In spite of the continuous government program against HIV/AIDS, for many of Jakarta’s poor the program remains elusive, with many impoverished residents still not receiving counseling.
Mujahidin, an itinerant street vendor who frequented areas near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, said he knew a beggar with HIV who struggled until the end with little or no assistance from others.
“He was a drug user. He had syringe marks all over his arm. We once took a blood test and learned that he had AIDS,” he said.
Mujahidin said the beggar would get on a bus and beg for money from passengers. “He would tell passengers that he had AIDS and needed money for treatment,” he said.
Mujahidin said that he and the beggar had drifted apart and that he later learned the beggar had died from an AIDS-related illness.
A bus conductor told the The Jakarta Post that there were many beggars who hitched rides, claiming that they had AIDS.
“They usually operate at daytime. They hop on a bus at Grogol and get off at Slipi,” he said.
A street musician with HIV, who identified himself as Odhi, said he’d never received any help from any government agencies since he’d contracted the virus in 2000.
“I learned everything by myself, with some help from my parents. I read books and learned things about AIDS from the Internet,” he told the Post recently.
From the way he talked, spirited and full of life, no one would suspect that Odhi had AIDS, but his sunken eyes and thin figure indicated that something was wrong.
Odhi said he found his energy from the supply of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
“I take three, hiviral, staviral and aluvia, every 12 hours,” he said while showing a pouch full of the medicines, which he received free of charge from Dharmais Hospital, a private hospital in the city.
Secretary of Jakarta AIDS Prevention Commission (KPAP) Rohana Manggala said budget constraints had prevented the city from being able to set up counseling programs for the city’s poor.
The city administration earmarked Rp 15.1 billion (US$1.66 million) from the 2011 budget for HIV/AIDS prevention programs.
“The best we can do is to hold counseling programs once a year in a number of subdistricts throughout the city,” she said.
Rohana said that it was the poor who needed the program the most.
“Unlike people from the middle to upper classes, the poor may not have enough knowledge about HIV/AIDS,” she said.
She added that the city’s poor was also the most prone to HIV/AIDS.
“Many of them look for cheap sex even when they are not far from home, where spending an hour or two with a prostitute will only cost them Rp 10,000,” she said.
Lack of funds also prevented the city from operating a health center specializing in HIV/AIDS cases.
All HIV/AIDS clinics in the city are operated either by nongovernmental organizations or public or private hospitals, Rohana said.
The city expected to set up a “termination clinic” for patients in the latter stages of HIV/AIDS in Jakarta, to act as a place where those who couldn’t afford medication for AIDS could stay until the very end.
“However, we still have a long way to go,” Rohana said.
Data from the commission shows that 1,184 new HIV/AIDS cases have been recorded in Greater Jakarta in the first six months of 2011. This makes Jakarta the city with the most HIV/AIDS cases in the country.
From January to June 2011, 675 Jakartans were found to be HIV positive while another 509 were with AIDS. Some 109 people have died from the disease. Most of the cases were found in West Jakarta, data from the commission said.
Private workers and housewives top the list of those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in Jakarta, at 283 and 147 cases respectively. Last year, 1,310 new AIDS cases and 1,433 HIV cases were found in Jakarta.
Since 1987, Jakarta has seen a total of 9,784 reported cases of HIV and AIDS.