The Ministry of Health will roll out an extensive HIV/AIDS awareness program later this month to address the worryingly low number of youths who don’t know about how the disease spreads or its dangers. Lily Sulistyowati, head of the ministry’s health promotion unit, said on Friday that only 11.4 percent of the country’s youth had “comprehensive knowledge” of the disease and ways to prevent it — far less than the Millennium Development Goal of achieving 95 percent awareness by 2015.
“How can we tackle this issue if our youths don’t even know how the virus is transmitted or how to prevent it?” she said. To respond to the low level of awareness, she said, the ministry would kick off a massive education campaign on Nov. 27 aimed at those between the ages of 15 and 24 years old in 10 provinces across the country. “We plan to hold campaigns in 10 junior high schools, 10 senior high schools, five colleges and 10 offices in each district that we visit,” Lily said. Among the provinces included in the campaign are Papua, which has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalency rates in the country, East, West and Central Java, and North Sumatra.
Lily added that the roadshow would feature workshops where the youths would be able to speak with health, education and religious officials to get a better understanding of how HIV was transmitted, how it could be prevented and how it affected the body. Aditya “Edo” Wardana, a prominent HIV/AIDS activist, said awareness campaigns targeted at youths had been around for years but had not made any significant impact because they were only half-heartedly carried out. “It seems like the Health Ministry is the only government office that understands the importance of such a campaign, but it hasn’t been backed up by other ministries such as the Education Ministry or the Communications and Information Technology Ministry,” he said.