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International News

Indonesia's Drug Fight Pushing Prison AIDS Explosion

August 4, 2009

Indonesia's war on drugs has overwhelmed its prisons, concentrating injecting drug users (IDUs) in a setting where drug use is rife and blood-borne diseases can be spread easily, advocates say. Of Indonesia's nearly 12,000 prisoners, almost 6,900 were arrested for drug crimes.

Inside Jakarta's Salemba prison, an injection with a "used" needle cost 2,000 rupiah (US 20 cents) in 2007, in addition to the cost of the drugs, said an HIV-positive former inmate nicknamed "Black." An injection with a "new" needle -- not necessarily sterile, just not yet blunt -- cost more. "They use it once, twice and it's still sharp so they see it as new," explained Black. With the collusion of guards, prison gangs sell drugs with very little mark-up compared with prices outside the prison, he said.

Dealers typically "have a stock of needles, let's say 15," Black said. "When they open it, 15 people will line up. When they finish, others will use them." "When I was inside, there were lots of drugs, all sorts," he said.

"People are selling drugs, buying drugs, bringing drugs, abusing drugs, whatever, are being locked in the same place in the same situation, no treatment, no nothing," said Baby Jim Aditya, who heads the non-governmental public health group Partisan.

Authorities choose the toughest options when sentencing addicts, said Ashmin Fransiska, an Atma Jaya University law professor. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is leading a push that addresses drug crimes as a security issue, and a new bill to lengthen minimum sentences will only exacerbate the problem, Fransiska said.

At the Cipinang Narcotics Prison, all prisoners are tested for HIV, and the prison provides antiretroviral drugs to infected inmates. Even there, however, Prison Chief Ibnu Chauldun believes the program's efficacy is undercut by the overwhelming number of inmates in need of rehabilitation, not incarceration.

Back to other news for August 2009

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
08.03.2009; Aubrey Belford

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Indonesia and HIV/AIDS