The Jakarta Post
Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi has strongly questioned the validity of a Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) GAP Report released in Geneva on July 16, which categorized Indonesia as a country of concern given its increase in HIV new infections, along with several African countries.
'I was quite confused and shocked when I first read the report on Indonesia. I was wondering where they [UNAIDS researchers] obtained the data,' said Mboi in a special interview with The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
The UNAIDS report said that at the end of 2013, 4.8 million to 5.5 million people were living with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region.
Six countries ' China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam ' account for more than 90 percent of people living with HIV in the region.
According to the report, Indonesia has the third largest number of people living with HIV in the region, with AIDS related deaths increasing and only 8 percent of people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
'The situation in Indonesia sparks a cause of concern, where new HIV infections increased by 48 percent and the country's share of new infections in the region reached 23 percent, second only to India,' the report said.
Nafsiah disagreed with the report, saying Indonesia had seen a significant rise in new HIV infections because the country had been intensifying a 'test and treat' program to widely reach the country's key populations and to give them access to quality testing, treatment and a variety of services.
'Indonesia has been strongly committed to achieving the MDG [Millennium Development Goal] to end AIDS as public health threat,' she noted.
In 2012, there were 800,000 people tested and only 26,000 people were HIV positive. 'This was good for a large country like Indonesia,' she said. In 2013, there were more than 1 million people tested.
The minister also argued that the report did not portray the reality on the ground. 'They have to check with us, which figures they were using and what denominators they used for the report.'
Responding, Michel SidibÃ©, the UNAIDS executive director, told the Post that Indonesia had been implementing good, innovative programs in scaling up the testing and treatment of people at risk of, or living with HIV, during the last two years.
'The country has optimized all resources ' in the fields of policy making, funding, investment and human resources, to give opportunities to people living with HIV there to get health access, which resulted in the identification of a number of new HIV infections,' SidibÃ© explained.
UNAIDS director for the Asia-Pacific region Steve Kraus said the report might convey a negative assessment and that 'Indonesia should not be singled out as a 'bad boy or a bad girl,'' because of the report.