|An HIV/AIDS patient at the Bairo Pite clinic|
The Health Ministry has recorded 263 diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS while another 31 individuals have already died from this terrible illness. Seventeen of the active cases are children under the age of five years old and there have already been five deaths of children under the age of five. These are cases of mother-to-child transmission. Recently, it was reported that 9 police officers have been diagnosed HIV-positive. Only 73 of the known surviving 263 people living with HIV/AIDS are receiving antiretroviral drugs.
Based on further statistics from the Health Ministry, HIV/AIDS is being transmitted more rapidly and widely over recent years. FM notes that in 2003, there was only 1 confirmed case of HIV. In 2004 this spread to 3 additional cases. Seven years later, in 2011 there were 47 new diagnosed cases. In the first half of 2012,there were 28 more confirmed cases.
As in other countries, such as Australia, where policies and laws based on factual science and empirical evidence (rather than religious ideas or ideas based on a particular interpretation of morality), there is a certain spectrum of government interventions that are necessary to stem the transmission of HIV/AIDS in the East Timorese community.
FM has therefore put forward the following proposals:
1. Institute privacy laws for HIV status. HIV status should be between the individual, their healthcare providers, and the government. Everybody has a right to private treatment;
2. To conduct HIV screening at all entry points into Timor-Leste including airports, seaports, and along the land border with Indonesia;
3. To create mobile testing centers to go from District to District on a monthly basis;
4. To promote appropriate maternal and childhood health to address vertical transmissions;
5. To institute civic education programs about safe sex and safe hospital practices as well as including sex education and HIV prevention methods as part of school curricula;
6. To create a government-wide agency involvement in HIV transmission management; and
7. To promote female condom distribution and empower women to take care of their health.
Fundasaun Mahein (FM) also encourages citizens to get themselves screened for HIV/AIDS.
The East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin (ETLJB) has previously published several commentaries on the issue of HIV/AIDS in East Timor as well as the correlated issues of homosexuality and homophobia; some of which have been republished on the East Timor Law Journal. A complete list of these is at the end of this post.
In addition to the policies advocated by FM (with the exception of screening at border entry points), ETLJB also posits anti-discrimination laws and anti-vilification laws prohibiting and penalising discrimination and vilification based on sexual orientation. Such laws have been an essential component of government policies in Australia that have become a world model for HIV/AIDS transmission control.
It is also essential that antiretroviral drugs be made easily accessible and freely available to those diagnosed as HIV-positive.
The integration of community organisations is also a critical element of policies aimed at combating the spread of HIV.
ETLJB commends FM for its courageous stance on the issue of HIV/AIDS in East Timor; in full knowledge of the anticipated rejection of many of the polices advocated by both FM and ETLJB by the Catholic Church and other conservative religious denominations that propagate ideas and policies that are referenced to supernatural religious dogmas as the basis of government policies on HIV/AIDS.
The secular government must stand firm against those religious institutions that oppose science-based approaches to HIV policy and prioritise the health of each and every citizen as well as the entire community above religious doctrines such as those that proscribe the use of condoms, that vilify homosexuals and prostitutes and that advocate the ridiculous notion of abstinence from sexual activity and the delusion of faithful monogamy as means of combating HIV/AIDS.
East Timor's ticking AIDS timebomb
Number of people infected with HIV/AIDS increasing in Timor-Leste
HIV-AIDS and Homophobia in East Timor
Homosexuality in East Timor
Morality, Religion & the Law: Abortion & Prostitution in East Timor
People living with HIV-AIDS in East Timor Celebrate World AIDS Day and Christmas
HIV/AIDS Services for Timorese Inmates
Timor Leste Red Cross excludes homosexuals from HIV-AIDS Reduction Program
Catholic propaganda obscures the true toll of HIV in East Timor
Further reports on HIV/AIDS in East Timor may be found by using the Custom Google search engine at the top of the side bar of ETLJB.