HIV/AIDS infection spreading to children in Banyumas
Seven children aged between five and 10 years in Banyumas regency, Central Java, have been detected as having contracted HIV/AIDS from their mothers.
Counselor Ahmad Wiryawan of the VCT (Voluntary Counseling Test) clinic at the state-owned Margono Hospital Banyumas said that the seven children were detected along with some 500 other people living with HIV/AIDS in the regency.
The children were mostly detected at around four to five years of age with initial symptoms including recurrent sickness due to a weak immune system.
“We now encourage them to have routine check-ups at the clinic and to take the medicine together with their parents,” Wiryawan said recently at his office.
Describing it as an “iceberg” phenomenon, Wiryawan said that there was a possibility that the real figure was higher than had so far been revealed.
Separately, chairman of the Banyumas HIV/AIDS Protection Commission (KPA) Ahmad Husen, expressed concern over the high number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the regency, saying that the figure was among the highest within the 35 regencies/municipalities across Central Java.
He said the number of people detected living with HIV/AIDS in Banyumas in 2010 was only about 300. It increased to 530 last year, of whom 258 were suffering from AIDS, and 110 had died due to the deadly disease.
This, he said, had placed Banyumas at third highest among the regencies/municipalities in the province after Semarang and Surakarta.
He also said that among the most infected categories were those in employment, including civil servants and private-sector employees followed by housewives and commercial sex workers.
The Banyumas KPA, according to Husen, had taken various measures to help control the figure but they seemed to have yielded no satisfying results. The KPA, for example, has been running two VCT clinics in the regency. The other clinic is located near the red-light district in Banyuraden resort.
“Yet, only a few people have visited to have themselves checked,” he said.
Bangkit, an activist who supervises people with HIV/AIDS in the regency, blamed the high figure on the surge in illegal prostitution centers in the region which made it difficult to control. “They are very prone to AIDS infections,” he said.
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