RI youths want to help
fight AIDS

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia's youth want decision makers to involve them more in efforts to fight AIDS because half of today's new HIV/AIDS cases involved adolescents.

Their call for involvement made up recommendations delivered last week at the 8th International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

""We haven't earned enough trust from the adults yet,"" Youth Focal Point's spokesman said.

Ari Yuda Laksmana also told reporters Thursday countries across the Asia Pacific regularly discussed ""youth issues"" without consulting the younger generation, let alone those involved with Youth Focal Point.

""They treat us as objects -- we only get to talk at our own forums,"" Ari said.

Youths should be empowered to combat AIDS and given access to information, services, support and resources, Ari said.

""We should be recognized as key stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS, given the opportunity to make policies and decisions affecting our lives and given the chance to express themselves and be heard.""

He said the Colombo ICAAP meeting was the second to provide a youth forum.

The first was the ICAAP conference in Melbourne, Australia in 2001.

""In Colombo there were only around 40 Asian youths ... we hope the next youth forum will be attended by at least 200 adolescents,"" Ari said.

Indonesia is scheduled to host the 9th ICAAP, which would be held in Bali in 2009.

Secretary of the National AIDS Commission, Nafsiah Mboi, said they were still searching for the right format to involve youths in the commission's decision-making processes.

""We are willing to involve them, but we don't know how,"" Nafsiah told The Jakarta Post Thursday.

She said there was no organization in Indonesia that could represent young people in the battle against AIDS.

The commission had invited some young people to several discussions held by the commission, but Nafsiah said they had provided little relative input.

""The youth should not just complain ... they should think of an organized way to handle this problem,"" she said.

""We are always open to suggestion.

""They can come to the commission to talk about this any time.""

Indonesian AIDS Society chairman Zubairi Djurban is set to chair the steering committee for the 9th ICAAP in Indonesia in 2009.

He said he was optimistic the conference in Indonesia would be better than the one in Colombo, because the committee had full support from the government.

AIDS has been the major health problem in Asia since the late 1980s.

According to UNAIDS, there were in 2006 between 2.8 million and 9.8 million people in Asia suffering from AIDS -- with up to 610,000 of them dying that year. (05)

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