Indonesia Is Dancing With Death
January 13, 2003
The preferred intoxicant among the young middle-class Indonesians at a North Jakarta dance club is ecstasy. Shabu-shabu, a cheaply produced but potent local methamphetamine which can be injected, inhaled or taken orally, is said to be popular among the poorer drug users, prostitutes and their clients. A few kilometers south, in Kampung Bali, the drug of choice for an increasing number of young people is low-grade heroin, or putaw: cheap, plentiful and potentially deadly in more ways than one. Of 98 injecting drug users Kampung Bali's public clinic recently tested for HIV, 93 percent of them tested positive. Another Jakarta study found that, of 210 users, 88 percent were sharing needles.
"Injecting drug use is a national emergency as far as controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS is concerned," said Broto Wasisto, the Health Ministry's drug control committee head and national HIV/AIDS control board member. But the government's budget is stretched by many other health problems, said Wasisto, who hopes to introduce harm minimization pilot programs in Jakarta and Bali this year.
Melbourne's Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health last year estimated there were between 1.3 million and 2 million drug users in Indonesia, with up to 1 million IDUs. Some local estimates put the number of users at 4 million -- about one in every 50 Indonesians.
In 1996, Jakarta's RSKO hospital, which specializes in treating drug addicts, dealt with 2,000 patients; three years later the number had risen to 9,000. Experts say users are getting younger, with most ages 16-25. In 1995, only 2 percent of new HIV infections were due to drug use; by 2001 this had risen to 20 percent. In the same year, 47 percent of IDUs at RSKO hospital tested HIV-positive. Similar findings elsewhere suggest needle sharing will soon surpass unsafe sex as the most common method of contracting HIV.
Compounding the problem is evidence that elements of the underfunded police and military are themselves involved in the drug trade -- and are willing to fight public turf wars for their share of it.
01.04.03; Tom Hyland
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.