United Nations officials on Thursday urged Indonesia to begin treating drug users like patients in need of clinical help and not criminals and increase the number of drug treatment facilities to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country's prisons, the AP/Miami Herald reports. According to the AP/Herald, drug use is high in Indonesian prisons, and dozens of inmates die from AIDS-related causes each year. Christian Kroll, U.N. global coordinator for HIV/AIDS, said that more drug treatment centers are needed in the country, which now has 45 drug rehabilitation facilities (AP/Miami Herald, 10/16). Kroll also said that inmates convicted of drug use "should be treated as people who need therapy instead of criminals. Judges and prosecutors should be given further education."
U.N. and other officials also said that the factors contributing to the increasing number of HIV cases in Indonesian prisons include injection drug users sharing cell space with other inmates and the overcrowding of prisons, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. According to Kroll, the total number of inmates in Indonesia is 136,000 while the total capacity for prisons in the country is 70,000. National AIDS Commission head Nafsiah Mboi said that inmates convicted of drug use should be separated from inmates convicted of other crimes to curb drug use in prisons (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/16). Indonesia has taken initial steps to decriminalize drug use, Mboi said, adding that clinics would be overstretched if drug users were released from detention at once.
There are about 28,000 drug users in prisons in Indonesia, according to Kroll. The National AIDS Commission estimates that up to 25% of incarcerated drug users are living with HIV, the AP/Herald reports. The United Nations reports that Indonesia has one of the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in Southeast Asia, with 290,000 total cases among 235 million people (AP/Miami Herald, 10/16).
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