Building Boom Drives Rapid AIDS Spread in Indonesia: ADB

MANILA ~ Indonesia’s construction boom is driving an “exponential” rise in HIV-AIDS infections as migrant workers are more likely to engage in high-risk sex, the Asian Development Bank warned Tuesday.

The Manila-based ADB said the spread of HIV-AIDS could kill up to 100,000 Indonesians within two years.

“As in other parts of the world, the three Ms – men, mobility and money – are key ingredients for the spread of HIV,” the bank said in a statement after approving a grant to help the government tackle the problem.

It singled out the construction industry, which grew nine percent last year and accounts for five percent of the labor force and 8.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

“As Indonesia addresses its backlog of investment needs and meets new growth-generated demand, the sector will remain strong” and “mobile construction workers away from home are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior than the general population,” the bank said.

The bank said cases of HIV that causes AIDS had “been increasing exponentially” since 2000 in Indonesia, where it said the Health Ministry estimated 220,000 people of working age were living with HIV or AIDS last year.

Another 8.2 million people were “at high risk.”

“By 2010, the number of people with HIV and AIDS is projected to reach 400,000 and it is expected that 100,000 will have died of AIDS,” it said.

HIV-AIDS has now spread to all but one of the country’s 33 provinces and sex workers were overtaking injecting drug users as the ones most at risk, it added.

The ADB said it had approved a US$200,000 technical assistance grant to help the government “mitigate the risk of HIV associated with infrastructure development.”

The ADB grant will help Indonesia develop an HIV prevention strategy for the construction sector, including educating construction workers on safe sex.

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