A survey conducted by the Health Department suggests that among high-risk populations, women are more likely to use condoms during sex than men, which has made them significantly less prone to contracting HIV.
“We carried out a survey of sexual health practices in high-risk groups. The result was that 35 percent of female respondents reported using female condoms, while only 19 percent of men reported using [male] condoms,” H.M. Subuh, the director of contagious diseases at the Ministry of Health, said on Friday.
According to Subuh, the survey, conducted in 2011, reflects a greater awareness and concern among women about sexually transmitted diseases.
This is in spite of the fact that men are at higher risk of contracting HIV due to their greater rate of participation in high-risk practices.
Of 15,589 new cases of HIV/AIDS identified in Indonesia from January to September last year, 71 percent were men.
“Men have a higher-risk lifestyle and they are more mobile, but despite being more at risk, their awareness is lower,” Subuh said.
Subuh suggested that women were more likely to digest health-related information, and to heed calls to use prophylactics.
“There are many women these days who realize they are at risk, or suspect that their partner may be engaging in high-risk activity, so they choose to protect themselves against the threat of HIV,” he said.
Subuh said Indonesia should learn from Thailand’s success in significantly lowering the number of new HIV infections, a feat achieved through an awareness program that has encouraged the use of condoms.
Unsafe sex was the biggest means of transmitting the virus in Indonesia, he added.
“We have already distributed condoms for free, but to increase the number of people using them is extremely difficult,” the health expert said.
“I don’t wish to blame people who oppose the use of condoms, but we must educate the community so that they have the awareness required to protect themselves.”
He added that the spread of HIV in Indonesia was among the fastest in Asia.
According to December 2011 data from the Department of Health, Jakarta is the province with the highest recorded number of both HIV positive people and people living with AIDS. East Java, then Papua, West Java and Bali follow in terms of number of reported HIV infections.
The official total number of people diagnosed with HIV in Indonesia since 1987 is 76,879, while the number of people with AIDS is 29,879.
Free, anonymous voluntary counseling and testing for HIV is available at clinics in a number of state-run hospitals.
The Jakarta Globe
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