Indonesia sees progress: President

Nusa Dua, 10 August 2009 - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono  (SBY)  was upbeat about the growing  trend  among  Indonesians to  be  more  open  about  AIDS and  HIV  issues  while  underscoring  the  importance  of constant  efforts  to  respond  to AIDS.

“While  psychological  barriers  remain,  we  are  seeing progress.  Many  people  are now not afraid to speak up and share  their  stories.  They  are involved in fnding solutions to the diffculties AIDS brings  to their lives,” said SBY in his keynote address at the opening of the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) at  the Garuda Wisnu
Kencana  Cultural  Park,  South Bali, on Sunday.

SBY said  that  in other parts of  Indonesia,  more  and  more people  were  seeking  counseling and being tested for HIV. “This is a good sign that saw a decrease in the stigma attached to HIV  in  Indonesia. We  also saw  the  provision  of  antiretroviral therapy to some 18,000 people all over Indonesia,  free of charge,” the President pointed out.

Some  4,000  delegates  and media representatives from 65 countries are taking part in the fve-day biennial  international congress  on AIDS,  starting  on Sunday.  They  include  health care  professionals,  public  policy  leaders,  community  advocates, activists, researchers and journalists.

The  event  offers  four main issues:  understanding  the  epidemic  and  strengthening  prevention  efforts;  strengthening partnership for treatment, care and  support;  understanding and  addressing  socio-cultural, economic  and  political  determinants;  as well  as  leadership and broadening the response.

According  to SBY,  there are currently some 270,000 people living with HIV  in  Indonesia, which counts as a low-level epidemic.  “However,  we  cannot overlook this number because, like  in other countries,  the actual number could be higher -signifcantly higher.”

The  President  warned  that the  number  of  Indonesians living  with  HIV  might  reach two million  unless  preventive measures were taken. The  struggle  against  AIDS required a constant process of trial  and  error  and  a  constant search  for  new  innovations. “At  this  juncture,  we  can  already  point  to  a  few  lessons that are critical to a successful response,” SBY stressed.

Quoting UN Secretary-General  Ban  Ki-moon,  who  said that  AIDS  is  one  of  the most devastating  epidemics  in  history, the President emphasized the importance of adopting effective and  inter-sectoral policies  that  aimed  at  preventing, containing  and  reversing  the spread of AIDS.

“These policies do not come by themselves, they only come by way of leaderships. Without leaderships,  the  fght  against AIDS  becomes  sporadic,  reactive,  without  focus,  lacking resources  and  will  eventually lose [their] sting.”

During the opening ceremony,  Prof Dr  Zubairi Djoerban, chairman of the 9th ICAAP local  organizing  committee,  on behalf of the Indonesian AIDS Society awarded SBY the highest  prize  for  his  commitment and  leadership  in  responding to the epidemic in Indonesia. 

Meanwhile, AIDS Ambassador and Champion for Asia-Pacifc, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, said that despite substantial progress made by several countries  in Asia and  the Pacifc  in reaching  some  Millennium Development  Goals  (MDGs), many  countries in  the  region still  lagged  behind,  especially  in  responding  to  HIV  and AIDS,  malaria  and  other  diseases and also  “in  recognizing the  link  between HIV  and  all the MDGs”.

UNAIDS Regional Director for  Asia-Pacifc  JVR  Prasada Rao  disclosed  that  the  Asia-Pacifc region has a cumulative estimated  fve million  infected people, with around one million of  them  needing  antiretroviral treatment.  However,  he  said, it  showed progress  in  terms of treatment in the past two years.

According to Rao, in at least 10 countries, HIV cases are still below  the  educative  coverage and  therefore  hamper  the  international movement  to offer better  prevention,  treatment and  care,  which  is  known  as Universal Access targets.

 

As reported by the 9th ICAAP Post
The complete 9th ICAAP Post can be downloaded from the Virtual Media Centre section in this website

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