31 Oct 2003

40,000 HIV/AIDS infections suspected in Timika in Indonesia

3:46 pm on 31 October 2003

An AIDS Foundation official in Indonesia's Papua province says the American-owned Freeport mine is largely to blame for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the area.

Father Bert Hagendoorn, head of the foundation in Timika, estimates there are now 40,000 people infected in the the city, which services the mine.

He says that Freeport has backed the commercial sex industry in the city, which now has the worst infection rates in the province.

He says infected sex workers are spreading the virus.

"Freeport has eight thousand local bachelors and so they started a number of commercial sex centers that were used also by local people and apparently there were a number of HIV infected sex workers. Last year there was a check up from four hundred commercial sex workers there were twenty nine infected"

Father Hagendoorn says the foundation in Timika receives no Government funding and relies on overseas support.

Official reports estimate there are around 10,000 people with HIV/AIDS in the province.