Fifteen people have died of AIDS in Bali so far this year, according to figures for January and February just released by the provincial health office. And a Sanglah Hospital official says the toll represents an increased mortality rate.
A total of 67 people died of AIDS last year. On figures for this year so far the 2011 toll could reach 90.
Most of the fatalities are sex workers. Health officials say Bali’s HIV/AIDS infection rate is the nation’s second highest after Papua. But they also say increased reporting of HIV/AIDS cases may be a positive sign indicating success of the VCT voluntary counselling and testing programme.
Latest figures indicate Bali has 3,950 people confirmed with HIV and a further 7,000 exposed to the virus and at risk of acquiring the blood disease, which suppresses the body’s immune system.
In the past most HIV/AIDS cases were among injecting drug users because of dirty needles. Now the main transmission vector is unprotected sexual intercourse.
Figures from Buleleng released this week show 20 percent of the regency’s sex workers are infected and 98 percent of new infections reported are in men who have had sex with prostitutes.
There are 35,000 prostitutes in Buleleng.
“Two years the spread of HIV/AIDS was mainly through dirty needles used by drug addicts, but now only 0.2 percent of new cases are caused by this,” Buleleng HIV/AIDS counselling chairman Made Arga Pynatih said at the opening of a training session for counsellors at Seririt. Pynatih is also Buleleng’s vice regent.
The average age of new HIV/AIDS cases in Buleleng is 13 to 27.
Speaking at Seririt he said: “Local governments have a big role in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, through giving help to people living with the disease and public education.”
He added: “This year Buleleng will provide 115,000 free condoms to couples.”
Seririt is the focus of HIV/AIDS education efforts because it has been flagged as very vulnerable to the disease. Buleleng statistics indicate it has 35 cafés that are centres of prostitution and 69 “waitresses” who are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from sex with customers.
Buleleng’s legislature has demanded urgent action to control so-called “dim” cafés where sex is for sale. Legislator Wayan Sumadra, who raised the issue last week, said it was not only cafés that were a problem but the “rampant” activity of sex workers in many of Buleleng’s popular tourist areas.