Indonesian Government Should Reduce Spread Of HIV Among Homeless Children

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The Indonesian government should take action to reduce the spread ofHIV among homeless children in the country, Ariest Merdeka Sirait,secretary-general of the National Commission for the Protection ofChildren, said Wednesday, the Jakarta Postreports. Sirait said homeless children are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDSbecause many are involved in injection drug use and "lack knowledgeabout reproductive health and about how to protect themselves from"HIV. He also said homeless children have been excluded fromgovernment-sponsored programs aimed at reducing the spread of HIV amonghigh-risk groups, such as commercial sex workers and IDUs. "The spreadof HIV/AIDS among street children should be tackled immediately,otherwise it will lead to a worse situation," Sirait said.

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Accordingto a 2006 study -- conducted in several urban areas across the countryby the Indonesian Save the Children Foundation -- homeless children areat an increased risk of contracting HIV. The report found that most ofthe at-risk children were involved in drug use and sex work but wereunaware of the dangers associated with such activities.

HuseinHabsyi, -- vice chair of the Pelita Ilmu Foundation, a nongovernmentalorganization focused on HIV/AIDS-related issues -- said that more than90% of homeless children in Jakarta, Indonesia, who use drugs also arefound to be HIV-positive through foundation testing efforts. "Of the1,000 children, 200 of them have undergone laboratory tests, and 193 ofthem are positive," he said, adding that the ratio has remainedconstant over several years. Habsyi called on the government to scaleup its efforts to address the issue. "More must be done, not onlypreventive measures, but also curative," he said, adding, "Thosealready infected should also be referred to health centers to getproper treatment." Habsyi suggested that HIV prevention programs beconducted in the form of "youth-friendly counseling through youthcenters, where they can have fun and learn how to protect themselvesfrom infection." He also recommended that a training program for healthofficials be implemented so they would be better equipped to deal withhomeless children.

Susanti Herlambang, director of servicesand social rehabilitation at the Social Services Ministry, said heroffice is working with UNICEFand other NGOs on a project to support children living with HIV/AIDS,particularly those from low-income families. "We also give workingskills for their families and knowledge about how to treat theirchildren," she said (Nurhayati, Jakarta Post, 8/10).
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