AIDS organizations were incensed over a statement by Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker Wirianingsih, which surfaced over the weekend, that AIDS patients should not be covered by government healthcare programs under the Social Security Provider (BPJS), which will start in 2014.
Indonesia AIDS Coalition executive director Aditya Wardhana said that what Wirianingsih had said reflected her lack of understanding over the issue.
Aditya said that the lawmaker's statement certainly did not help people with HIV/AIDS who had to pay Rp 520,000 (US$52) per month for antiretroviral drugs (ARV) produced by state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Kimia Farma, which was still considered expensive by around 32,000 patients because many of them did not have jobs.
'Many people with HIV/AIDS are being discriminated against. Most companies in the country don't allow people with HIV/AIDS to work in their firms. Therefore, many of them can not earn enough money for their medication,' he said.
Wiraningsih caused an uproar over the weekend, after a controversial statement she made during a meeting at the House of Representatives with Commission IX overseeing health on Wednesday surfaced on the Internet.
Wirianingsih said in a hearing on the healthcare coverage program that people with HIV/AIDS should not be given free medication under the BPJS scheme as the health problem was caused by their unhealthy lifestyle.
She said that AIDS patients should instead be punished rather than given free medicine.
'Why should the people with HIV/AIDS be given free medicine? They should be punished because it is their fault what is causing them to suffer from HIV/AIDS,' she said.
The public has responded angrily to the statement, with some venting their anger on the popular microblogging site Twitter.
Some of the critics on Twitter targeted their attack on the fact that the PKS lawmaker is a mother of 10. 'What if one of your kids got AIDS,' said one of her critics.
Following the outcry, Wirianingsih finally apologized, saying that she would be happy to discuss the matter further with her critics.
Wirianingsih also claimed that her statement was taken out of context.
'Yes, I used the word punishment, but I did not mean it to marginalize those with HIV/AIDS. We were discussing the Social Security Providers (BPJS) plan. I was asking for confirmation from the health minister on why the people infected HIV/AIDS, which is caused by their own bad habits, should be given free medicine,' she said as quoted by kompas.com.
Following the statement, some HIV/AIDS activists contacted Wirianingsih for further clarification and discussion.
House Commission IX had agreed to set a meeting with activists to discuss the matter next month.
'We have got confirmation that the commission is willing to have a discussion with us in August,' Aditya said.
The National Commission on HIV/AIDS insisted that people with HIV/AIDS must be included in the BPJS program, simply because the ARV drug for HIV/AIDS is manufactured and distributed by the government.
'People with HIV/AIDS need to get ARV on time because they could be very vulnerable to diseases if they don't consume it,' the commission's deputy program officer Fonny J. Silfanus.
According to figures from the Health Ministry, there was at least 5,829 people that were infected with HIV/AIDS in the first quarter this year. That is a 13 percent drop from 6,542 in the first quarter last year. In total, there are currently 103,759 people with HIV/AIDS, all of whom are set to be included in the universal healthcare coverage which will take effect next year. The discussions to determine those who will be included in the program are currently still going on. (koi)