November 27, 2008 / 11:54 AM / in 11 years

Indonesia AIDS body rejects microchip tagging plan

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A plan by lawmakers in Indonesia’s Papua to require HIV patients to be implanted with microchips to stop them infecting others violates human rights and is unworkable, the national AIDS commission said on Thursday.

A participant are seen holding a sign during World AIDS Day rally in Jakarta in this December 2, 2007 file photo. A plan by lawmakers in Indonesia's Papua to require HIV patients to be implanted with microchips to stop them infecting others violates human rights and is unworkable, the national AIDS commission said on Thursday. REUTERS/Dadang Tri

Under the proposed bylaw, which has caused an uproar among human rights activists, patients who had shown “actively sexual behaviour” could have their activity monitored using a microchip.

“We reject this bylaw because it is against human rights and technically cannot be done,” Nafsiah Mboi, the secretary of the National Commission on AIDS control, told reporters.

“How can someone know if a person is having sex or jumping and dancing,” she said, referring to the plan to monitor patients via satellite to help contain the rapid spread of the disease.

It’s never been entirely clear how an implanted microchip would communicate sexual activity to the monitors.

Last week, Papuan lawmaker John Manangsang described the idea as “a simple technology” whereby a signal from the microchip could track a patients movements and be relayed to authorities.

If a patient with HIV/AIDS was found to have infected a healthy person, there would be a penalty of up to six months in jail or 50 million rupiah ($4,115).

But on Thursday Manangsang, who crafted the draft bylaw, told Reuters the bylaw would only initially establish a Papua AIDS Centre to test whether the microchip idea was feasible.

“The problem is we are threatened with extinction,” he said.

There have been 5,000 reported cases in Papua, but the government estimates the number has reached 29,000, or 16 times the national average with almost all from sexual transmission. High rates of promiscuity, rituals in some Papuan tribes where partner swapping takes place, poor education about AIDS and lack of condoms are among factors that cause the spread of the disease there.

The local parliament was expected to introduce the controversial legislation in Papua, which lies in Indonesia’s easternmost fringe, before Dec. 15, Manangsang said.

Mboi of the National Aids Commission said the central government could not stop the bylaw, although it was trying to negotiate with lawmakers to drop articles that breached human rights.

She also said Papua’s governor could refuse to sign the implementation of the bylaw.

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