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Indonesia projects 500,000 HIV cases by 2010
  Tue Nov 28, 2006
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is projecting half a million HIV cases by 2010, and double that if preventive steps are not taken, the health minister said on Tuesday.
Current estimates put the number of cases in a range of 169,000-216,000 in Indonesia, which has a total population of 220 million, although only about 7,000 full-blown AIDS cases have been reported, of whom 1,651 have died.
"HIV/AIDS is an iceberg phenomenon. It is very likely that there are more HIV/AIDS patients not being reported," health minister Siti Fadilah Supari told a news conference ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Indonesia is a sprawling country of 17,000 islands where infrastructure, medical services and communications can be poor and precise data hard to gather.
Drug users account for over half of Indonesia's known AIDS cases, but sex workers and their customers are the most likely to spread the disease further, Supari said.
Sex workers' "customers are about 2.5 million-3.8 million people, and only 15 percent of them are willing to use condoms," she said.
"This group will be the bridging population that spreads the virus to their spouses and children," Supari said.
"Based on estimates, in 2010 Indonesia will have 500,000 HIV patients and it is likely to be double if (preventive) intervention is not significant."
The government is conducting a national anti-AIDS campaign and working to increase the number of hospitals capable of handling the disease, and wants to spend 8 trillion rupiah (448 million pounds) on anti-AIDS programmes over the next five years.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but many of its citizens have a liberal attitude towards sex and prostitution is a thriving part of the economy in many areas.
At the same time, some hard-line Islamic groups in the country resist efforts to promote condom use, preferring to push abstinence and faithfulness to one's spouse.
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