prevalence amongIndonesia's general population is 0.1%, compared with an estimated 10% prevalenceamong sex workers in Bali, Indonesia (Raniati, Jakarta Post,1/17).

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