Lawmakers in Indonesia's remote province of Papua have thrown their support behind a controversial bylaw requiring some HIV/Aids patients to be implanted with microchips - part of extreme efforts to monitor the disease.
Health workers and rights activists sharply criticized the plan Monday. But legislator John Manangsang said by implanting small computer chips beneath the skin of "sexually aggressive" patients, authorities would be in a better position to identify, track and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others with up to six months in jail or a $5 000 fine.
The technical and practical details still need to be hammered out, he and others said, but the proposal has received full backing from the provincial parliament and, if it gets a majority vote as expected, will officially be declared a bylaw next month.
Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country and has one of Asia's fastest growing HIV rates, with up to 290 000 infections out of 235 million people, fuelled mainly by intravenous drug users and prostitution. But Papua, the country's easternmost and poorest province, has been hardest hit. Its case rate of almost 61 per 100 000 is 15 times the national average, according to internationally funded research, which blames lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.
'People with Aids aren't' animals'
"The health situation is extraordinary, so we have to take extraordinary action," said another lawmaker, Weynand Watari, who envisions radio frequency identification tags like those used to track everything from cattle to luggage.
A committee would be created to determine who should be fitted with chips and to monitor patients' behaviour, but it remains unclear who would be on it and how they would carry out their work, lawmakers said. Health workers and rights activists called the plan "abhorrent."
"People with Aids aren't animals; we have to respect their rights," said Tahi Ganyang Butarbutar, a prominent activist in Papua. He said the best way to tackle the epidemic was through increased spending on sexual education and condom use. – (Sapa, November 2008)
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