HIV/AIDS Patients in Papua May Be Tracked with Microchips

By Nina Bai | November 24, 2008 12:22 pm

microchipIndonesia’s Papua province may be the first region in the world to force some HIV/AIDS patients to be implanted with microchip trackers. A controversial bill requiring the extreme measures already has full backing from the provincial parliament and will become law with a majority vote from the provincial legislative body. The microchips are meant to monitor “aggressive” sexual behavior in an effort to control the spread of the disease. Lawmaker John Manangsang said, “It’s a simple technology. A signal from the microchip will track their movements and this will be received by monitoring authorities” [Reuters].

The bill does not specify who would qualify as “sexually aggressive” patients, but if the bill is passed, a committee will be formed to decide who will be implanted; the executive director of the committee will be a physician with a knowledge of epidemiology. Supporters say authorities would be in a better position to identify, track and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others with up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine [AP]. Meanwhile, health care workers and AIDS activists called the proposal “abhorrent” and a clear violation of human rights. “No one should be subject to unlawful or unnecessary interference of privacy,” [said Nancy Fee, the UNAIDS country coordinator], adding that while other countries have been known to be oppressive in trying to tackle AIDS, such policies don’t work. They make people afraid and push the problem further underground, she said [AP].

Indonesia has one of Asia’s fastest growing rates of HIV infection and Papua, the country’s poorest province, has nearly 20 times the national average. Health experts say the disease has been spreading rapidly from prostitutes to housewives in the past years [Reuters]. They say the best way to counter the epidemic is to increase awareness of the disease and encourage condom use.

Manangsang said the bill has to strike a delicate balance: “Do not misunderstand human rights; if we respect the rights of the people living with HIV/Aids, then we must also respect the rights of healthy people” [The Jakarta Post].

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Image: flickr / nico.mommaerts

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://www.aidsdrugsonline.com AIDS

    That is obscene that they would put tracking devices in people because they have HIV. This is a horrible. I bet this was triggered by new laws attempting to put GPS’s on pedophiles.

  • MP

    AIDS, the tracking devices themselves don’t worry me. For individuals who have demonstrated that they are a danger to others – and I would consider people who knowingly, willfully infect others with that horrid disease – I think they have lost the right to complete privacy. In point of fact, for such people (like, say, recidivistic pedophiles), I think such tracking is fairer than they deserve.

    No, what bothers me about this is how terrifingly vague the standards are. If you’re going to set up a law that targets all members of class A who are also B (in this case, all people in the country with HIV/AIDS who knowingly infect others for whatever reason), you have to – well, should at least – have those standards defined *before* you get the law in place. That way, any potential shortcomings/hideously glaring issues can be dealt with before it becomes a law.

  • Zeo

    MP–

    I agree with your criticisms, but as for the tracking devices themselves being a problem:

    They’re a huge problem. It’s easy to pass them off as being “safe” and “necessary” simply because -we- don’t have AIDS/HIV and -we- aren’t sexual criminals, so why worry? The fact is, this is not just a violation of privacy rights for these individuals, but for all of us. If you’re willing to support the chipping of “criminals” (either actual criminals such as registered sex offenders or potential criminals such as the ones targeted by this bill), where are you willing to draw the line? Every one of us is a potential criminal, and these bills will pass every single time by people who say “well, I’M not the criminal this bill targets, so it’s not MY problem.” It very much is your problem.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    Here’s an update on this story: after a huge international outcry, the law seems unlikely to pass.
    http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081203/full/news.2008.1274.html

  • Deanna

    This is wonderful news, by all means track all pedophiles! Well, I guess its ok to be attacked as long as you remain uninfected??? I do,however, believe all HIV/AIDS infected people should be marked in a specific and discrete area that only a sexual partner would notice. I would agree to this requirement if it happened to me, because I have kids and will do anything to make the world a better place for them to live in. For me, there is no price or privacy limit that could get in the way of protecting my children. We also need laws with contracts for those relationships involving infected and an uninfected persons, this could defend the HIV/AIDS carrier from the partner who “changed their mind” about the risks involved in such a relationship.

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