WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flash Flood Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Indonesia's crackdown on LGBT people fuels HIV crisis, report says

A crackdown against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Indonesia is leading to a rise in HIV infection...

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 1:21 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2018 1:21 PM

A crackdown against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Indonesia is leading to a rise in HIV infections and causing a public health crisis, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.

The report documents how attacks, raids and an attitude of open hostility towards LGBT groups by Indonesian authorities and Islamist militant groups has derailed public health efforts to prevent and curb HIV.

"LGBT people's access to condoms, to counseling and to HIV education is disappearing. It's becoming more and more difficult for HIV education groups to access these communities. The situation is alarming and rates of HIV infections are increasing in Indonesia," said Andreas Harsono, a researcher at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report.

Beginning in 2016, Indonesian authorities -- including politicians and other governmental officials -- began publicly attacking LGBT groups, creating a "moral panic" which then spilled into the wider Indonesian society, according to the report, which was published on Sunday.

"It began with a moral panic: that homosexuality was contagious, that it might affect children, that it is more dangerous than nuclear war," said Harsono.

The Indonesian media also helped fuel the hysteria, according to Harsono, which then encouraged both the authorities as well as militant Islamist groups to raid and attack clubs, spas and public spaces that were previously safe for LGBT people. In 2017, Indonesian police arrested at least 300 LGBT individuals, 40 of whom were later charged and jailed because of their sexual orientation, according to Harsono.

Crackdowns are especially troublesome in the prevention of HIV, according to Liz Grant, director of the Global Health Academy at the University of Edinburgh, because they "will only push people who need HIV treatment behind or away from front line services, and for anyone with HIV it's particularly important that they can access services quickly."

The HIV epidemic has gotten worse in Indonesia recently, with almost 48,000 new infections each year, the report said.

Most HIV infections in Indonesia still occur among heterosexuals. But one-third of new HIV transmissions occur among men who have sex with men, the report states. Rates of HIV infection have increased five-fold for this group since 2007. The crackdown against LGBT groups has particularly affected organizations working with men who have sex with men, according to Harsono.

The discriminatory targeting of organizations offering condoms and HIV education has been particularly problematic for the prevention of HIV.

"It's necessary to have an inclusive approach to HIV prevention," said Grant. "Civil society needs a place at the policy table. Diversity is important. Equal rights is about inclusive access to treatment."

Organizations that previously saw 700 people a month for HIV counseling and education are now only seeing 250, Harsono said.

Part of this can be attributed to the disappearance of hotspots -- areas where health workers could easily find gay men -- caused by the crackdown. But the intimidation and "criminalization of HIV outreach workers" by militant groups and authorities has also reduced the capacity of organizations working in HIV prevention, according to Harsono.

"The suspicion of any neighbor that we are gay can put us in real danger," said Panuta, an HIV outreach worker in Jakarta who was interviewed by Human Rights Watch for the report. "Whenever a group of my friends gets together now, we're afraid of neighbors snooping and calling the religious groups or the police and saying we are having a sex party -- even if we are not."

And to further complicate matters, condoms are now used as evidence of purported crimes, such as prostitution, which hamstring HIV prevention initiatives, according to the report. Many organizations fearing police reprisal no longer store condoms, according to Harsono.

The report is based in part on 48 in-depth interviews conducted in 2017 with victims, witnesses, activists, and health workers. The interviews were in Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra

While Indonesia is a Muslim country, only a few small areas of the country follow strict Muslim law. Not that long ago, being LGBT in Indonesia was widely tolerated.

However, the recent political changes have undermined fundamental human rights and increased the risk of a public health crisis, according to the report.

"Groups cannot track or see who has HIV. Facilities [for prevention and treatment] are disappearing. We going back to the 1990s in terms of HIV prevention programs, back to square one," said Harsono.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Scattered Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 85°
Columbus
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 75°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather